China, France and Germany saw a significant rise in ticket sales in the third quarter of 2009 to help put the global box office back on track. Leonard Klady reports

Haeundae was the highest-grossing non-English-language film during the third quarter

The global box office returned to an even keel during the third quarter (July-September) of 2009, following the slight downturn in worldwide ticket sales during the previous quarter (April-June).

Although gross revenues reached $7.3bn, this was approximately $20m less than the gross revenues recorded during the third quarter of 2008 — but the decrease translates as just 0.3%.

The North American box office increased by 0.2% during the period while the rest of the world combined saw an almost imperceptible erosion of 0.1%. In addition to mainland China, where revenues almost doubled, only Germany and France of the major film markets experienced double-digit year-on-year growth.

Double-digit drops Conversely, India, South Korea, Mexico, Spain and the UK each recorded double-digit drops in revenues from July to September, compared with the same period last year. The international box office accounted for approximately $4.7bn of the worldwide total, or 65% of all ticket sales.

While a number of films, including new instalments in the Harry Potter, Ice Age and Transformers franchises as well as Up and Inglourious Basterds, did well almost everywhere, there wer fewer bona-fide global hits (last year saw The Dark Knight, Kung Fu Panda and Mamma Mia! The Movie perform uniformly well around the world).

Much of the slack was taken up by national titles working well in their home markets. But again, these were fewer in both number and total gross (for example, Japan has had nothing this year to compare with Hayao Miyazaki’s Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea’s $136.5m gross in its local market alone in 2008).

The highest-grossing non-English language film during the period was the South Korean disaster epic Haeundae, which has taken $71.3m from just five Asian markets.

Also notable were the first two chapters of the Sweden-Denmark-Germany co-productions of the Millennium trilogy, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire (Dragon Tattoo opened in quarter two in many territories).

They have taken $85.7m and $44.2m respectively to date. However, even a vibrant filmproducing nation such as Japan saw new editions of reliable franchises grossing less than previous instalments.

For example, this year’s chapter of Toho’s Pokemon grossed $41.8m compared with the $48.3m grossed by last year’s entry. Warner Bros led market share in both the domestic and international markets with Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince ($638.9m) contributing solidly to the company’s dominance. The Hangover($133.8m) added an unanticipatedboost.

The US studios may have dominated the third quarter with 75% of the box office but international independents are hoping to eat into that in the fourth quarter with a slew of local end-of-year releases and the global release of Summit Entertainment’s The Twilight Saga: New Moon, which grossed $267.1m worldwide on its opening weekend. However, although gross revenues are steady year-on-year, it is estimated that global admissions have fallen by 5%-10% in the year to date compared with the first three quarters of 2008.

top 10 int’l distributors by market share, Q3

Distributor Box-office grossMkt share
Warner Bros $963.8m 20.50%
20th Fox $778.5m 16.50%
Walt Disney SMPI $514m 10.90%
PPI $387.2m 8.20%
UPI $323m 6.90%
SPRI $302.9m 6.40%
Toho $261.6m 5.60%
CJ Entertainment $80.6m 1.70%
Showbox $64.3m 1.40%
Constantin $62m 1.30%

Box office growth, Q3 2009

Territory % change over Q3 2008
China 99%
Germany 30%
France 16%
Brazil 8%
Japan 5%
Australia 4%
Russia 3%
Italy 1%
Mexico -13%
UK -24%
South Korea -39%
India -44%