Box Office Top 10 Film News

Box Office: Avengers: Age of Ultron & The Trend of Hollywood Blockbusters Opening Overseas First

Well, here we are again. I am excited about a big movie which is about to open this upcoming weekend. In this case, I’m sending out texts and making phone calls to nail down when exactly I will be seeing Avengers: Age of Ultron and who’ll be going with me. However, at the same time I am also reading about all of the box office records Age of Ultron’s already broken because it’s been released in around 55% of the foreign market. It was the #1 film in all the territories in which it opened this weekend, collecting a total of $201.2 million, around 44% ahead of the first Avengers. But, but, but…that’s not fair! Why has over half of the world already had a chance to see this movie while I’ve been forced to wait here in the United States? The last time I checked, China is still several years away from overtaking us; the domestic market, consisting of the United States and Canada, is still far and away the biggest individual market for movies. So, why am I the one who has to avoid pop culture sites overloaded with spoilers from all the people who’ve already seen Age of Ultron?

Actually, I am not all that bothered by this, thanks to the following two reasons: A) The rest of the world sure as heck isn’t going to weep for us now that the tables have been turned and we’re the ones waiting for some big movies; B) I’m used to this by now. Ever since Iron Man 2, this is simply what the Marvel Studios movies do. From Iron Man 2 to Age of Ultron, almost all of them come out overseas before the US/Cananda by at least a week, the only exceptions being Captain America: The First Avenger and Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s the new normal. We used to get movies months (if not a full year) before anywhere else. Then the gap shortened. Then we got movies at the same time as everyone else. Now, what was once unthinkable has become far more routine.

Alice-Eve-Star-Trek-Into-Darkness
People in the UK and Australia were debating Alice Eve’s gratuitous Star Trek Into Darkness bikini shot a full week before the rest of us

Well, kind of. Some studios toy around with the MCU release model, like Paramount Pictures with Star Trek Into Darkness, Noah and its upcoming Terminator: Genisys, Fox with Rio 2, Sony with The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and Universal with Battleship, which actually played overseas for over a month before making its domestic debut. However, it’s not like the old ways are gone. Paramount’s Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and Fox’s Fantastic Four will debut pretty much everywhere at the same time, including the US and Canada, just as Sony’s The Equalizer did last year and Universal’s Furious 7 did earlier this year. And Warner Bros., home to Harry Potter, DC and Lego, seems especially reluctant to ever give the rest of the world an early look at any of its big movies. In general, all of the studios take it on a case-by-case basis.

The fact that they would even consider opening a major film somewhere else before the United States and Canada is still a huge change.  The obvious question is “Why has this happened?” and the obvious answer is “Money!” The domestic market has been flat for several years now while the foreign market has been booming, which can be partially explained as “We got tired of 3D, everyone else still loves it” and further explained as “Actually, it’s a little more complicated than that.” The end result is that, as Fandango.com’s Dave Karger told CBS, “We’ve reached the point now where a blockbuster film can make as much as 80 percent of its overall box office gross outside of the United States. So it makes sense that the studios are catering to the overseas markets by releasing many of their biggest tent-pole movies internationally first and even adding special footage in the most important markets.” That quote comes from 2013 around the time Iron Man 3 came out, and if you simply Google the phrase “Why Do Some Movies Come Out Overseas First?” you’ll find similar articles from news outlets timed to the latest big Marvel release. I’ll summarize two of them:

The avengersWhen The Avengers came out in 2012, The LA Times’ Amy Kauffman searched for answers, observing that while “movies always used to debut on the same date around the world, or first in the U.S.” the studios seemed have changed their mind in “putting foreign theaters first.” She was told by Peter Adee, an industry insider with marketing and distribution experience at multiple studios, “The fact that [The Avengers] has done so well overseas has everyone already speculating over just how successful it’s going to be. The question ‘Is it going to be successful?’ is gone from the conversation before it even debuts in the U.S.” Dave Hollis, Disney’s Executive Vice President of Distrubtion, did not disagree, admitting, “”A big international gross signals ‘Hey, this is a big, big movie’ — it’s not something that’s just for fans, it’s for everyone.”

Iron Man 3When Iron Man 3 came out in 2013, CBS’ Lesley Savage asked the same types of questions and found the same answers, Hollywood.com’s Paul Dergarbedian explaining, “First and most importantly it builds excitement in the countries where the film is not yet playing. In other words, news of blockbuster returns overseas only serves to raise awareness and excitement in North America and as such I believe lead to bigger returns once the film lands stateside.” The evidence supporting that argument is that both Iron Man 3 and The Avengers debuted to far larger North American box office totals than pre-release tracking had predicted.

But what about piracy? Doesn’t this simply give internet pirates a chance to illegally distribute big Hollywood movies to those in the United States who aren’t patient enough to wait a week longer than everyone else? That is a concern, but Dergarbedian argued, “The piracy issues are alleviated by making the film available internationally first and circumventing the pirates and their potential for profits since they are not in possession of a commodity that is not otherwise available to the audience.” So, while this plays into domestic piracy it actually helps to combat internationally piracy?

There are additional, more cultural-based considerations ruling these release date decisions as well. For example, pretty much anytime the World Cup or something like it comes around to distract a huge chunk of the world the studios scramble, putting movies out sometimes far earlier or far later overseas as a result.

This is all just one of the byproducts of the globalization of Hollywood. A simultaneous worldwide release of a big movie allows us to all talk about it at the same time at the digital watercooler while a delayed domestic rollout means some of us are coming to it in the middle of the conversation. It could be worse. We have to wait until May 1st for Age of Ultron. China doesn’t get it until May 12th, and poor Japan is left Ultron-less until July 4th.  That’s a tall glass of suck.

This Weekend’s Estimated Box Office Top 10 Totals (4/24-4/26)

1. Furious 7

  • Production Budget=$190m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$18.2m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$69.7m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$320.5m/$1 billion/$1.32billion

Now one of the very few films to gross $1 billion from the international market alone.

2. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2

  • Production Budget=$30m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$15.5m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$5.3m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$43.9m/$17.8m/$61.7m

3. Age of Adaline (Domestic Debut)

  • Production Budget=$30m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$13.3m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$1.3m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$13.3m/$2.3m/$15.6m

4. Home

  • Production Budget=$135m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$8.3m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$13.7m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$153.7m/$147.1m/$300.8m

5. Unfriended

  • Production Budget=$1m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$6.2m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=Less than $1m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$25.1m/Less than $1m/$25.2m

6. Ex Machina (Wide Expansion)

  • Production Budget=They’re not telling
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$5.4m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=Less than $1m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$6.9m/$7.7m/$14.6m

One of the best weekends in the young history of the indie distributor behind the movie.

7. The Longest Ride

  • Production Budget=$34m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$4.3m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$1.1m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$30.3m/$8.1m/$38.4m

8. Get Hard

  • Production Budget=$40m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$3.9m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=?
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$84m/$16.1m/$100.1m

9. Monkey Kingdom

  • Production Budget=They’re not telling
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$3.5m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=Nothing yet
  • Domestic Totalt=$10.2m

10. Woman in Gold

  • Production Budget=$2m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$3.5m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=Less than $1m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$21.6m/$4.6m/$26.2m

What Left the Top 10?: Insurgent (Current total: $272.1m worldwide/$110m budget) & Cinderella (Current total: $474.6m worldwide/$95m budget)

What’s Up Next?: As if you don’t already know – Avengers: Age of Ultron!

Sources: BoxOfficeMojo.com, CBS, Yahoo, LA Times

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11 comments

  1. All my friends went to this already but I am still waiting for Hellboy 3.

    I wonder if it’s easier to get a cam copy when it gets released in Australia first. I wonder how long they can prevent leaks from review copies or copies given to translators. I wonder if they would start splitting films up and giving different parts to different translators to prevent an entire leaked copy from being uploaded.

    1. I haven’t looked to see if there are Age of Ultron leaks out there (I assume there are), but I know that at this time last year I was waiting to see The Amazing Spider-Man 2 after it’d been out everywhere else for almost 2 weeks and there were cam copies all over the internet.

  2. PS I can’t believe they are waiting an extra week. There is so much rubbish in that Top Ten waiting to be knocked off. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 and Unfriended look particularly awful.

  3. I haven’t done much research on the subject but having read a fair bit it does make sense for Hollywood studios to take advantage of the box-office boom outside of their domestic market. As you’ve mentioned the argument of combating piracy seems like a lopsided one. In some instances I do know that releases are pushed forward to take advantage of holidays (e.g. Lunar New Year). Appreciate your article. When you’re done watching A:AOU hope you’ll write a review so I can compare it with mine.

    1. When Furious 7 is banking over $300 million domestic but over one mother-freakin’ billion foreign you know exactly where the big money is, even with the current problems with currency rates and foreign theaters keeping 60% of the theatrical gross. Basically, for the majority of my lifetime when it came to the business behind Hollywood America was the center of the universe. That’s not true anymore, and the way films are made and released reflects that, for better or worse since the worldwide market has helped motivate the move toward language-neutral films with easily understood action over emotion. As a spoiled American, there is a kneejerk reaction of “Hey, wait, why am I the one having to wait?” but every time I even think that, even in jest, I remember how long the rest of the world used to have wait for movies and remember that we had it better than we realized for a long time. Some countries, like Russia, only relatively recently (as in just in the past couple of decades) started actually getting Hollywood movies, and China still has very rigid restrictions limiting the number of American films it allows. The piracy part of it is the element I don’t completely understand. If there are no foreign-specific holidays or cultural events on the horizon, I would think the best bet against piracy would be to actually release a movie in most major markets at the same exact time, the US, Europe, Asia, etc. Still, I don’t want to make too much out of this because the studio still take it on a case-by-case basis, and it is still the majority of big films which open in all the major markets at the same time.

      As for Age of Ultron, I will definitely be writing a review. Right now, I have gone on media blackout and am not reading anyone else’s reviews for obvious reasons. Once I see it, though, I’ll write my review. I imagine I’ll write several things about it, and I’ll drop the blackout and start reading everyone else’s opinions, too.

  4. Disney waited nearly four month before they released Big Hero 6 in all countries. I think it really hurt the international box office. I think no matter where a movie is released first, it’s better to release it in a reasonable time frame everywhere…meaning one or two month. Most fans are ready to wait a few weeks instead of watching a crappy copy, but the longer the wait the higher the chance that the movie gets spoiled for them.

    And I don’t think that it is about being tired concerning 3 D or not. I can only speak for Germany, but we have more options over here (well, the option we usually don’t have is I-Max…somehow the system never caught on over here). We have the big multiplex theatres, but also a lot of smaller ones (a lot of them actually boycotted Age of Ultron, but that’s another story). So we are not forced to drop an insane amount of money just to watch a movie. Well, Age of Ultron is not exactly cheap if you watch it on opening weekend but I also saw birdman in a small theatre month after its release for only 4 Euro.

    1. With Big Hero 6, I think Disney was trying to kind of emulate what it did with Frozen, although I don’t recall Frozen’s foreign rollout being anywhere near as staggered. Whether or not a film comes out overseas first or in the US/Canada first, I think the new normal is definitely what you said: “It’s better to release it in a reasonable time frame everywhere…meaning one or two months.” That’s not always possible thanks to the increasing pushback Hollywood is getting from countries who want to promote their own film industries, or governments like China’s having its restrictions. However, Disney definitely waited too long with Big Hero 6. At this point, it is increasingly weird for there to be a movie that big which is not being enjoyed by the entire world at roughly the same time, give or take a couple of markets.

      “And I don’t think that it is about being tired concerning 3 D or not”

      I did add the “Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that” part 🙂

      I was trying to keep things brief since the actual topic of why exactly the foreign market has so thoroughly overtaken domestic is complicated, likely more of a side effect of larger, global economic forces (e.g., rising middle classes, more people with discretionary income) than a reflection of the actual films, although the “Foreign audiences like 3D movies more than us” is a common argument.

      1. The main thing I remember about Frozen’s foreign roll-out was that it didn’t came out in Japan until early March, 4 or so months after its domestic debut, and then it became a cultural phenomenon in Japan, more so than normal since it became a phenomenon most everywhere it played.

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