Pixar’s animated film “Onward” was the most effective movie trailer of the week

Jamie BallardData Journalist
March 06, 2020, 10:00 PM GMT+0

Movie trailers are the first introduction most viewers will have to a film. Seeing just a few minutes of a film can help viewers form strong opinions and inform their decisions about whether or not to spend their hard-earned money seeing it in theatres. A good preview can spark conversation on social channels, boost an opening weekend, and continue to support an awards season campaign.

Each week, we ask a group of YouGov Direct members to watch movie trailers, and then we report on what they say. We investigate how effective movie trailers are in persuading people to consider going to see a film in theaters, what users think about the content of the trailer, and how good or bad they expect the movie to be. Thousands of people are able to provide immediate feedback on movie trailers using the YouGov Direct platform.

This week, trailers for “Onward” and “The Way Back” both wide-release movies opening this weekend, impressed potential moviegoers.

Pixar’s latest offering, “Onward,” tells the story of two elf brothers who set out on a quest to find a spell that will bring back their deceased father. The brothers in the animated film are voiced by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt. Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Octavia Spencer also voice characters in the movie.

Before viewing the trailer, 17 percent of YouGov Direct users said that they were likely to see this movie in theaters in the coming weeks. After viewing the trailer, 35 percent said they were somewhat or very likely to see "Onward" - a jump of 18 points.

Respondents had similar feelings about “The Way Back,” which stars Ben Affleck as a former athlete struggling with addiction. After turning down a basketball scholarship in his youth, he’s offered another opportunity: the chance to coach high school basketball at his alma mater.

Prior to seeing the trailer, 14 percent of YouGov Direct users said they were somewhat or very likely to see the film.

After seeing the trailer, 31 percent of respondents said they were likely to see this film when it hits theatres, indicating a lift of 17 percent. The story of redemption and recovery might be one that resonates with viewers: 56 percent say that they like the story or theme shown in the trailer.

Although the film appears to center on a group of male characters, that doesn’t mean women won’t head to the theaters to see it. More than one-third (36%) of female respondents said they were likely to see “The Way Back” in theaters, while in fact, fewer (26%) male users said the same thing

While wide-release films like “Onward” and “The Way Back” captured potential viewers, some limited-release films made noise as well.

“The Banker,” a historical drama starring Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Mackie and Nicholas Hoult, tells the real-life story of two of the first African-American bankers in the United States and the white man they enlisted to be the face of their budding empire in 1960s Los Angeles.

Before viewing the trailer for “The Banker,” 12 percent of YouGov Direct respondents said they were likely to see this film in the coming weeks, but after viewing, 42 percent said they were somewhat (25%) or very (17%) likely to do so - a lift of 30 percentage points.

Another trailer that drew some eyes this week was the preview for “Escape From Pretoria.” Like “The Banker,” this film is based on real-life events. It tells the story of two political captives (played by Daniel Radcliffe and Daniel Webber) as they plot to escape from a South African prison.

This film saw a lift of 25 percentage points before and after users had a chance to see the trailer. Pre-trailer, 11 percent said they were likely to see this movie. Post-trailer, more than one-third (36%) said they were likely to see this movie in the next couple of weeks.

YouGov Direct also asks respondents to tell us how good or bad they think a movie will be, based on the trailer. “The Banker” comes out on top on this measure as well, scoring a 3.9 vs. a maximum score of 5.0 and a median score of 3.5 for all trailers tested to date.

Finally, YouGov Direct also offers members the opportunity to look at showtimes and ticket purchasing options in their area through Fandango.

Roughly two percent of YouGov Direct users who saw trailers for "The Banker" and “First Cow” clicked through to Fandango compared to a benchmark of approximately 1% for the typical trailer tested in the platform. About one percent clicked through to see options for “Onward,” while slightly fewer took the same action to learn more about “The Way Back.”

Learn more about YouGov Direct and find YouGov Direct on the App Store and on Google Play.

Image: Getty

Methodology: Data is based on 4,000 interviews, including a minimum of 400 responses for each movie trailer tested. Interviews were conducted through the YouGov Direct app on March 5, 2020.