Magazine article Variety

H'wood Zooms on Overseas Boom

Magazine article Variety

H'wood Zooms on Overseas Boom

Article excerpt

It was business as usual at the 2011 international box office. And business is booming.

Last year, total overseas B.O. skyrocketed to approximately $23.5 billion through Dec. 31, up about 11% from the $21.2 billion earned in 2010 (the first time a year's international ticket sides reached the $20 billion mark).

Of that total, the Hollywood majors took in an estimated $13.52 billion internationally in 2011 vs. 2010's $12.7 billion collective studio tally.

While international's influence on the domestic film biz is nothing new. the year saw increased signs of that impact, including distribution of several films launching weeks or even months ahead of their domestic releases. Moveover, the success of the 3D format overseas helped justify Hollywood's continued interest, since it more than offset 3D's waning U.S. popularity.

The growth in overseas box office - thanks in large part to burgeoning markets like China and Russia - reps a trusty fallback for studios and film distributors around the world, especially as domestic B.O. struggles to match 2009's record tally of $10.6 billion. (2011 recorded $10.2 million domestically.)

In 2011, Hollywood launched several summer biggies overseas, with Thor" and "Fast Five" bowing as early as two weeks ahead of the U.S. "Thor," from Paramount and Marvel Entertainment, topped out at nearly $450 million globally, with $268 million from foreign wickets. "Fast Five" became one of Universal's highest-grossing pics ever, with $419 million internationally for a total $629 million worldwide.

And while neither was released in 3D, the format continues to grow overseas - despite frequently higher 3D upcharges overseas than those in the States, making pricey conversions or 3D shoots worthwhile.

Sony-Paramount's 3D motion-capture toon "The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn" represented both the early launch and 3D trends. Capitalizing on "Tintin's" European origins, the pic had an unusual two-month overseas head start before bowing Stateside on Dec. 23. The movie grossed more than $2-40 million internationally by Dec. 31.

A handful of sure-fire franchises met or surpassed expectations in 2011.

The year's top three worldwide grossers. Warner Bros.' record-breaking "Harry Potter" finale. Par's Transformers: Dark of the Moon" and Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," each reached -Sl billion, making it the first year in which three films hit that mark.

China and Russia - one-half of the BRIC quartet. which also includes growing markets Brazil and India - scored bellwether B.O. totals.

In China. local box office surged past $2 billion for the first time, a 29% increase over 2010. That market, with its government-imposed cap of 20 importedd films, has been growing year-over-year by at least 25% since 2003. (2010 overall Chinese B.O. came in 64% ahead of the previous year.)

The rise of small- and medium-budget pics is challenging the dominance of blockbusters in the Chinese film market." says Tong Gang, head of the film bureau at the State Administration of Radio. Film & TV. noting that a group of young filmmakers has emerged that have contributed to the burgeoning box office.

That mix of top-performing local product, such as Zhang Yimous Christian Bale starrer "The Flowers of War." and Hollywood fare, led by "Transformers" and "Kung Fu Panda 2. …

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