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Studios savour international box office results

The announcement by Paramount top brass that World War Z had delivered career-best box office for Brad Pitt served as reminder of the consistency of international markets this summer.

While blockbuster season 2013 has been strong in North America where it could even set a new summer record, several high-profile domestic flops have grabbed headlines. Yet in almost every case, the performance of those films across the rest of the world – in particular the new powerhouses of China and Russia – has spared the blushes of studio executives.

World War Z delivered a record worldwide number for Pitt and stands at a shade over $500m, while the $197.7m in North America – a strong result – set a new domestic record for the star.

Yet the driving force has been a $305m-and-counting international figure, a mighty number that underscores the enduring importance of an arena often overlooked in the scramble to lambast  domestic flops.

Key markets have been South Korea on more than $35m, Russia on over $25m, Mexico on more than $21m and Germany and France on more than $15m apiece.

“There are a couple of reasons why the big movie tend to do better internationally,” Paramount Pictures International (PPI) head Anthony Marcoly told Screen in a recent interview.

“One reason is Russia, where these star-driven event movies do anywhere between $10m and $20m. Then you have China where they can do anywhere between $40m and $60m.

“So between these two territories you are already doing a baseline of $50m internationally and now you layer on Europe and the rest of Asia and Latin America and you can see what might have been $40m in the US doing a minimum of $150m internationally. China and Russia have become a security blanket to some extent.”

Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures’ Pacific Rim was adjudged to have flopped in North America when it opened at number three over Jul 12-14 weekend on $37.3m. Guillermo del Toro’s sci-fi stands at $96.8m after five weekends but has made waves internationally, where a $246m running total – including $74m from China and $20.5m from Russia – has boosted the worldwide tally to $343m.

Warner Bros has enjoyed more equivocal successes with its other summer releases. By and large all three achieved positive results domestically and prospered outside North America.

Man Of Steel stands at $359.5m internationally and $288.7m domestically, while The Hangover Part III took $112.1m in North America and $238.8m internationally. The Great Gatsby, meanwhile, surprised observers when it grossed $144m domestically and $186.2m across the rest of the world. Recent release The Conjuring is showing promising signs internationally following its number one North American launch and stands at an impressive $168m worldwide after four weekends.

Sony’s After Earth and The Smurfs 2 flopped in North America yet the international results have been better, even if they have not set the world on fire. The Will and Jaden Smith vehicle managed a paltry $60.4m domestically and combined with $184.2m from international for $244.6m worldwide.

The Smurfs 2 stands at only $53.6m in North America but Sony’s family sequel has reached $110.7m after its second session. The 2011 original’s $421.1m international lifetime gross is a long way off but the discrepancy between domestic and international is plain to see.

White House Down disappointed both domestically and internationally, however at time of writing Elysium had just opened top in North America and launched in Russia on $7m. Media Rights Capital financed Neill Blomkamp’s sci-fi and Sony distributes and markets worldwide.

Only Disney’s The Lone Ranger and Universal’s R.I.P.D. have collapsed in a big way on both fronts. Disney’s Johnny Depp Western is the summer’s biggest flop on $87.3m domestically and $109m internationally and the studio is expected to take a write-down of up to $190m.

R.I.P.D. stands at $31.9m in North America after four weekends and $23.9m internationally, where the action film is yet to open in the majority of markets.

Yet top brass at these two studios can take heart from the fact that they have delivered the three biggest films of the year-to-date. Marvel’s Iron Man 3 remains the year’s top release on $407.8m in North America and $804.6m internationally.

Universal is riding high. The studio reached $1.8bn on Monday to score its biggest ever year at the box office and has released the second and third biggest films of the year: Fast & Furious 6 overtook its 2011 predecessor in both arenas, scoring $238.3m domestically compared to $209.8m and $544.4m internationally versus $416.3m. China alone has generated $61.6m.

Despicable Me 2 has also improved on both fronts, grossing $338.5m in North America against Despicable Me’s $251.5m in 2010 and $410m internationally compared to $291.6m.

Lionsgate pulled off a superb result for Now You See Me, Summit’s mystery thriller that grossed $115m in North America and more than $140m through Lionsgate International licensees.

Fox’s The Wolverine has grossed $312.3m worldwide, powered by a $199.3m international tally that ranks it as the third biggest release in the X-Men franchise. Russia has generated $20.8m so far.

Female buddy film The Heat stands at $45.7m internationally and $198m worldwide, while Epic has generated $144.6m internationally and DreamWorks Animation’s Turbo was soft in a competitive animation season in North America but is in the early days of international release and has amassed $62.7m outside North American and $13.7m in Russia.

“The international continues to grow,” Fox International co-president Paul Hanneman told Screen recently. “Many of these movies are in 3D and that has really given us tremendous access to additional revenues and new audiences.”

Audiences are growing up with 3D in emerging markets, while 3D appears to be waning in the more mature regions like the US, UK and Australia. “In Russia and China and parts of Asia,” said Hanneman, “you have still get some serious interest in 3D and that’s helping our numbers.”

Hanneman continued: “One of the things I have been saying for the past year and a half is a lot of these markets are maturing in that they are able to sample many more types of movies than they have in the past.

“India is the perfect example. They started building multiplexes and audiences started to experience arthouse movies and blockbusters, so there has been a real awakening. It’s not just 3D – it’s everything that’s growing and at the same time local movies are improving and you still see box office continue to expand.”

PPI’s Marcoly also noted another crucial element that has played into the hands of international box office. “We had very favourable weather in Europe. It took a long time for the summer to hit and when it did it was tricky.”

PPI’s Star Trek Into Darkness delivered a mighty result this summer, grossing $225m internationally – nearly double the comparable $127.9m for Star Trek back in 2009 – and $226.8m in North America versus the predecessor’s $257.7m.

“There are certain countries we call Trek countries [the UK, Germany, Australia] and there were a lot that were not Trek counties,” said Marcoly. “We identified the top Trek countries and we released one week prior to the US to get some proper space between Iron Man 3 and Fast & Furious 6. We rolled out in the remainder of the summer, which allowed us to customise the campaigns in each territory.”

The sci-fi took more than $40m in the UK, over $20m in Germany, $16m in Australia and $10m in Russia.

Marcoly noted that the releasing logjam caused problems in North America and this was something he and his international counterparts worked to avoid.

“At the beginning of the summer we and our competitors did a pretty good job of making sure there was spacing country-by-country and when you look at the ones that went very well like Iron Man 3, The Great Gatsby, Star Trek and The Hangover Part III, they had space.”

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