Tom Hanks’ genial, engaging persona has made him one of the most successful film stars in the world. We examine the key territories for Hanks at the box office.
Here’s an old Hollywood saying, “One hit will buy you two flops; two hits allows you five…” and so on. If that’s the case, Tom Hanks can write his own ticket for the rest of his career.
Hanks is one of the world’s most beloved US film stars, perceived as innately American insofar as movie stereotypes paint that person as hard-working, decent and moral. It was 1988’s Big that shaped his enduring persona as an honest, guileless individual, an image reaffirmed in his iconic roles in Forrest Gump and Sleepless In Seattle. His films work well in Japan (it was one of the few places where The Terminal was a hit), and also in Germany, where audiences are particularly amused and enchanted with Hanks’ on-screen physicality and affability. But his appeal is universal; so when a Hanks film underperforms, it is an anomaly not a trend.
Equally adept in both comedic and dramatic parts, Hanks’ most recent film is Larry Crowne, which he co-wrote, directed, produced and stars in. It melds elements of comedy and drama as it tells the tale of a man who returns to education after being ‘downsized’ from his job as a stock clerk at a big-box store.
His appeal is universal; so when a Tom Hanks film underperforms, it is an anomaly not a trend
Co-written by Nia Vardalos, critics have seen Larry Crowne as a throwback to the type of social comedies popularised by Frank Capra in the 1930s. While there are underlying issues of a serious nature, the thrust is light, optimistic and ultimately romantic — he falls in love with Julia Roberts, America’s enduring sweetheart, who plays his teacher. Hanks’ powerhouse production outfit Playtone Pictures produced Larry Crowne for Vendome Pictures with Summit Entertainment handling sales.
Hanks was an omnipresent force in the North American media in the weeks leading up to the film’s debut on the US Independence Day weekend, July 1, via Universal Pictures. He did interviews with traditional media outlets as well as on Spanish-language Univision, a cooking show and on public radio. Hanks then hit the road for a whistle-stop promotional tour of major markets to draw attention to the film’s early summer release in those key territories, including the UK (where the distributor was Optimum), France (where it was released by SND as It’s Never Too Late) and Germany (Kinowelt). The Asia Pacific premiere took place with Hanks in attendance as the closing night film at ScreenSingapore.
The film has been positioned as charmingly old-fashioned, narrative-driven fare, a grown-up alternative in multiplexes over-run by shape-shifting robots and, later, adolescent wizards.
Internationally, Larry Crowne hit its stride best in France where it has grossed $4.9m
But critical response to Larry Crowne has been tepid. Its North American opening reflected the performer’s appeal to an older, female-tilting crowd (of over-35s) which comprised roughly 85% of ticket buyers. It grossed $16m during the four-day weekend and is expected to finish its North American run at less than $50m (around the break-even mark for Universal). It is Hanks’ lowest-grossing film since The Ladykillers in 2004, which was not marketed as a Tom Hanks movie.
Internationally, Larry Crowne has to date hit its stride best in France, where audiences were drawn to the on-screen pairing of Hanks and Roberts.
Universal’s 2009 release of Angels & Demons grossed $46.3m in Germany, making it the second biggest market for the film after North America. Germany was also the most lucrative international market for Cast Away (2000) and You’ve Got Mail (1998). Larry Crowne opens in southern European territories in late summer, early autumn and is still to be dated in Japan.
Next up for Hanks are leading roles in two high-profile book adaptations. He stars with Sandra Bullock, John Goodman and Viola Davis in Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close for Paramount and Warner Bros, which will be released in December, and is in pre-production on Cloud Atlas, directed by Tom Tykwer and Andy and Lana Wachowski, also for Warner Bros. Cloud Atlas co-stars Hugo Weaving, Susan Sarandon and Halle Berry.