Entertainment Magazine

Box Office: Avengers: Age of Ultron & The Trend of Hollywood Blockbusters Opening Overseas First

Posted on the 27 April 2015 by Weminoredinfilm.com @WeMinoredInFilm

Well, here we are again. I am excited about a big movie which is about to open this upcoming weekend. In this case, I’m sending out texts and making phone calls to nail down when exactly I will be seeing Avengers: Age of Ultron and who’ll be going with me. However, at the same time I am also reading about all of the box office records Age of Ultron’s already broken because it’s been released in around 55% of the foreign market. It was the #1 film in all the territories in which it opened this weekend, collecting a total of $201.2 million, around 44% ahead of the first Avengers. But, but, but…that’s not fair! Why has over half of the world already had a chance to see this movie while I’ve been forced to wait here in the United States? The last time I checked, China is still several years away from overtaking us; the domestic market, consisting of the United States and Canada, is still far and away the biggest individual market for movies. So, why am I the one who has to avoid pop culture sites overloaded with spoilers from all the people who’ve already seen Age of Ultron?

Actually, I am not all that bothered by this, thanks to the following two reasons: A) The rest of the world sure as heck isn’t going to weep for us now that the tables have been turned and we’re the ones waiting for some big movies; B) I’m used to this by now. Ever since Iron Man 2, this is simply what the Marvel Studios movies do. From Iron Man 2 to Age of Ultron, almost all of them come out overseas before the US/Cananda by at least a week, the only exceptions being Captain America: The First Avenger and Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s the new normal. We used to get movies months (if not a full year) before anywhere else. Then the gap shortened. Then we got movies at the same time as everyone else. Now, what was once unthinkable has become far more routine.


People in the UK and Australia were debating Alice Eve’s gratuitous Star Trek Into Darkness bikini shot a full week before the rest of us

Well, kind of. Some studios toy around with the MCU release model, like Paramount Pictures with Star Trek Into Darkness, Noah and its upcoming Terminator: Genisys, Fox with Rio 2, Sony with The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and Universal with Battleship, which actually played overseas for over a month before making its domestic debut. However, it’s not like the old ways are gone. Paramount’s Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and Fox’s Fantastic Four will debut pretty much everywhere at the same time, including the US and Canada, just as Sony’s The Equalizer did last year and Universal’s Furious 7 did earlier this year. And Warner Bros., home to Harry Potter, DC and Lego, seems especially reluctant to ever give the rest of the world an early look at any of its big movies. In general, all of the studios take it on a case-by-case basis.

The fact that they would even consider opening a major film somewhere else before the United States and Canada is still a huge change.  The obvious question is “Why has this happened?” and the obvious answer is “Money!” The domestic market has been flat for several years now while the foreign market has been booming, which can be partially explained as “We got tired of 3D, everyone else still loves it” and further explained as “Actually, it’s a little more complicated than that.” The end result is that, as Fandango.com’s Dave Karger told CBS, “We’ve reached the point now where a blockbuster film can make as much as 80 percent of its overall box office gross outside of the United States. So it makes sense that the studios are catering to the overseas markets by releasing many of their biggest tent-pole movies internationally first and even adding special footage in the most important markets.” That quote comes from 2013 around the time Iron Man 3 came out, and if you simply Google the phrase “Why Do Some Movies Come Out Overseas First?” you’ll find similar articles from news outlets timed to the latest big Marvel release. I’ll summarize two of them:

The avengers
When The Avengers came out in 2012, The LA Times’ Amy Kauffman searched for answers, observing that while “movies always used to debut on the same date around the world, or first in the U.S.” the studios seemed have changed their mind in “putting foreign theaters first.” She was told by Peter Adee, an industry insider with marketing and distribution experience at multiple studios, “The fact that [The Avengers] has done so well overseas has everyone already speculating over just how successful it’s going to be. The question ‘Is it going to be successful?’ is gone from the conversation before it even debuts in the U.S.” Dave Hollis, Disney’s Executive Vice President of Distrubtion, did not disagree, admitting, “”A big international gross signals ‘Hey, this is a big, big movie’ — it’s not something that’s just for fans, it’s for everyone.”

Iron Man 3
When Iron Man 3 came out in 2013, CBS’ Lesley Savage asked the same types of questions and found the same answers, Hollywood.com’s Paul Dergarbedian explaining, “First and most importantly it builds excitement in the countries where the film is not yet playing. In other words, news of blockbuster returns overseas only serves to raise awareness and excitement in North America and as such I believe lead to bigger returns once the film lands stateside.” The evidence supporting that argument is that both Iron Man 3 and The Avengers debuted to far larger North American box office totals than pre-release tracking had predicted.

But what about piracy? Doesn’t this simply give internet pirates a chance to illegally distribute big Hollywood movies to those in the United States who aren’t patient enough to wait a week longer than everyone else? That is a concern, but Dergarbedian argued, “The piracy issues are alleviated by making the film available internationally first and circumventing the pirates and their potential for profits since they are not in possession of a commodity that is not otherwise available to the audience.” So, while this plays into domestic piracy it actually helps to combat internationally piracy?

There are additional, more cultural-based considerations ruling these release date decisions as well. For example, pretty much anytime the World Cup or something like it comes around to distract a huge chunk of the world the studios scramble, putting movies out sometimes far earlier or far later overseas as a result.

This is all just one of the byproducts of the globalization of Hollywood. A simultaneous worldwide release of a big movie allows us to all talk about it at the same time at the digital watercooler while a delayed domestic rollout means some of us are coming to it in the middle of the conversation. It could be worse. We have to wait until May 1st for Age of Ultron. China doesn’t get it until May 12th, and poor Japan is left Ultron-less until July 4th.  That’s a tall glass of suck.

This Weekend’s Estimated Box Office Top 10 Totals (4/24-4/26)

1. Furious 7

  • Production Budget=$190m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$18.2m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$69.7m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$320.5m/$1 billion/$1.32billion

Now one of the very few films to gross $1 billion from the international market alone.

2. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2

  • Production Budget=$30m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$15.5m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$5.3m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$43.9m/$17.8m/$61.7m

3. Age of Adaline (Domestic Debut)

  • Production Budget=$30m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$13.3m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$1.3m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$13.3m/$2.3m/$15.6m

4. Home

  • Production Budget=$135m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$8.3m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$13.7m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$153.7m/$147.1m/$300.8m

5. Unfriended

  • Production Budget=$1m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$6.2m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=Less than $1m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$25.1m/Less than $1m/$25.2m

6. Ex Machina (Wide Expansion)

  • Production Budget=They’re not telling
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$5.4m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=Less than $1m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$6.9m/$7.7m/$14.6m

One of the best weekends in the young history of the indie distributor behind the movie.

7. The Longest Ride

  • Production Budget=$34m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$4.3m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$1.1m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$30.3m/$8.1m/$38.4m

8. Get Hard

  • Production Budget=$40m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$3.9m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=?
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$84m/$16.1m/$100.1m

9. Monkey Kingdom

  • Production Budget=They’re not telling
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$3.5m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=Nothing yet
  • Domestic Totalt=$10.2m

10. Woman in Gold

  • Production Budget=$2m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$3.5m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=Less than $1m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$21.6m/$4.6m/$26.2m

What Left the Top 10?: Insurgent (Current total: $272.1m worldwide/$110m budget) & Cinderella (Current total: $474.6m worldwide/$95m budget)

What’s Up Next?: As if you don’t already know – Avengers: Age of Ultron!

Sources: BoxOfficeMojo.com, CBS, Yahoo, LA Times

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog