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More than ever, Hollywood relies on Foreign Box Office - New York Times 8/7/06


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  • More than ever, Hollywood relies on Foreign Box Office - New York Times 8/7/06

    Special thanks to disneytim:

    More Than Ever, Hollywood Studios Are Relying on the Foreign Box Office
    By Laura M. Holson
    Published: August 7, 2006
    New York Times

    LOS ANGELES, Aug. 6 — In 1998 the director Bryan Singerwas asked to give a speech at the Tokyo International Film Festival to introduce his movie “Apt Pupil.” Mr. Singer, who often traveled to Japan, decided to surprise the crowd by speaking in Japanese.
    Dave Hogan/Getty Images
    Johnny Depp greeting fans at the “Pirates of the Caribbean”
    premiere in London.

    After a brief greeting, Mr. Singer hoped to say, “I look forward to seeing you after the film.” But instead he bungled the translation, suggesting that he was looking forward to having sex. The crowd gasped. “It was,” he said in an interview on Thursday, “a disastrous mistake.”
    So before he returned to Tokyo last week to promote “Superman Returns,” Mr. Singer said, he practiced his Japanese — a lot.

    Much has changed since, besides Mr. Singer’s mastery of Japanese, as Hollywood increasingly looks to global markets to bolster the bottom line. Movie attendance has declined in the United States over the last decade, forcing studios to cultivate a wider audience. And combined with the increasing cost to make and market films, many here agree that having an overseas strategy is more important than ever.
    Industry analysts predict an increase in worldwide movie attendance over the next five years, with Asia and Central and Eastern Europe the fastest-growing regions. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, global spending on film entertainment from 2006 to 2010, including movie tickets and DVD’s, is projected to grow at an annual rate of 5.3 percent.

    But the rules that apply to movie marketing and distribution in the United States — a barrage of talk-show interviews and television advertising — do not necessarily translate in Hamburg, Tokyo or Moscow. In France, for instance, American studios are barred from advertising movies on television. Japanese audiences are notoriously fickle, and marketers appeal to women by stressing a movie’s romance. (At the “Superman” premiere in Tokyo, Mr. Singer said they gave away prizes.) And don’t even try to release a film anywhere in the world during a major sports event like the World Cup.

    “People just won’t show up,” said Mark Zoradi, who runs worldwide marketing and
    “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”
    Domestic box office so far: $380 million
    Foreign box office so far: $392 million

    When Mr. Zoradi met last year with his boss, Richard Cook, who is Walt Disney Studios’ chairman, to discuss the studio’s 2006 release schedule, they had a problem. Disney was distributing two expensive movies in the summer, the animated “Cars” and a sequel to “Pirates of the Caribbean.” But unlike earlier summers, it faced tough competition from the unlikeliest rivals — 20 sweaty men chasing a ball around a grassy field.

    The World Cup soccer championships were scheduled to begin in Germany on June 9, just as the summer movie season moved into high gear. Both Mr. Zoradi and Mr. Cook knew that even the savviest marketing campaign was unlikely to coax fans from their television sets. So, Disney decided to release “Pirates of the Caribbean” over several weeks instead of on the same day worldwide.

    Disney opened “Pirates” in the United States on July 7, two days ahead of the World Cup final match between France and Italy. That was not a problem. Among Americans, soccer is not as popular as it is overseas, and the American team had been eliminated early. Industry analysts pointed out, too, that the morning matches did not cut into evening movie attendance.
    Europe proved more challenging. The international campaign for “Pirates” began on July 6, with releases in Britain, Australia and New Zealand. “We took a bet that England and Australia wouldn’t be in the World Cup finals,” Mr. Zoradi said.

    It was a good guess. But there were other factors working in the movie’s favor. Not only was it a sequel, but the cast, including Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom, was largely British.

    “Pirates” opened No. 1 in all those markets, bringing in $25.3 million in Britain, $8.4 million in Australia and $1.2 million in New Zealand that first weekend. The studio then waited until July 12 — three days after the World Cup ended — to continue releasing “Pirates,” first in Scandinavia, then in the Netherlands, most of Asia, Latin America, Japan, Germany and, finally in August, France and Spain. The rollout ends in Italy on Sept. 13 because many movie theaters there are not air-conditioned and families are on vacation in August.

    So what does Disney plan for its last installment of “Pirates?” With no major sports events planned, Disney is expecting a global release the last weekend in May 2007.
    "If you don't know how to draw, you don't belong in this building" - John Lasseter 2006

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