Coming (Eventually) to America

Article excerpt

Byline: Josh Dzieza

Why The Avengers debuted overseas.

Bad news, American superfans: you're late to the party, and you probably will be from now on. Even if you lined up for a midnight screening of The Avengers, you were behind fans in France, Taiwan, Peru, and the dozens of other countries where the movie debuted before the U.S.

Disney isn't the only studio putting the U.S. last on its itinerary this summer. Universal's Battleship has been playing overseas for more than a month, and 20th Century Fox's Ice Age: Continental Drift will play internationally for more than two weeks before opening here.

It wasn't always this way. Ten years ago films ran for weeks or months in the U.S. before trickling out to the rest of the world. Studios, aided by the lower distribution cost of digital cinema, cut down that lag so that impatient fans would stop downloading their movies, but the States still went first. Then last year a few films--Thor, Fast Five--jumped the gun by a week, and this summer Hollywood is starting to reverse its old order of operations in earnest.

"Before this summer it was very rare to see a film open internationally first," says Jeff Bock, box-office analyst at Exhibitor Relations Co. "But it was bound to happen, and I think it's going to continue." Why? Follow the money: North America made up only a third of global box-office sales last year, and its share is falling fast. …