Founder and CEO Tobi Bauckhage talks to Screen about Moviepilot’s recent Los Angeles move, and the company’s future steps.

Community-driven media research company Moviepilot has recently opened an office in Los Angeles as it looks to both further develop its relations with major studios – currently, Moviepilot work with Fox, Universal and Paramount internationally, but only Paramount in the US – and expand its online community.

“Right now, we have 6m fans in the US – 4m on fan page and 2m more along different channel pages, like superheroes or legendary directors,” explains Moviepilot founder and CEO Tobi Bauckhage. “At the end of the year, we plan to have 12m fans on FaceBbok in the US alone.”

Formed in Germany in 2007, Moviepilot’s aim was to create an algorithm-driven page to allow film fans to find the right movie, in turn boosting the first box office weekend results for the films in question.

An economist by trade, Bauckhage was fascinated by what he calls the “anomaly of the market of entertainment where there has to be the perfect match between the supply – which is the movie – and the demand – which is the audience”.

“That predetermines – moreso than ten years ago – how much money you’re going to make off the whole lifespan of the movie. I don’t know any other market which is so brutal.”

The site grew to 2.5m unique users a month in Germany, covering the whole entertainment market including television and DVD. Looking for ways to expand the technology into other territories, Bauckhage spotted an opportunity with the launch of Facebook Connect last year.

“Suddenly, this became an invitation. We understood we could get access to Like data and movie-based profiles via Facebook, and it was also a great way to enter a new market as a traffic generator,” Bauckhage recalls.

Having grown their fanbase on their US Facebook page to over 4m, was launched in November last year and has since grown to 1.8m unique visitors a month, almost the size of Germany, with one significant change in the approach of the site.

“We understood that finding the right film for the right fan, wasn’t solving such a big problem to be honest, but the technology could be applied the other way around, which is finding the right fan for any film. So we started to concentrate on upcoming movies only and the idea and the mission for the US site is to create a fan hub for upcoming movies, for people who are what we call ‘first weekenders’ – people who buy tickets on the first weekend.”

By driving fans via Facebook, Moviepilot is able to analyse the data of people who are excited about upcoming films in a non-personal way to not just define a film’s built-in audience, but also to find new audiences a film can cross over to in order for distributors to expand their marketing.

“That was very powerful when we saw that and I think nobody has that kind of data right now. The business model that evolves out of this was that we actually said we’re building this fan hub for first weekenders, then we use the data that they generate to use social media more efficiently and effectively to expand the target audience group.”

With a mission to “bring big data to Hollywood”, Moviepilot seeks to show how the industry can use this data and make it actionable. “Our hunch is we really have something that can potentially change this industry and put audience building on more solid data ground,” says Bauckhage. “The problem is that our offering is not very easy to box: we’re not a media agency, we’re not a publishing site, we’re not a research company, we’re kind of everything.

“It needs explaining, so that’s why I moved over here to LA to talk to the studios. The second bit is to educate the studios and show them how powerful and potentially meaningful this data is for their daily work.”

Alongside expanding the range of movies covered on the site – “there is a tendency towards mainstream [but] it’s a completely personal site; if you are an international arthouse movie goer, it’ll look differently for you” – Bauckhage is clear on the next steps for Moviepilot.

“Facebook as a traffic generating channel for moviegoers around the world works for other countries as well, so that’s another dimension we will start next year: to go for other languages and start the same thing in other markets as well.”