Apr 27, 2012

The year Hollywood changed hands

'The Summer movie season officially starts in the U.S. when The Avengers opens on May 4th. Overseas, though, the season has actually already gotten underway with Battleship's foreign rollout. This extended schedule is indicative of the growing importance of the overseas market to Hollywood's bottom line—last year, international grosses accounted for 69 percent of overall sales, compared with 66 percent in 2010 and 64 percent in 2009. Nearly all big-budget movies this Summer are designed with the intention that they will earn at least 60 percent of their revenue in foreign territories, with the biggest grosses likely coming from developing countries China and Russia. As usual, sequels like The Dark Knight Risesand Ice Age: Continental Drift should fare the best, though some original movies like Brave, Snow White and the Huntsman and Prometheus will likely make their mark as well.'
'Thanks to strong openings in China and Russia,Battleship took the top spot at the overseas box office away from Titanic 3D this weekend.' — Box Office Mojo
This seems to me one of the significant trends capturing Hollywood in its undertow. It started, arguably, with Jurassic Park in 1992, the first year in Hollywood's history in which overseas earnings out-stripped domestic. Ironically, the French took the opportunity to man the Bastille barricades and complain loudly about American "cultural imperialism," seeing in Spielberg's dinosaur thriller a replay of D-Day, only this time with Dinos. Well, Jurassic Park was a Higgins boat alright. But it wasn't aimed outward. It was aimed inward. The Invasion was America's. These days, the studios are owned by international conglomerates. It is the foreign markets which determine which films get made: international grosses now account for 69 percent of overall sales. America now twiddles its thumbs, waiting to find out from China and Russia which of its movies are hits. 
From The Economist:—  
Mr Cameron arrived in Beijing on Saturday and will soon be attending a screening of “Titanic 3D” at the Beijing International Film Festival (the re-release opened earlier this month to staggering sales in China). But his most important business will be conducted in private meetings, including with state-owned China Film Group. Speaking in an interview on Sunday, he said a priority of this trip was to explore a co-production deal with the Chinese firm on “Avatar 2” and “Avatar 3”. Mr Cameron says he would need to be satisfied in advance that his planned films would meet the approval of censors. If that key condition can be met, he is keen on the potential payoff. “There are economic advantages,” as he puts it. Mr Cameron’s meetings this week come shortly after the news that “Iron Man 3”, starring Robert Downey junior, will be a Chinese co-production. The gravitational pull of the Chinese movie market, nonexistent less than a generation ago, is now an undeniable force, sucking in all Hollywood blockbusters (and lesser projects) that venture within its event horizon. Hollywood studios, independent producers and directors regularly cycle through Beijing in search of partnerships with Chinese production houses—often seeking money to finance their movies, as well as access to a suddenly lucrative market.  
This year China will surpass Japan as the world’s second-largest movie market, after America. Chinese box-office takings totalled 13 billion yuan ($2.06 billion) in 2011, an increase of 30% from 2010, which in turn had been more than 60% higher than in 2009. The number of movie screens has doubled in five years to more than 10,000 (and is projected to reach 15,000 in speedy fashion), and the new screens are mostly digital and 3D-capable. Meanwhile America’s market is stagnating. Takings in North America (America and Canada combined) declined by 4% in 2011, to $10.2 billion. Mr Cameron suggests that by the time “Avatar 3” is released later this decade, China may well rival America as the top movie market.  

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