Roll-out Vs Day and Date Movie Releases

There was a time when opening in the US was a big freaking deal. That’s where all the money was made. If a movie failed in the US then it was pretty much doomed. It may have some success internationally, but it wouldn’t be enough to pull it out of it’s rut. US is still makes up a large share of a movie’s potential profits. Probably the biggest chuck out of them all. But it’s no longer a be all end all if a movie doesn’t excel in the US. Now a movie can have a moderate opening in the US, but a great opening over seas and that movie or franchise will remain in good shape. Sure, a bomb here can still mean the potential death of a franchise, but now at least films stand a chance to be uplifted thanks to international markets. The production of Hansel and Gretel 2 is an example of that at work.

Dawn of the Planet of the ApesThis shift in the way movies are making money is resulting in a shift in the way films are released internationally. In the past, blockbusters that were meant to be main attractions in the US would be released first in the US. Then the movies would be rolled out to the other territories. In some cases, the movies would be released day and date, meaning that the movie would release in all territories with a specific language at the same exact time. More often than not it was a slow roll out to other markets. But with times changing and the potential for movies to make more money in international markets than domestically has resulted in a shift where movies are being released internationally first then rolled out to the US. This has both benefits and detriments to a movie’s potential profits.

Slow Roll-Out
The idea behind releasing a movie in a slow roll out is to introduce a film to a market first that is most likely to enjoy the movie. In the age of the internet, this buzz is then passed along. That means that the movie has the potential to make the biggest splash in it’s largest potential market first. This can be a huge benefit to a movie particularly if it isn’t the biggest hit the studio plans to see. By rolling it out, it has time to build traction. But this can also go both ways with a movie. For example, if a movie doesn’t make a splash in its first market it can be an uphill battle for the film to make the profits that it intended.

As I mentioned before, previously US was the first market that was being targeted. We would get the movie first and then other territories would then get it. Now the US is getting movies after international territories. From what I’ve been able to tell so far this is not always beneficial. While US is no longer dominating the pie it is still the largest or one of the largest pieces of the pie that makes up profits. If a movie gets bad buzz internationally or even mediocre buzz, that will heavily impact the sales that it makes. Thus if a movie is not as good as it can possibly be, but the studio figures they will make more money internationally first then the choice is obvious. You go international. Reputation doesn’t want to be risked. The trade-off may be lower sales domestically, but in exchange they may have made up what they would have lost if they opened in the US first.

GodzillaIn the same way the a slow roll out reaching US audiences last can also be potentially bad for US sales, it can also be a driving force if the buzz is good. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a product of this. Yes, it was a good movie. Yes, it did well internationally. And yes, it created buzz around it that drove more US audiences to their theatres. By opening internationally, they were able to test the waters effectively while making money. If a movie about an All-American hero can do well internationally and is well received, it was highly likely to do well in the US. That buzz only helped the US sales.

Day and Date
Can be a mixed bag when it comes to quality. When a movie opens day and date there is no way to see what the buzz is like. The only thing that any market can go on is the promotional materials they were given. It means that no one can look around and say it opened in this country already and it seems to be pretty good or it was awful. Everyone walks into the theatre opening day with similar expectations on what they are going to see.

If marketing is done correctly and there is enough excitement about a movie, this strategy is extremely effective. X-Men Days of Future Past will be doing that when it releases on May 23rd. This strategy works because the audience has nothing to work for or against it. If people are interested, they will go see the movie plain and simple. No positive or negative buzz allows for the audience to make their own decision. If the movie turns out to be not so great immediate sales will drop off drastically. If it is a success, then the drop will be consistent. Also movies released day and date tend to have a longer tail end for this reason. It is mostly because the word of mouth doesn’t really start until people have begun to see it.

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