Word of mouth used to get started after a film’s first Friday showings, but it spread too slowly to affect opening weekend business.
Through the late ’90s, people shared thoughts about the movies they saw over the weekend when they went back to work Monday and gossiped with friends around the water cooler.
By the early 2000s, as social media platforms blossomed, WOM was spreading much faster and opening weekend grosses started suffering. Once smartphones became standard living equipment, people could share opinions with the world as they left the theatre. Friday’s thumbs-down could now mean empty cinemas Saturday.
Today, WOM spreads like wildfire before films even open. Trailers hit the Internet with an impact like the meteor that killed the dinosaurs — without which we’d never have had JURASSIC WORLD! This week, Sony/Marvel’s teaser trailer for SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME (pictured – opening 12/17) premiered online to a record-setting 355.5M views in its first 24 hours. WOM was fantastic and Spidey already looks like a mega-hit. But the risk remains for films to come — WOM at breakneck speed can lead to broken necks at the box office.