In the U.S., Memorial Day is a pretty big deal. Not only is it an important holiday commemorating the brave men and women who died while serving in the United States military, but it’s a day off work and school to spend with friends and family, marking the unofficial start to summer. And because school is letting out and people are going on vacation, summer is a huge time for the movie industry. Memorial Day weekend is the beginning of one of the most important tent-pole seasons for the studios as the first wave of big-budget summer movies are released, and studio executives cross their fingers hoping for blockbuster-level success that’s often been years in the making.

Memorial Day Movie Releases 2017

According to Box Office Mojo, the total US box office gross for 2016 was $11,367,367,762. That’s 11.3 Billion dollars box office in the U.S. alone! The summer box office gross (Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend) was 4.45 Billion dollars, a solid portion of that yearly U.S. total. According to the LA Times, that summer gross is expected to be 5-10% lower this year, due in part to the plethora of in and out-of-theater options available and the number of franchise sequels studios continue to churn out. However, one truth remains: the hotter it gets, the more likely people are to head to their local movie theater.

The films with the largest budgets spare no expense when it comes to advertising. With the intention of drawing in as many movie-goers as possible, studios launch massive campaigns, via traditional print and TV media and in major cross-platform social media campaigns. But what works on a billboard or in a television trailer isn’t necessarily what resonates in an online video. Studios come up with their own official trailers that they run online (some are the same trailers that appear on TV) and also pay influencers to create user-generated trailers. Influencers and users will also upload movie trailers for free to generate buzz around a specific film.

Three of the major studio films being released on or around this Memorial Day weekend are Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Paramount Pictures’ Baywatch, and Warner Bros’ Wonder Woman. Although Pirates and Wonder Woman are geared more towards families and Baywatch is rated R, all three movies have multiple official and user-generated trailers on social platforms. Using data from Tubular, let’s look at what’s working on various platforms for each movie to garner some tips for trailer advertising online.

Baywatch: A Social Video Push by The Rock

Official Baywatch trailers were distributed by at least 93 different Paramount properties. Although trailers for the film were released on social media as early as November 2016, the official trailer with the most views on YouTube was released on March 22nd, 2017 ((below). This trailer was the actual full-length trailer for Baywatch and garnered 8.1 Million views with 6.7 Million of those views occurring in the first 30 days since the video was uploaded. The second most-viewed official trailer on YouTube is actually the teaser for the movie, uploaded way back in 2016, on December 8th. This video received 4.3 Million views with 4.2 Million occurring in the first 30 days since the teaser was uploaded. It’s also worth noting that the third most-viewed official trailer on YouTube was uploaded by Paramount India and heavily features lead Priyanka Chopra, who is Indian and has a massive Indian following from her appearances in Bollywood films.

On Facebook, the most-viewed official trailer was the December 8, 2016 teaser, which also generated great engagement in the first 30 days from when it was uploaded at 1.3 engagements per view. Interestingly, the second most-viewed official trailer for Baywatch on Facebook was the red band trailer (see below), uploaded recently on May 11th, 2017. This trailer was actually uploaded by Paramount affiliate United International Pictures Philippines, implying along with the Paramount India-uploaded YouTube trailer that this movie might have a robust audience in Asia (let’s not forget that in the 1990’s, Baywatch was the most-watched TV show in the world). It was a smart move for Paramount to have their international properties upload trailers and for those trailers to feature leads that are popular on a global level.

Let’s now look at the influencer and user-generated trailers for Baywatch. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson uploaded the December 8th teaser via his own social media accounts and as most people know, the actor has an enormous online presence. The teaser on his Facebook page received 13.8 Million views in the first 30 days from when it was uploaded and 14.2 Million views total as of May 19th. The Rock also uploaded the Super Bowl trailer to Facebook and received 3.8 Million views. Zac Efron uploaded the international trailer to his Instagram account and received 5.2 Million total views.

However, the real story here is engagement within the first 30 days of uploading. Most of the user and influencer-generated videos received much more engagement than the trailers uploaded by Paramount, especially when they were uploaded by stars with big online media presences. The influencer trailers also all had tons of views in their first 30 days online. Influencers tend to have more specific audiences and when they upload videos, there’s an automatic personal element to what they’re promoting. When audiences engage with videos uploaded by the stars of a movie, they feel more like they’re getting excited with the cast about a film’s release rather than about a big, cold studio movie.

Wonder Woman: Kick-off at Comic-Con

The latest entry in Warner Bros.’ big screen adaptations of wildly popular DC Comics’ properties, trailers for Wonder Woman began showing up as early as last summer. The most-viewed trailer uploaded by a Time Warner property for this film was the official Comic-Con trailer, uploaded July 23rd, 2016. This video received 28.2 Million views with 24.2 Million of those views occurring within the first 30 days of the video being uploaded.

This trailer also has great engagement in its first 30 days online, with 2.0 engagements per view. This might be because although Comic-Con is a hugely popular convention now that often hosts the release of tent pole film material (some of it not even comic-related), there’s still a pretty specific audience for movies based on comic books. That audience skews young, tech-savvy, and engaged online so even mentioning Comic-Con in the trailer title increases a video’s chances of engaging viewers. Comic-Con trailers also tend to be longer and include more footage than movie-theater trailers, allowing viewers to see as much of a movie as possible before its official release.

The official trailer for Wonder Woman uploaded by Warner Bros. Pictures is the second most-viewed trailer released by a Time Warner property on YouTube, with 17.3 Million of its 21.3 Million total views occurring in the first 30 days since the video was uploaded. This trailer also had a solid engagement per views rate in its first 30 days at 1.9 engagements per view. Again, the target audience for comic-book movies is one that is very active online. Incidentally, the most-viewed Time Warner property uploaded trailers for Wonder Woman on Facebook were also the Comic-Con and official trailers, also with strong engagement in the first 30 days from when the videos were uploaded.

This might be no surprise, but the most-viewed influencer or user-generated trailers for Wonder Woman were uploaded by Wonder Woman herself, Gal Gadot. On March 13, 2017, Gal uploaded the Welcome to Themyscira trailer to Facebook and received a whopping 20.8 Million total views for the video, with 19.6 Million of those views occurring in the first 30 days of the trailer being online. The second most-viewed influencer or user-generated trailer for Wonder Woman on Facebook also came from Gal herself and it was the exclusive trailer she uploaded on March 11th, 2017. This video received 9.7 Million total views.

The two trailers uploaded by Gal actually had similar engagements per view averages in the first 30 days since being uploaded to those of the Time Warner trailer uploads. This means it’s still important to have stars with large social media presences promote trailers on Social Media, but the strong overall engagement only emphasizes the type of audience attracted to a big comic book film.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

The first trailer for Pirates, as we will heretofore refer to this film’s incredibly lengthy title, was released back in October of 2016. That teaser (see below) is actually the most-viewed trailer for Pirates uploaded by a Walt Disney property on YouTube, with 20 Million views total and 16.8 Million of those views occurring in the first 30 days since the video was uploaded. It is worth noting that the engagements per view rate for the teaser in its first 30 days online is 0.7 engagements per view, which is a lower rate than that of Wonder Woman and Baywatch.

The most-viewed, Disney-property-uploaded trailer for Pirates on Facebook is the March 26th, 2017 trailer uploaded by Pirates of the Caribbean’s official account. The trailer has 15.5 Million total views with 15.4 Million of those views occurring in the 30 days from the original upload date. This trailer actually has a solid engagements per views rate for its first 30 days online at 1.7 engagements per view. There is the possibility that because these are trailers being uploaded by Disney properties, some of the engagement generated could be paid for.

The second most-viewed trailer on Facebook uploaded by a Disney-owned property is a Spanish-subtitled trailer with 8.2 Million views and, you guessed it, 8.1 Million of those views occurred in the first 30 days since uploading. The popularity of the trailer among Spanish speakers might be due in part to Pirates lead Javier Bardem, the Spanish star who got his start in movies filmed in his native language. However, this trailer did have a slightly lower engagements per view rate in its first 30 days online with 0.7 engagements per view. The bright side is that the engagement is still above average for the official Pirates trailers.

The most-viewed influencer or user-generated trailer on YouTube for Pirates is that original teaser uploaded by Zero Media with 13.3 Million views, 11.1 Million views occurring in the 30 days since the video was uploaded. The engagement per views rate in the first 30 days for this trailer was 0.7 engagements per view. The second-most viewed influencer or user-generated trailer on YouTube is the third trailer for the movie uploaded by ONE Media with 12.7 Million views (11.6 Million of those views rolled in during the first 30 days since the trailer was uploaded). This video had a much better engagement per views rate in its first 30 days online with 1.4 engagements per views. It should be notes that this third trailer focuses on the franchises new characters played by Javier Bardem, Kaya Scodelario and Brenton Thwaites.

Again, audiences often connect to a particular actor or theme within a given film and that’s what they head to the theater for. When discussing this sequel to Pirates specifically, it’s important to understand that this is the fifth movie in the franchise’s history. It’s to be expected that audiences might have a certain level of “franchise fatigue” associated with the Pirates films, but that doesn’t mean this installment won’t perform at the box office. What it does mean is that the marketing campaign surrounding sequels like this should focus on what makes this particular movie different from the others. Although Javier Bardem may not have a massive social media following, he is a famous and acclaimed actor that is a new character in this franchise.

Movies and Influencer Marketing

There will always be an audience for big summer movies, but in our current entertainment climate, how do studios drum up excitement about franchise sequel releases? Some may view these franchise films as safe bets but when it comes to marketing trailers for these movies online, it pays to be different. Audiences want to see what’s going to be different about a particular installment in a series or what will be fresh in a TV adaptation or why this comic-to-big budget feature is unique. Audiences also want to feel like they’re relating to something in a movie, whether it’s an actor from their hometown or a character they recognize from a different type of material. Studios shouldn’t be afraid to use influencers to promote their films and to generate engagement in other ways than simply uploading a traditional trailer. Taking risks in online video marketing might just pay off by making this summer rake in the biggest box office yet!