Sunday, May 22, 2011

Domestic Help

International grosses have become more important than ever for films.  While American studios may not get as big a percentage, overseas amounts can dwarf domestic take.  So it's always worthwhile to check worldwide box office these day, rather than just accept domestic as the final word.

Big-event films regularly see two-thirds of their entire gross overseas, as demonstrated on the linked chart by the top four--Harry Potter, Inception, Shrek and Tangled.  In fact, a film like Tangled did okay domestically, but didn't quite crack $200 million--considering how much it cost, I'm sure Disney was hoping to top that.  But with international at $376 million, not so bad any more.  You can also see the trend that international money generally goes to visually exciting films, since they play well despite the language barrier.

Or look at Rio, which so far has only $125 million at home, but overseas has topped $300 million.  An even better example is the latest Chronicles Of Narnia, which was a domestic disappointment, barely cracking $100 million, but making over $300 million overseas.  The best example in the last 12 months is probably Gulliver's Travels, which flopped over here with $42 million but made a surprising $194 million over there.

Some stars, while they may be big in the U.S., are bigger around the world.  Look at Tom Cruise.  With all the bad pr he's been getting, the guy who used to be the most dependable draw in America is no longer a guarantee.  A decade ago Cruise in an action film with Cameron Diaz would mean $100 million+ domestic, but last year's Knight And Day only made $76 million.  However, it made $186 million overseas.  I think Russell Crowe may be moving into this category.  Robin Hood, with a gigantic budget, only made $105 million in America (and Canada), but everywhere else it made $216 million.

Meanwhile, The Tourist, a weak movie that got the heave-ho in America, grossing only $67 million, had two international stars, Depp and Jolie, and managed $201 million internationally.

Another actor who used to gross a lot better overseas was Bruce Willis, but I'm not sure if it's working for him any more.  Look at his action comedy Red.  It made a passable $90 million domestic, but only $72 million overseas.

Comedies often don't play as well overseas, due to cultural differences and language-based jokes.  But some actors have gotten well known enough that their stuff attracts enough attention to do decent business.  Adam Sandler's (dreadful) Just Go With It and Robert Downey Jr.'s Due Date each made a bit over $100 million both here and there.

Films with specifically American subjects often don't play as well overseas.  Taken, an action film starring Liam Neeson, in a turnabout did considerably better domestically ($145 million) than foreign ($81 million).  A lot of people attribute that to the plot, which had an American agent kick ass against a bunch of jerks and wimps in Europe. Then there's the football (American style) film The Blind Side, which grossed a shockingly huge $255 million in America but made only $53 million foreign.  The Town, a film very much about Boston, played a lot better in the land of New England ($92 million) than the land of old England (foreign gross $64 million).  Detroit-based Gran Torino made $148 million here and $121 million there.  True Grit, a surprise hit in a very American genre, the Western, made $170 million in America and only $77 million overseas.  Probably didn't help that so much of its appeal was the ornate dialogue.

Jackass 3D also did twice as well domestically.  Actually, I'm not sure if I get that one, since I think their humor is international.  Guess other people just don't know about them.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The latest Pirates movie opened weak domestically but killed overseas, continuing the trend.

10:38 AM, May 22, 2011  

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