Low budget versus big budget. Rampage versus superhero epic. Bear versus… ant? We’ve looked at opening weekend audience reactions to February’s two most-hyped releases to see which one is creating bigger lines outside movie theaters.
In years past, superhero movies swept all before them, however, chinks are appearing in their vibranium armor. With box office receipts falling since the pandemic, are audiences suffering from superhero fatigue?
To find out, we examined audience reactions to February’s two biggest releases: Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and Cocaine Bear. With each movie hitting the big screen within a week of each other, it appears Cocaine Bear isn’t afraid of taking on the Marvel behemoth, confident that its ‘unique’ picture appeals to audiences coming down from their superhero highs.
What did audiences think? While Ant-Man hoovered up larger box office takings over the first weekend both movies were on show, this was down 69% on its opening weekend revenue. However, solely looking at money doesn’t fully encapsulate what movie-goers thought. To get the full picture, you need to analyze text data.
We began by using a social listening tool to gather Twitter conversations from the first four days of each movie’s release. Then, we uploaded these discussions into our text analysis platform. Relative Insight Explore uses AI-powered natural language processing to organize and categorize unstructured text data. It them compares data sets, calculating the variations between them using a relative difference score – surfacing which topics, words, phrases, grammar and emotions are unique to each.
Has ‘Cokey the Bear’ cracked the superhero genre’s dominance? Let’s take a trip to find out.
Both movies have expectations to meet
From our audience research, it’s clear that fans had preconceived ideas about what each movie would be like.
For Quantumania, the plethora of previous Marvel films and comics (including other Ant-Man movies) has given audiences a reference point for this picture. Through analyzing audience reactions, it’s clear that the movie didn’t conform to these expectations.
Tweeters were 4.3x more likely to use the word ‘felt’ within the context that the picture didn’t ‘feel’ as they expected it would. Conversations focused on another Disney franchise which they thought the movie mimicked: Star Wars. Fans were 37.1x more likely to reference ‘Star Wars’ and used the phrase ‘Star Wars movie’ infinitely more.
“Quantumania is not really Ant-Man 3. Its tone and plot are so separated from the other two movies that I can absolutely see where people find it jarring. This felt more like Star Wars but with Kang the Conqueror.“
Cocaine Bear‘s simple premise generated excitement among movie goers. They were 2.1x more likely to use the word ‘want’, within the context of wanting to watch the film, and they also used temporal nouns, such as ‘today’ and ‘tomorrow’, 1.6x more – demonstrating that those who’d already bought their tickets were excited to announce they were going to the theater to watch it.
“I’ve never wanted to see a movie more than I want to see Cocaine Bear.“
While the movie is low budget, Universal – the studio behind it – didn’t keep its powder dry when it came to the advertising campaign. Its marketing efforts made an impact on audiences – people tweeting about the movie were 12.6x more likely to talk about its ‘advertising’ and used the word ‘ads’ 16.3x more.
“Cocaine Bear has some of the best advertising I have ever seen.“
A sharp contrast in audience reactions
Surfacing the differences between audience reactions provides clarity on viewers’ overriding thoughts on both movies.
Ant-Man watchers delivered a verdict that is better than critics’ reviews, but still won’t delight Marvel executives. They were infinitely more likely to talk about the ‘negative reviews’ surrounding the movie and 8.7x more likely to use the word ‘critics’. Tweeters also used the word ‘hate’ 5.4x more, however, this was within the context that they “didn’t hate” the film.
“This Ant Man was like a Marvel Star Wars! Wasn’t great but I didn’t hate it, that’s more than I can say for Wakanda Forever and Multiverse of Madness. 💀”
Not hating the movie didn’t equate to movie-goers liking it though. People discussing Quantumania used words relating to ‘disinterest’ 1.8x more, the most common of which was the word ‘boring’. They also used the words ‘mid’ 8.8x more and ‘meh’ 12.8x more – demonstrating that the movie didn’t give them a buzz.
“I miss good Marvel movies …. Ant-Man was meh.“
In contrast, audiences were high on Cocaine Bear. They were 3.3x more likely to describe the film as ‘funny’ and used the word ‘laughing’ 2.5x more. The movie followed through on its entertaining concept, with viewers using the word ‘ridiculous’ 2.5x more, ‘insane’ 2.1x more and ‘stupid’ 2.4x more – in a positive way.
“Holy shit Cocaine Bear is unhinged. It’s ridiculous and nasty in every way you want it to be.“
World building and theater as an event
While fans thought Ant-Man was vanilla, they did praise the movie for laying the foundations for a colony of Marvel pictures. They were 11.1x more likely to use words relating to ‘construction’, with the word ‘building’ overindexing 21.2x more. Viewers’ antennae were attuned to the portrayal of the quantum realm – they were 2.2x more likely to use the word ‘world’ in relation to this.
“Loved how weird and world-building this was to the mythos of the quantum realm.“
Rather than a prelude to something else, audiences treated Cocaine Bear as the main event. Tweeters were 2.0x more likely to talk about movie ‘theaters’ when discussing it, with many stating that the film’s premise was one which attracted them to making an effort and blowing their money on watching it at a venue, rather than simply streaming it at home.
People also treated the movie as a social occasion. They were 8.5x more likely to use the word ‘party’, referencing Cocaine Bear watch parties, as well as talking about their ‘friends’ 3.4x more.
“My partner and I are hosting a Cocaine Bear movie party at the theater Saturday night, I cannot wait.“
Social analysis uncovers what audiences really think
Using text analytics to assess audience reactions to each movie has uncovered fascinating social insights which both studios can act on.
Marvel should encourage movie-goers to make up their own minds about Quantumania, rather than rely on critics’ reviews. Any marketing should emphasize the film’s importance to building the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – particularly through exposition of the quantum realm and introduction of Kang the Conqueror.
Universal should double down on its marketing strategy and continue to emphasize the ‘ridiculous’ nature of the movie. The studio should also highlight that watching Cocaine Bear is more than going to the theater – it’s a social occasion to be enjoyed with friends.
Text analysis provides actionable insights which helps companies in the entertainment sector and beyond to better understand what makes their audiences tick – something not to be sniffed at. To find out how to get the most from your text data, speak to one of our experts now.