How to know when a summer movie will flop

Actor Dwayne Johnson arrives for the premiere of Warner Bros. "San Andreas" a TCL Chinese Theatre on May 26, 2015, in Hollywood.
Albert L. Ortega | Getty Images
Actor Dwayne Johnson arrives for the premiere of Warner Bros. "San Andreas" a TCL Chinese Theatre on May 26, 2015, in Hollywood.

If you're going to see the new movie "San Andreas" this weekend, don't worry about getting there early to beat the crowds.

The $110 million earthquake disaster movie won't be profitable in the U.S., according to a model by Adobe Digital Index based on chatter on more than a dozen social sites. The figures, which were first shared with CNBC, use social mentions to predict domestic profitability. Two years and 24 major movies later, it still hasn't been wrong.

Likewise, expect empty theaters and disappointed production companies for "Aloha" (also out Friday) and "Hitman: Agent 47" (Aug. 21). As for the winners, the model expects higher domestic sales than expenses for "Minions" (July 10), "Jurassic World" (June 12) and "Ant-Man" (July 17).

"The trailers and the marketing for a movie is really what causes the buzz peak to occur or not occur," said Tamara Gaffney, principle research analyst for Adobe Digital Index. "What we are really seeing is the shadow effect of how excited people feel when they're exposed to those marketing materials."

The earlier a movie trailer and other materials are released, the earlier the model can gauge consumer enthusiasm, which in turn is an indicator of the movie's success or failure, said Gaffney. The earliest prediction made so far was "The Expendables 3," which the model successfully forecast as unprofitable a full three months before the release.

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The model also called the surprise success of Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy"—a film that some thought might not catch on with the general audience. The film was already notching about 7,000 mentions a day two months before release. It also predicted the profitability of "World War Z," "Dumb and Dumber 2" and "Transformers 4" and the failures of "Pacific Rim," "Edge of Tomorrow" and "Jupiter Ascending."

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The more than 5 million social mentions that fed into Adobe's social platform came from Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Reddit, Daily motion, Flickr, Tumblr, VK, Disqus, Foursquare, Metacafe, WordPress and YouTube. Some movie producers are already spending a portion of their massive marketing budgets on third-party social media monitoring. Most of those numbers are easy to find through each service, said Gaffney.

"My advice to a marketer is to release earlier and track this, so you have more time to respond and do things to spark some interest," said Gaffney. "If you're marketing too close to the release, you many not have time to adjust."

Stars don't always bring their social fans

Another lesson from the data: Don't count on star power to attract interest. In sports, a superstar like LeBron James can bring a horde of Twitter followers and single-handedly increase the Cavaliers' social mentions by 37 times, but the nearly 9 million followers of "The Rock" may not translate into enthusiasm for a particular movie. Only about 7,000 people have followed the "San Andreas" Twitter handle.

In fact, Paul Rudd, who is starring in the predicted hit "Ant-Man," has no Twitter account, and that didn't stop @AntMan from gathering 134,000 followers.

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"We think they're probably missing something that sports is able to capitalize on in regards to how they leverage the social media fandom of an actor or actress," said Gaffney. "Social clout is becoming a big part of how [famous people] get paid, but it doesn't look like the same rules apply to the movie business as the sports world."

Adobe Digital Index Manager Joe Martin, who has developed the summer movie index over the last few years, said that social is only going to continue to grow, and that companies should take advantage of the data it offers. Of course, he knows some movies will eventually buck the model.

"I may go see 'San Andreas' this weekend—I was a fan of the disaster movie trend," said Martin. "But maybe I will just wait until it hits Red Box."

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Disclosure: CNBC's sister company Universal produced "Minions" and distributed "Dumb and Dumber 2."