UPDATED 1/28/14: This list has been updated with the most recent data as well as expanded to look at the top 8 film markets instead of top 4.
There are around 196 countries in the world, that is if you recognize independent entities like Vatican City and Kosovo as countries. This translates to around 56-61 territories in which Hollywood films are released (based on boxofficemojo), playing on approximately 130,000 cinema screens across the world. In box office terms, these territories are usually lumped into one of two categories, domestic (United States & Canada) and foreign (pretty much everyone else). Increasingly, the collective might of the foreign market is more important than domestic, as the domestic market grew 12% from 2008-2012 vs. the 32% growth of the foreign market. As a result, the foreign market now accounts for 69% of global box office revenue. However, Hollywood is still puzzled by just what plays huge overseas (Pacific Rim) versus that which does not (47 Ronin).
By virtue of lumping the various countries into an either/or category the importance of each individual country can get lost in the conversation. Which individual countries actually account for the highest percentage of global box office revenue? Actually, that’s still kind of hard to tell since when we say the United States we really mean the United States and Canada, and when we we say the U.K. we really mean the U.K., Ireland, and Malta. However, based upon the information we have let’s take a moment to look at the top 8 individual markets, and how each one fared in 2013.
1. United States/Canada
The United States/Canada accounts for approximately 31% of global box office gross.
- 2013 Collective Gross: $10.9 billion
- 2012 Collective Gross: $10.8 billion
- Year-to-Year Improvement: Business was up 0.8% after 2012’s total had been a 6.5% improvement over 2011’s total. Of course, 2012 was boosted by colossal hits like The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises. Either way, even though 2013 wasn’t a vast improvement over 2012 it was still enough to set a new record for collective box office gross. The improvement might simply be the result of the 9 cent increase in the average ticket price from 2012 to 2013. The result is that there were actually slightly more (0.4% more in fact) tickets sold in 2012 than in 2013.
- Top 2 Grossing Films: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire ($420 million), Iron Man 3 ($409 million), although that’s only if you count the money Catching Fire made in January 2014. For the actual calender year of 2013 Iron Man 3 made more money by around $4 million.
At its current rate of growth, China will emerge as the leading market for movies within the next decade if not sooner. It currently accounts for 9% of global box office gross.
- 2013 Collective Gross: $3.6 billion
- 2012 Collective Gross: $2.8 billion
- Year-to-Year Improvement: 28% increase. Last year, China’s 2012 gross was a 36% improvement on 2011’s, allowing China to surpass Japan as the second leading box office market. This year only continued that growth.
- Top 2 Grossing Films: Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons ($205.9 million), Iron Man 3 ($124 million). Journey to the West is a Chinese movie. We mostly hear about how well American movies clean up at the Chinese box office. However, in 2013 only 3 of the top 10 performing movies in China were from Hollywood (Iron Man 3, Pacific Rim – #4, Gravity-#10). In fact, Hollywood films only accounted for around 40% of China’s 2013 collective gross of $3.6 billion. This is the weakest collective performance for Hollywood films in the territory in nearly 10 years.
In 2011, the U.K. box office represented a 5% share of global box office, and 18% of Europe’s total, which improved to 6% global, 19% Europe in 2012. Somewhat surprisingly, business was actually down in 2013. However, an even steeper decline in Japan allowed the U.K. to move up one spot on the chart to become the third leading market for films.
- 2013 Collective Gross: $1.92 billion
- 2012 Collective Gross: $1.94 billion
- Year-to-Year Comparison: 1% decline, the biggest such decline at the U.K. box office since 1993. Experts attribute the decline to multiple factors: no U.K.-friendly Harry Potter/James Bond movie, distractions from the Royal birth and Wimbledon, and uncharacteristically pleasant weather over the summer. No, seriously, it’s usually so unpleasant there – like an entire country with the weather of Seattle, Washington – that the greatest enemy to their box office bottom line is a warm, sunny day.
- Top 2 Grossing Films: Despicable Me 2 ($77.9 million), Les Miserables ($66.8 million). Over 60% of the U.K. box office gross comes from Hollywood releases, with the rest left over for U.K. productions/co-productions and foreign language films, the latter only accounting for 2% of total business.
In 2011, Japan contributed $2.3 billion to the global box office (7% of the total gross), enough to make them the 2nd leading market marketplace for movies. Then in 2012 their gross moderately grew to $2.4 billion, accounting for 8% of global box office. However, even with that growth it paled in comparison to China, which passed them to become 2nd to only the US/Canada among film markets. Now, in 2013 Japan’s business actually dropped 5%, and they again fell further down the chart (from 3rd to 4th) of leading marketplaces for movies.
- 2013 Collective Gross: $1.87 billion
- 2012 Collective Gross: $2.4 billion
- Year-to-Year Improvement: 5% decrease
- Top 2 Grossing Films: Kaze tachinu (The Wind Rises), ($119.5 million), Monsters University ($89 million), which accounted for 20% of University‘s total overseas gross. Hollywood registered its lowest box-office share in Japan more than four decades in 2012, and 2013 was likely worse. Of the top 10 performing movies in Japan in 2013, only 3 were from Hollywood. Beyond Monsters University, for some inexplicable reason Seth MacFarlane’s Ted was a huge hit there, grossing $43 million, good enough for third highest in the country on the year. Wreck-It-Ralph, released over there as Sugar Rush, was the 10th highest grossing with $29.3 million. The rest of the top 10 is filled with Japanese movies. Even the two big Hollywood titles which were expected to clean up in Japan due to their Japan-specific plot elements – Pacific Rim and The Wolverine – disappointed, finishing at #33 and #59 on the year-end chart respectively.
The European market in general struggled in 2013 due to local economic conditions. France was no different, and the culprit might have been their own homegrown French films. As a result, Hollywood films accounted for 54% of the French market versus only commanding 43% of the market in 2012. The biggest French film of the year was LesProfs ($32.5 million). However, France’s position as the fifth leading marketplace for films remained unchanged from 2012.
- 2013 Collective Gross: $1.6 billion
- 2012 Collective Gross: $1.7 billion
- Year-to-Year Improvement: 5.3% decrease
- Top 2 Grossing Films: Frozen ($45 million), Desolation of Smaug ($44.1 million)
6. South Korea
South Korea took advantage of the weakening European market to jump up the list two spots, becoming the 6th leading marketplace for films after having been 8th in 2012. However, just like China and Japan South Korea was a difficult market for Hollywood to crack in 2013. Nearly 60% of their market was taken up by local Korean films. The only Hollywood title to top the year end top 10 was Iron Man 3.
- 2013 Collective Gross: $1.49 billion
- 2012 Collective Gross: $1.3 billion
- Year-to-Year Improvement: 6.5% increase
- Top 2 Grossing Films: Miracle in Cell No. 7 ($87.9 million), Iron Man 3 ($68 million)
India’s numbers are based on estimates from the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerice and Industry meaning that when actual figures come out in March we could be singing a different tune. However, for now it is actually singing which has lifted the India marketplace where multiple Bollywood titles broke records in 2013, especially Dhoom 3 which also set records for a Bollywood title during its domestic run in late 2013. India’s position as the 7th leading film market is down from 2012 when it was 6th even though business was up 10% in 2013.
- 2013 Collective Gross: $1.54 billion
- 2012 Collective Gross: $1.4 billion
- Year-to-Year Improvement: 10% increase
- Top 2 Grossing Films: Dhoom 3 ($56.8 million), Chennai Express ($36.1 million)
Even Russia is starting to fight back against Hollywood domination. The Russian Cultural Minister has been making a lot of noise as of late about limiting the number of American films allowed to play in their country, ala China. Now is the time to be making that argument after 2013 saw the first Russian-made film (Stalingrad 3D) top the year-end chart for the country in over 20 years. Much like many other foreign markets who have been later to getting 3D than domestic audiences, Russia loves itself a big 3D movie. Germany’s 15% plunge in 2013 allowed Russia to move up from being the 9th leading market in 2012 to 8th in 2013.
- 2013 Collective Gross: $1.3 billion
- 2012 Collective Gross: $1.2 billion
- Year-to-Year Improvement: 8% increase
- Top 2 Grossing Films: Stalingrad ($66 million), Iron Man 3 ($44.2 million)
So, basically, two of the leading European markets (U.K., France) were down in 2013, and three of the four leading Asia Pacific markets (China, South Korea, India) surged. Plus, other than the U.K. all leading markets, including Russia, suddenly became resistant to the Hollywood blockbuster, newly embracing homegrown films. Is this just an aberration? Or the beginning of a disturbing new trend for 2013? Plus, what will Hollywood do when it eventually happens that the international marketplace loses its appetite for 3D films just as domestic audiences recently did, the success of Gravity being an exception to the rule?
What will 2014 hold? Further down the road, what will happen with all of those 2015 Hollywood blockbusters when they come up against China’s limitations on the number of foreign releases allowed to play in their country?
Sources: 2011/2012 data came from the MPAA’s theatrical market statistics for each year (MPAA 2011, MPAA 2012) as well as the British Film Institute. 2013 data, including year-to-year improvement percentages, came from The Hollywood Reporter and BoxOfficeMojo.com.