By Sydney Levine | Sydneys Buzz January 12, 2011 at 3:00AM
This top 10 list is Hollywood 100%. The major studios constitute a completely different business from the indies. They can carry on business as usual, luxuriating in the ease of releasing without sweating too much over originality or innovation. They are expanding with their big budget films into the realms of transmedia to brand their films across toys, games, webisodes, telecom shorts, clothing, TV series, etc. They own real estate and the means of distribution if not of production. The reason they are mentioned here be me at IndieWIRE is that their presence determines the world market on many levels. On the face of it, there is no relationship, especially moneywise, between the uber wealthy majors and the hungry struggling independents. But the pie is shared even with the runts and this article explores how the majors' shares impact upon the indies of the world.
The international theatrical revenues of major studio films and indies are worth looking at because the majors' presence abroad -- as at home -- inevitably impacts worldwide film distribution for all films. Most obvious is that their mega releases reduce the number of screens available to the indies. Theaters are recognizing that this may not be in their best interest. Megaplexas are increasingly reserving one or two screening rooms for the indies and arthouses, at least in the U.S. are holding convergence discussions. But that is another story taking place on a different front.
The international box office continues to be bullish for majors, with day and date theatrical releases from studios protecting them somewhat from piracy and with movies continuing to gross more abroad than they do here. Out of 2010's top 10 top-grossing North American titles, only Iron Man 2 failed to gross more overseas than in North America, earning only 49.8% from abroad. The average international box office share is 59.9% for the top 10 grossing films. (See chart below). In 2009 3 of the top 10 grossed less than 50% abroad. So the trend skewing films internationally continues to endure, each year skewing a bit more toward the international. Below is one chart showing domestic vs. international percentages of the top 10 major releases and two indie charts also showing the domestic vs. international market shares. The larger indies show the same trend toward larger international box office figures, but the smaller indies' shares are all over the map and defy any formulaic view.
At the same time that the international box office continues to surpass the U.S. studios’ domestic box office (we are not speaking of any DVD or VoD numbers), the studios are also stepping up their participation in international co-production. This impacts independent production worldwide and could be seen as U.S. cultural imperialism once again. It most likely will inflate prices as the U.S. specialty divisions did a few years ago. However, it is a lucrative business and those who are profiting do not want to rock the boat in these precarious economic times. So the majors are enticing top independent producers, this time abroad rather than in the U.S., as they did during the Specialty Distribution Era. This continues to crowd out the indies in terms of finding theatrical venues, production coin and even distribution abroad. Countries try to hold the line by quota systems and subsidies but in today’s economic climate this can only extend so far and so co-productions give the U.S. entry into such markets as China, France, etc. In addition, the European premarkets and co-production markets, the symposia held at Talent Campus often exclude any mention of U.S. as a player on their playing fields. Whether this is echoed in Asia is moot here.
For independents to thrive, arthouse exhibition has to mobilize itself to offer audiences unique experiences. And as the theaters digitize, sometimes to the absolute exclusion of being able to show 35mm in the mid-level multiplex chains, arthouse theaters need to arm themselves with 35mm projectors as well, to guard and show 35mm prints of classics, future classics and want-to-be classics.
Obviously the indies don’t approximate such box office numbers as the majors. So how are they doing? The traditional (independent) international sales agents continue to bank on theatrical sales which has picked up somewhat in 2010. To the disadvantage of low budget American indies, they must now compete with European and Asian subsidized films whose distribution is also often subsidized as well. Latin American cinema (subsidized by their countries) is now gaining subsidy money for international coproduction and distribution from Europe as well. The need to pay back investors is less important than it is to their U.S. indie filmmaker colleagues.
The belief that mass marketing through the internet is key to growth and that new demographic targets offer the greatest room for growth may be slow to be implemented by the studios that have been targeting 13 to 35-year-old men or families as we see in the predominance of tent-pole actioners, raunchy comedies, horror and animated fare.
The demographics that the majors neglect offer a wide area that the independents need to exploit with the help of theaters.
HERE ARE THE CHARTS, COURTESY OF BOX OFFICE MOJO.
COMPARISON OF U.S. BOX OFFICE TO INT’L BOX OFFICE FOR THE TOP 150 INDIES
This is an attempt to see a correlation with the major studio’s top 10 U.S. Box Office grosses which (except for Iron Man 2 whose international gross was 49.5% of the total) on an average gross 59.55% more abroad than in the U.S.
Toy Story 3 BV
Domestic: $415,004,880 39%
+ International: $648,183,612 61%
Alice in Wonderland BV
Domestic: $334,191,111 32.6 %
+ International: $690,108,612 67.4%
Iron Man 2 Par.
Domestic: $312,128,344 50.2%
+ International: $309,623,643 49.8%
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse Summit
Domestic: $300,531,751 43.3%
+ International: $392,948,373 56.7%
Domestic: $292,511,473 35.4%
+ International: $532,923,026 64.6%
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 1 WB
Domestic: $265,723,618 32.2%
+ International: $558,400,000 67.8%
Despicable Me Uni.
Domestic: $250,493,640 46.4%
+ International: $289,400,000 53.6%
Shrek Forever AfterP/DW
Domestic: $238,395,990 32.2%
+ International: $501,415,797 67.8%
How to Train Your Dragon P/DW
+ International: $277,297,528 56%
The Karate Kid Sony
Domestic: $176,591,618 49.2%
+ International: $182,134,113 50.8%
AVERAGE INT’L BOX OFFICE % 595.5 ./. 10 = 59.6%
Top 150 Indies: Domestic vs. Int’l B.O. per Box Office Mojo. (Counting Screen Gems, Paramount Vantage, Fox Searchlight, New Line).
The proportion of Domestic B.O. to International B.O. is so disparate that the only correlation between the U.S. Box Office and the Int’l for indies that I can see is that the larger indies (Top 15) have more active international sales agents, and, in fact, except for one New Line (WB) and one Nu Image film, all are represented by Sony Pictures Releasing Int'l, Lionsgate Films (Mandate) and Summit. Of the 15 smaller U.S. indies (Bottom 15) some have no international sales representation or the films are too American to travel.
TOP 15 of the 150:
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (Summit)
Domestic: $300,531,751 43.3%
+ International: $392,948,373 56.7% ISA: Summit
The Expendables (LGF)
Domestic: $103,068,524 37.6%
+ International: $171,400,000 62.4% ISA: NuImage
Sex and The City (NL)
Domestic: $95,347,692 33.1%
+ International: $193,000,000 66.9% ISA: WB
Red (Summit) – still playing.
Domestic: $88,561,590 54.7%
+ International: $73,305,321 45.3% ISA: Summit
Dear John (SG)
Domestic: $80,014,842 69.6%
+ International: $34,962,262 30.4% ISA: LGF aka Mandate
A Nightmare on Elm Street (NL)
Domestic: $63,075,011 54.5%
+ International: $52,588,320 45.5% ISA: WB
Resident Evil: Afterlife (SG)
Domestic: $60,128,566 20.4%
+ International: $233,985,429 79.6% ISA: Summit
Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married Too? (LGF)
Does this prove the adage that African American humor does not export well?
Domestic: $60,095,852 99.0%
+ International: $578,120 1.0% ISA: LGF
Easy A (SG) – still playing
Domestic: $58,401,464 79.9%
+ International: $14,687,259 20.1% ISA: SPRI (Sony)
Domestic: $57,744,720 85.5%
+ International: $9,820,768 14.5% ISA: SPRI
Letters to Juliet (Summit)
Domestic: $53,032,453 67.0%
+ International: $26,149,297 33.0% ISA: Summit
Kick Ass (LGF)
Domestic: $48,071,303 50.0%
+ International: $48,059,129 50.0% ISA: LGFaka Mandate
Domestic: $47,059,963 50.5%
+ International: $46,061,736 49.5% ISA: LGFaka Mandate
Saw 3D (LGF)
Domestic: $45,710,178 37.3%
+ International: $76,800,000 62.7% ISA: LGFaka Mandate
Death at a Funeral (2010) (SG)
African American humor again...
Domestic: $42,739,347 87.1%
+ International: $6,311,539 12.9% ISA: SPRI
BOTTOM 15 of the 150 Top Grossers of 2010
Totally disparate numbers for domestic vs. int’l B.O. The majors do their own international distribution. Some American indie pix are too American to travel; some American producers are ignorant of international markets. The international sales agents licensing these titles abroad might give better analyses on a case-by-case basis.
The Runaways (App)
Domestic: $3,573,673 76.3%
+ International: $1,107,124 23.7% ISA: Summit
To Save a Life (Goldwyn)
Domestic: $3,777,210 99.8%
+ International: $9,437 0.2% ISA: Cindy Bond and Chevonne O'Shaughnessy's Mission Pictures Int'l
My Name is Khan (Fox Searchlight)
Domestic: $4,018,771 9.7%
+ International: $37,308,964 90.3% ISA: Fox Star India
Please Give (SPC)
Domestic: $4,033,574 95.1%
+ International: $205,906 4.9% ISA: SPRI
Domestic: $4,234,170 68.8%
+ International: $1,919,797 31.2% ISA: Focus
Solitary Man (Anchor Bay)
Domestic: $4,360,548 86.2%
+ International: $697,899 13.8% ISA: Nu Image
Mao’s Last Dancer (Goldwyn)
Domestic: $4,817,770 22.8%
+ International: $16,344,049 77.2% ISA: Celluloid Dreams
I Am Love (Magnolia)
Domestic: $5,005,465 48.1%
+ International: $5,408,913 51.9% ISA: The Works Int'l
The Warrior’s Way (Relativity)
Domestic: $5,536,765 65.9%
+ International: $2,859,386 34.1% ISA: Kathy Morgan Int'l
Winter’s Bone (RAtt)
Domestic: $6,237,371 81.2%
+ International: $1,447,626 18.8% ISA: Fortissimo, still playing
It’s Kind of a Funny Story (Focus)
Domestic: $6,363,628 100%
International: 0 (Alliance), still playing
The Secret in Their Eyes (SPC)
Domestic: $6,391,436 19.0%
+ International: $27,220,111 81.0% ISA: Latido
Waiting for Superman (ParV)
Domestic: $6,414,334 100.0%
+ International: $2,857 0.0% ISA: Paramount
The Last Station (SPC)
Domestic: $6,617,867 51.1%
+ International: $6,331,761 48.9% ISA: The Little Film Co.
City Island (AnchB)
Domestic: $6,671,036 84.9%
+ International: $1,185,272 15.1% ISA: Westend