Top Film Industry Stories #7
Trans4ming Global Box Office
By Tim Briody
January 6, 2015
Quick, don’t think about it long, but name the biggest film of 2014. Guardians of the Galaxy? Nope! Captain America: The Winter Soldier? Negative. Mockingjay Part 1? Not quite. The LEGO Movie? Okay, it’s kind of a trick question since I was asking worldwide, not just in North America. While the films mentioned before occupy the top four spots in domestic box office in 2014, the film that sits in fifth place in this country was the biggest movie in the world in 2014. That would be Transformers: Age of Extinction.
International grosses have gradually become more and more important over the last few years, and we’ve mentioned it here before in our annual Film Industry stories list. Whenever a tentpole release has a seemingly mediocre performance in North America, a frequent refrain is, “The international grosses will help it out.” And that’s true. Typically, they prop up a movie’s box office enough to send it into the black as far as production costs are concerned. In the last decade, overseas earnings have moved from “oh, isn’t that cute,” to “huh, it made nearly as much overseas as it did here” to “that’s why the studio made this movie.” Overseas audiences are increasingly ravenous for American films. Especially ones in the "sh*t blows up" genre.
But we might have reached the tipping point in regards to international box office.
Take China. That’s obviously the world’s biggest audience. Age of Extinction (I still say they should have gone with Trans4mers) had the second biggest opening weekend in that country’s history with $92 million (in US dollars, of course). After its second weekend, it became the highest grossing film of all time in China. It’s the only film in 2014 to cross a billion dollars as of this writing, 77% of which came from overseas audiences.
To me, the kicker here is that Transformers: Age of Extinction was the lowest grossing of the four Michael Bay Transformers movies domestically. By over $100 million.
So while American audiences shrugged at the semi-reboot, the rest of the world couldn’t get enough. They made it the sixth biggest movie of all time overseas. The biggest moviegoing audiences in the world aren’t in the US anymore. Collectively, the rest of the world, and especially China, has finally caught up to us.
This might be a problem.
Do you hate sequels and feel like there’s a lack of originality when it comes to the biggest films of the year? Well, too bad, because that’s what the rest of the world wants. As more and more overseas moviegoers have voted with their wallets, Hollywood is going to start paying attention. They’ll begin to catering to the rest of the world because that’s where the money is now. The increase in foreign receipts proves it (with the exception of Titanic, nine of the ten biggest movies worldwide have been released in the last five years).
So when you’re complaining about why the big studios are mostly churning out action movies such as Transformers 6, Fast and Furious 9 and, lord help us, Expendables 5? Blame…every other country on the planet.