Following is a side by side comparison of the publicity output for John Carter vs The Avengers on the theory that it would be revealing to see how these two films, both 250m “tentpoles” released by Disney within 8 weeks of each other, were publicized.  Fortunately there is a tool for doing this — that being the IMDB Pro Movie Meter “data table view”. This data table view is different from the more standard “graphical view” which is what you get when you go to each movie’s page on IMDB Pro.  Just for orientation, here is the standard “graphical view” for the MovieMeter function for a given film.

As you can see, there is an option for “Data Table” view — and that view looks like this:

In this view, what you get is a long spreadsheet with each week separated as you see above. For each week, there is the date (first column), the IMDB Moviemeter Rank for that week (second column), and then hyperlinks to all of the articles that appeared on the web about the movie during the week in question. The intention is to allow you to relate movement of the MovieMeter ranking (which tracks the number of clicks on the IMDB page for the movie) to the publicity that IMDB monitors.
So in the example above — the first week is January 23, 2011,  when John Carter was ranked #2,462 and there were  7 articles monitored.   In this week, it was essentially a replay of the same article about Disney moving the John Carter release date from June 8, 2012 to March 9, 2012, which meant that it would be going up against Prometheus.  Then the next week there were three articles monitored, showing that Fox had decided to move Prometheus to June 8.  Anyway — I’m going to the trouble to show this so the methodology of what follows will be clear.

So — what did I find when I put $250m Disney Tentpole “John Carter” side by side with $250m Disney Tentpole “The Avengers” and compared the article placements monitored by IMDB over the final 50 weeks leading up to their release? (And please take note — these are articles, not paid advertisements, that are being tracked.)

Here is the raw data for the final 50 weeks prior to release for each film. To be clear, this covers the final 50 weeks ending on March 9, 2012, for John Carter (its release date), and the final 50 weeks ending May 6, 2012, for The Avengers (its release date).


Here is a graphical representation of the week by week totals for the two films over the final 50 weeks prior to release.

So, that’s the data.

Some caveats and words of caution:

1. The IMDB mechanism does not capture every article that appears anywhere. It does catch a pretty representative wide sampling — and of course, in this comparison, it was the IMDB monitoring of John Carter vs the IMDB monitoring of The Avengers — so theoretically while the absolute numbers might be off, the ratio between the two films should be reasonably valid.

2. The chart does not distinguish between “placements” by the publicity department supporting a film (in which the publicity department releases photos, interviews, etc) and organic articles that appear spontaneously. For example, the articles about the John Carter Fan Trailer are included in the John Carter count, and these were not generated by Disney publicity. There are other articles about both films that are spontaneously or organically generated, without any direct stimulus provided by the publicity department. But a very high percentage of the articles are generated through publicity efforts in which the publicists for the movies release a steady stream of interviews, still photos, posters, trailers, cast news, etc.

3. Another point of differentiation is that the The Avengers also had Marvel as a stakeholder who may be presumed to have pitched in, although the official publicity which accounts for the vast majority of placements came from Disney.

All right — I’ll stop there. I’m interested in comments as to how this data should be interpreted — what story does it tell?