Over the years there has been a shift in the importance of the international box office. Currently a movie can do mediocre in the US, but be a hit overseas resulting in a sequel. That is how important the international box office actually is. A success can swing based on a film’s reception overseas. This is an entirely different landscape than what we saw even fifteen years ago. These changes have effected how films are marketed and presented to potential audiences.
How it used to be
In the past a movie made the majority of it’s profits by being successful in the US. Any international profits that it turned were just icing on the cake. With the lionshare of the money being made in the US that meant that marketing targeted US audience. The subject matter in the movies was catered to a US audience. International markets were second thoughts in that making the release in the US was the priority, then the international markets. Often movies would release later in the other territories following the US release. Sometimes these releases could take months before they finally reached another market.
International MarketsFor a long time, and it is still the case in places, countries only allow a certain number of US movies to come though. This is a requirement that is designed to make sure that native made movies are the majority of the box office. This is in no way a bad thing as it continues to encourage filmmakers in other locations to keep on making movies for their home country rather than coming to Hollywood or another large movie market.
Over the past 10 years, China has rose to become one of the largest international markets. That means that a success in China can save a film that is failing and make it profitable. In many cases, films that completely bombed here have managed to make up their losses in the foreign markets to break even. China can with ease rival our domestic box office. The terrifying thing is that the Chinese market is still in the midst of it’s growth spurt. It wouldn’t be surprising if it dwarfed the US market 10 years from now. The massive profits that movies are seeing from China justify the inclusion of these countries in an attempt to further bolster sales.
What the shift means for Hollywood movies
One of the biggest changes that we are noticing in these changes is the increasing use of other territories or other countries’ movie stars within Hollywood movies. One of the big shifts is the incorporation of other countries. In the past movies used other locales because it benefited the story. Now, movies are filming in other locations like China and then finding some ways to inject that change into the plot. The result is that a number of movies do this without making sure that it makes sense within the context of the movie. Thankfully, movies are getting better at this. While, Transformers: Age of Extinction didn’t make total sense as a whole, the reason for moving to China within the film did make sense. As a result it is probably the most successful coproduction I’ve seen yet. As we move forward and China continues to be a major force with the international box office, it is highly likely that more movies will be incorporating the country or its stars to not only cut deals, but also make films more appealing to the foreign markets.