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Box Office: Warner Bros. International Races Past $2 Billion, Following Paramount

Thompson on Hollywood By Anthony D'Alessandro | Thompson on Hollywood August 18, 2011 at 10:22AM

How will Warner Bros. ever top the year they released the Harry Potter finale in 3-D?
Thompson on Hollywood

How will Warner Bros. ever top the year they released the Harry Potter finale in 3-D?

Hollywood is having a hell of run at the 2011 foreign box office. Last year, Warner Bros. hit an all-time industry record with $2.93 billion and already, through seven and half months, they are within breathing distance of that figure as they became the second major today to cross $2 billion at the overseas B.O., following Paramount two weeks ago.

Obviously Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 did the trick, enabling Warner Bros. to hit $2 billion two months earlier than last year--plus the power-boost of premium 3-D ticket prices. The format repped 60% of the final chapter's overseas dollars, catapulting the film to a dazzling $857 million and counting. Paramount also earned its bread by working the 3-D soil with Transformers: Dark of the Moon ($728.5 million), Kung Fu Panda 2 ($452.9 million), Thor ($267.2 million) and Captain America: The First Avenger ($127.9 million).

Warner Bros. has also been pushing its overseas grosses past domestic on a number of films. While many studios are happy when foreign matches domestic on any comedy, The Hangover Part II was always positioned to score worldwide, much like its predecessor, reaping a foreign take of $327 million vs $254 million domestic. Though The Hangover performed well abroad in 2009, its overseas gross came in under domestic, $190.1 million to $277.3 million. The Rite, produced with New Line, looked like a has-been Anthony Hopkins also-ran stateside with $33 million, but Warner Bros. International nearly doubled the film's overseas B.O. ($63 million) with Mexico ($11.4 million) and France ($7.3 million) being among the top territories. The girls of Sucker Punch received a bit more love overseas at $53.4 million vs. $36.4 million domestic with Australian, French and German crowds forking out the most to watch it at $4 million-plus a piece. Catherine Hardwicke's Red Riding Hood saw a similar foreign-domestic ratio with $51.5 million and $37.7 million; its biggest fans being in Australia, Spain, Russia, U.K. and Mexico, which tallied $22.1 million -- nearly half of foreign. Warner split rights on Unknown with the highest-grossing territories going to Optimum in the U.K. ($10.6 million), Studio Canal in France ($8.9 million) and Kinowelt in Germany ($6.4 million). However, the Liam Neeson film's industry haul of $67.1 million bested domestic's $63.7 million. New Line's Horrible Bosses is just warming up abroad with $35 million-plus to date from 36 markets.

On the downside, the $200-million DC superhero film Green Lantern is still looking like Poison Ivy at the B.O. Green Lantern grossed $14.1 million last weekend from 4,300 screens in 29 markets, but its overseas take of $61.5 million still trails domestic's $115.2 million. That's a catastrophic disappointment for a would-be franchise launch--add in marketing costs and the studio lost a lot of money.

There might be some surprises abroad with such auteurish treats as Steven Soderbergh's Contagion and Clint Eastwood's Leonardo DiCaprio headliner J. Edgar, but the three films which need to work in order to push Warner Bros. past last year's record are Happy Feet Two, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and Garry Marshall's New Year's Eve, as their respective predecessors -- Happy Feet ($186.3 million), Sherlock Holmes ($315 million) and Valentine's Day ($106 million) -- exhibited tentpole traction outside the U.S.

Following Paramount and Warner Bros. among the majors at the international box office, Fox is currently at $1.5 billion year to date, Sony has logged $1.04 billion, Disney is at $1.7 billion and Universal's at $833 million.

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.