How did the top international territories fare at the box office in 2011? Ian Sandwell looks at Harry Potter’s dominance, local hits and trends in 3D

Familiarity does not breed contempt if the international box office is anything to go by. Nine of the top 10 strongest performers last year — often successful in spite of critical opinion — were sequels or films based on existing properties. Of these, the climactic Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 ruled supreme, taking almost $150m more than its closest rival Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides ($802.6m). It led the market in territories including Australia, Germany, Sweden and the UK, as well as being a stalwart in the top 10 of most others on its way to a franchise-best $947.1m.

That amount accounted for more than 70% of Potter’s worldwide $1.3bn haul and showcased the increasing strength of the international box office, with 58.4% of revenues for the top 100 US films coming from the international market. Other international success stories for US films included Pirates 4 (76.9% international share), Kung Fu Panda 2 (75.2%) and The Smurfs (74.7%).

In the face of this relentless Hollywood charge, local films struggled to make an impact on the whole — with the exception of Potter in the UK, arguably a local production — though there was some determined home-grown resistance in France and Italy.

Nine of the top 10 strongest performers were sequels or based on existing properties

French runaway success Intouchables lived up to its name, with $140.1m seeing it top France’s yearly chart; Dany Boon’s Nothing To Declare ($71.5m) also managed to hold off the might of Potter. In Italy, local comedy What A Beautiful Day’s record-breaking $59.4m performance saw it top the local chart, grossing almost double its nearest rival (which inevitably was Potter).

Those examples inform the major trend occurring internationally in 2011, certainly when it came to local product: everyone was in need of a laugh. The Inbetweeners Movie excelled in the UK; biopic of comedian Dirch Passer, A Funny Man, was second in Denmark; and action comedy Bodyguard was the second biggest film of all time in India.

Despite a 1.5% drop in 3D box office in the US, the format continues to be a big draw internationally. Seven of the top 10 films were released in 3D and even though some territories recorded a drop in 3D market share (such as the UK, down 5.9% following Avatar’s phenomenal benchmark in 2010), others recorded a boost (Germany was up 2.4%) and in Europe there are now more than 11,500 3D screens in use.

Around 67% of Pirates 4’s international gross came from 3D screenings, 60% of Kung Fu Panda 2’s $500.4m and 53% of Cars 2’s $368.4m.

And with a host of 3D franchise films primed for 2012 — The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey — it is difficult to imagine the international appetites altering much over the coming months.

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A formidable one-two combination of home-grown comedies saw admissions rise to a 45-year high of 216 million in France — a 4.2% increase on 2010 — in spite of a 6.2% drop in attendance for the first six months of 2011.

Dany Boon’s Nothing To Declare impressed at the start of the year with 8.2 million admissions ($71.5m), but even that was topped by the phenomenal run of Intouchables, which had accumulated 16.8 million admissions ($140m) by the end of the year (it stands at 19.2 million as of March 4).

As a result of this, Intouchables distributor Gaumont led the market share with 10.9%. The film also helped market share for local films leap 5.9% to 41.6%, with the 89 million admissions achieved by French films the best performance since 1984.

US films make up most of the strongest performers behind Intouchables and Nothing To Declare. They slightly increased admissions to 99.2 million but dipped in market share to 46%.


Though it failed to break the $1.3bn (€1bn) mark, Germany enjoyed its best ever year at the box office with a 4.1% increase to $1.27bn, propelled by the success of the final Harry Potter, Pirates 4 and the latest effort from ever-dependable home-grown star Til Schweiger. His Kokowaah proved the year’s strongest local performer with $39.2m and despite lacklustre returns for the likes of Vicky And The Treasure Of The Gods and The Three Musketeers, the local market share leapt to 18.4%.

With three of the top five highest-grossing films of the year, Warner Bros led the distributor field with 19.5%, while Concorde was Germany’s leading independent for the second year running, with 6.1%.

Arguably the biggest story in Germany was the success of 3D, with an increase in market share to 22.8% (from 2010’s 20.4%), with 3D admissions boosted to 29.3 million from 25.4 million.


With a trio of home-grown efforts — albeit one fully financed by Warner Bros — leading the way, the UK enjoyed a 5% increase year-on-year for a total gross of $1.6bn, alongside a 1.4% rise in admissions to 171.6 million.

Thanks to the sterling performances of The King’s Speech ($70.1m) and The Inbetweeners Movie ($69.0m), independently made UK films enjoyed their best ever year with a market share of 13.5%.

Overall market share for local films was up to 36.2% from 24% in 2010, spearheaded by the series-best performance of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 which conjured up a magical $112m.

This result also contributed to Warner Bros enjoying the highest market share at 18.44% ($319.1m) of the majors, while Entertainment ($112.1m) took top honours among the independents, largely thanks to The Inbetweeners Movie’s runaway success.

Four of the top 10 films were released in 3D, but overall 3D market share was down 5.9% to 21.5%.


The first year-on-year drop in seven years saw the Australian box office record a total revenue of $1.1bn — 3% down on 2010 — alongside a 7.7% decrease in admissions to 85 million.

In keeping with the overall pattern internationally, franchises dominated the top 10 best performers though arguably the year’s finest performance belonged to local title Red Dog. The based-on-real-life family drama became the first Australian film in two decades to break the a$20m — around $21m — mark without the backing of a major studio, after a superb theatrical run saw it gross $22.3m.

This helped distributor Roadshow to 8% market share, a field led by PPI at 20.4% despite disappointing returns for local films distributed by the studio such as Griff The Invisible ($196,780) and Wasted On The Young ($124,348).

Local market share has not been above 5% since 2001, so it was little surprise that overall market share for home-grown films was 3.9%.


Despite retaining its position as the largest international market (excluding the US), Japan’s box-office revenue fell 18% to $2.36bn due to the lack of big local hits and the tragic events of March 11’s earthquake and tsunami, which saw 73 screens close across the country and showtimes reduced elsewhere during the week of crisis.

While the top 10 included five local films, their market share was down 16% with no film breaking the $61m (¥5bn) mark for the first time in 11 years. Studio Ghibli’s From Up On Poppy Hill was the domestic leader but its $57m haul pales in comparison to the studio’s previous effort The Borrower Arrietty, which took more than $110m in 2010.

However, local films narrowly held the majority market share at 54.9% after decent performances from the likes of A Ghost Of A Chance ($53.4m) and instalments in the Pokemon ($54.3m) and Detective Conan ($37.9m) franchises.

Toho led the distributor market share at 34.3%, accounting for $722.1m of overall box-office revenue.

South Korea

A 7.4% increase year-on-year saw South Korea experience its best ever year, with a total nationwide gross of $1.1bn and admissions jumping 8.7% to 159 million.

Impressive runs at the box office for Arrow, The Ultimate Weapon ($49.4m) and Sunny ($47.8m) also saw local films take the majority market share for the first time in four years at 52%.

This is despite a reduction in screen numbers to 1,982 — the first time in four years the figure has fallen below 2,000.

Thanks in part to the market-leading performance of Transformers: Dark Of The Moon ($66.3m) and the excellent result achieved by Sunny, CJ E&M Corporation dominated the distributor market share with a $422.3m tally accounting for almost 40% of the total revenue.


Continuing to be hit by piracy, the Spanish box office endured a below-par 2011 with a drop in both revenue — down 2.4% to $830m — and admissions — down 2% to 98 million.

Despite this, local films enjoyed a stronger year than 2010 with market share climbing 3% to almost 15%, led by the runaway success of Torrente 4 which amassed $25.6m — a result second only to the latest instalment of Twilight ($25.7m) in the year’s strongest performers.

Even though Hollywood product otherwise dominates the top 10 performers of the year, there were also decent outings for other local comedies, such as Brain Drain 2 ($6.8m), and genre efforts like The Skin I Live In ($6.0m) and No Rest For The Wicked ($5.3m).

As in the UK and France, Warner Bros led the distributors in 2011 with a market share of 17%; Torrente 4 supplied 18.4% of its $149.1m haul.


Even though 2011 saw the release of what would become Italy’s biggest local film of all time, Italian box office dropped 10% to $844m and admissions fell 7.9% with
101.3 million tickets sold.

Including co-productions, local films enjoyed a strong year with a 37.5% market share led by the record breaking $59.4m performance of What A Beautiful Day, which helped its distributor Medusa Film lead the market with 26 million admissions ($201m).

As with Spain and much of Europe, successful home-grown efforts were comedies. Indeed all five top-grossing Italian films of the year were comedies, with Whatsoeverly ($22.9m) and Immaturi ($21.9m) among the strong releases.

If anything, the 10% overall revenue drop can be put down to a declining interest in Hollywood output. Despite having six of the year’s 10 strongest performers, Hollywood’s overall market share was down from 60.2% in 2010 to 48.5% in 2011.

BRIC territories

With year-on-year increases across the board, Brazil, Russia, India and China all enjoyed an excellent 12 months at the box office in 2011. But the success of local films varied considerably across the territories.

China was the most successful territory of the four with a 28.5% annual increase resulting in total revenue exceeding an unprecedented $2bn. It is now the third largest market worldwide (behind the US and Japan) with revenue more than doubling since 2009’s $906.2m haul.

Home-grown productions claimed a majority market share of 53.4% but 3D films, with a 40% market share, were another dominant factor, with Transformers: Dark Of The Moon ($172.9m) and local title The Flying Swords Of Dragon Gate (which took $68.9m in 16 days after its December 15 release) leading the way. Non-3D effort The Flowers Of War was the most successful local film with an incredible $92.8m banked in 2011.

The picture wasn’t so rosy on the local front in Brazil, despite a third successive year-on-year increase to a record $790m annual tally from 141.6 million admissions. Domestic titles accounted for 11.6% of the overall gross, a steep 27.3% drop. Arguably as a result of its setting, Rio was the overall champion of the 2011 box office, with a $38.5m tally in a top 10 of entirely Hollywood output.

It was a similar story in Russia where an 11.7% increase saw box office hit $1.2bn, alongside a 1.9% drop in market share for local productions to 12.6% . Despite this, two home-grown outings did manage to land in the overall top 10 of the year, with Vysotsky: Thank God I’m Alive ($27.9m) leading the way.

For the second year running, Central Partnership was the dominant force in Russia’s distribution market with a share of 25.5% after successful runs for Puss In Boots ($50.6m) and Transformers: Dark Of The Moon ($45.2m) saw it bank $294.7m.

In India, studio franchise Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol achieved the highest ever launch for a Hollywood release with an extraordinary $678,000 (rup26m).

The real story of the year though was the exceptional performance of four local efforts which all passed the $26.1m (rup1bn) mark. Salman Khan’s Bodyguard’s whopping $37.2m (rup1.4bn net) haul puts it second in the all-time list behind 3 Idiots. Ready ($32m), Ra.One ($30.3m) and Don 2 ($28m) made up the other members of the 2011 rup1bn club as the territory’s revenues hit $500m (rup19.3bn).