Over the summer, a few stories have appeared speculating about a new "twitter effect" on movie box office success. The technology is thought to speed-up and amplify the traditional word-of-mouth influence. For example, the less than anticipated opening weekend for Bruno is believed to be partially attributable to movie-goers leaving the film (sometimes early) and twittering a negative review.

Now it appears movie studios are attempting to turn the twitter effect in their favor. From today's Washington Post:

Studios are trying to gauge the impact of an avalanche of tweets and how it affects the staying power of a movie. Was the 39 percent box-office drop of "Brüno" from Friday to Saturday a case of disappointed moviegoers tweeting from theater lobbies? Or did a limited fan base for "Brüno" exhaust itself on that first day?

"I think Twitter can't be stopped," says Stephen Bruno, the Weinstein Co.'s senior director of marketing. "Now you have to see it as an addition to the campaign of any movie. People want real-time news, and suddenly a studio can give it to them in a first-person way."

Eamonn Bowles, president of Magnolia Pictures, says studios are worrying about a time when "people will be Twittering during the opening credits -- and leaving when they don't like them." But he also warns, "The next step [for the Twitter Effect] is for studio marketing to manipulate it."

The Weinstein Co. has done that big-time for the Friday release of the Quentin Tarantino-Brad Pitt World War II epic "Inglourious Basterds." The company packed a screening at San Diego's Comic-Con with people who won access via Twitter. It also staged "the first ever Red Carpet Twitter meet-up" during the movie's premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, generating celebrity tweets, including Sarah Silverman's "just made me smile forever" and Tony Hawk's "another Tarantino classic." Twitter has broadened the reach of bloggers and other aspiring opinionmakers.

[Combining technology with opinion leader influence not only applies to movies, but also to engagement campaigns on science-related issues such as climate change. For an overview, see this recent paper I published with John Kotcher at Science Communication.]