International Box Office: Fresh Offerings Build Momentum To Signal Brighter Future Ahead

There was further good news from the international box office this weekend, even as it continues to be clear that markets need fresh titles to keep the reopening momentum going — be they local, from Hollywood or even reissues of older event pictures.

We remain in uncharted waters around the globe. But progress in the post-COVID process and increased grosses — meaning more people are feeling confident to go out to the cinema in places where it has been deemed safe to do so, even amid restrictions — is encouraging. Offshore box office is vitally important as it makes up at least 70% of global.

Though comps are difficult to digest at this point, worldwide box office through August 8 had hit $6.55B, off 74% from an average of last three years, according to Gower Street Analytics. The international box office portion (including China) is an estimated $4.7B so far in 2020, down $13.5B versus last year (again, ahead of this weekend).

Still, signs of life are coming from many corners. And it’s not only China that should be a focus since studios continue to see just a 25% return of Middle Kingdom grosses; though confidence from the world’s second biggest market doesn’t come without its benefits. Industry execs largely agree that in the wake of — and in some cases still in the midst of — this pandemic, it’s time to look for the positive. “Given the amount of theaters open” and as people are still wary, “having some revenue for the first time in five months in this marketplace is great,” comments a source.

Look at Korea, which has been a prime example in delivering new homegrown movies, this past weekend outdoing itself with Deliver Us From Evil which logged the biggest opening since January at $12.6M for the Thursday-Sunday frame, and $14.9 when factoring in the Wednesday. This is in the wake of such recent local successes as #Alive, Peninsula and Steel Rain 2: Summit. Korea was still about 50% down on last year in the comparable frame, but is also, as are other markets, operating under restricted capacity. Regardless, a $15M 5-day start for a film there is very healthy.

China itself has responded to new titles over the past few weeks, while it hasn’t cottoned to everything that’s being rolled out. Still, these are early days and some films will have been subject to piracy, or haven’t hit the main demographic that’s on the front lines of returning to cinemas. Ornery intermissions are also a culprit in some cases (and screenings are regulated). This is expected to change with the arrival of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet in early September. The weekend winner in China, Sam Mendes’ 1917, is a movie that is made for the big screen and had a solid $5.27M start, in part aided by its local distributor Alibaba Pictures which has a stake in Amblin.

And France has embraced new local titles and this weekend’s STX entry Greenland starring Gerard Butler which was a clear No. 1 (via Metropolitan Filmexport) and bested some of Butler’s other recent outings.

Russell Crowe-starrer Unhinged was tops again in six markets this weekend including Russia which had just last frame begun to resume operations in any significant way. But Germany, which hasn’t had a major new title since Unhinged opened there four frames ago, dropped by 27% across the Top 10 this weekend.

Spain got a shot in the arm, despite rising coronavirus cases in Catalonia, with Sony Pictures International Productions’ Padre No Hay Mas Que Uno 2 last weekend. The market then dipped 19% this session with no major new title.

Italy for its part was showing growth, but has been essentially flat over the past few frames. Why? No new titles. Now, Italy is particular in that it doesn’t typically program the summer, but that changed in 2019 via a concerted effort by the studios which led to positive results. Hopefully the experiment picks up again in summer 2021. In the meantime, the market will receive Disney/Pixar’s Onward for the first time on August 21 (as will Japan and China).

Looking more closely at the top markets this past weekend, China came in at about $17.3M, a slight drop from the earlier three-day session that included a great first Sunday for Warner Bros’ reissue of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar.

There are about 8,000 cinemas open in China where Universal’s Dolittle also this weekend became the highest-grossing movie of 2020 with $16.2M since bowing on July 24. Even if this session was off 95% versus last year, the signs continue to be positive. Moviegoers are eager for new product and more’s the better if it’s a title that demands the big screen experience like 1917, or the upcoming re-release of Nolan’s Inception followed by Tenet upon which so much hope is pinned. Warner Bros also this coming session has Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone for the first time in 3D and pre-sales are looking magical. There are rumblings in the Middle Kingdom that capacity limits could be relaxed from 30% to 50%. China, as with some other offshore markets, will also get Mulan theatrically, though a date has yet to be finalized.

Korea’s weekend was up more than 76% to $16M for the Thursday-Sunday portion across the Top 10. This does not include the opening Wednesday on new local hit Deliver Us From Evil which again demonstrated that Korea is eager to go back to the movies, and particularly for fresh fare.

France grew to 525K admissions in the frame, up 20% with the strong performance of STX’s Gerard Butler-starrer Greenland which released to $1.09M from 485 locations. Other new titles in the market included local SND comedy Les Blagues De Toto and Franco/Belgian animated pic Bigfoot Family landing at Nos. 2 and 3, respectively. Roughly 90% of cinemas are operating.

Also as we’ve noted, Sony International Pictures Productions’ local sequel Padre No Hay Mas Que Uno 2 dropped just 27% to cume $5.5M so far (see here for Anthony’s deep dive on how the key date was identified). Overall, Spain was off by about 19% across the Top 10 which also includes the 2nd and 4th weekends, respectively, of Universal/Blumhouse’s The Hunt ($481K cume) and WB’s Scoob! ($1.6M cume).


Unhinged has now cumed $5.41M with less than 50 of the offshore footprint in action. It was No. 1 in six markets this session, led by Australia with another $502K from 198 screens, off by just 12% from opening. The local cume is $1.24M. Overall in Australia, the Top 10 was good for $1.1M, even with last frame. About 200 locations are open.

In total, Solstice Studios’ Unhinged added $1.42M across the weekend in 22 markets. Both Russia and Austria were new No. 1 hubs. In the former, Unhinged bowed to $124K at 348 cinemas. That’s the best pos-COVID weekend result so far in the market which is only just resuming operations with about 23% of locations open (the overall Top 10 was up 40% on last weekend).

In other holds outside Oz, the UK kept Unhinged at No. 1 again, adding about $150K from 275 screens, down 36%. The cume is $575K. The UK has just about 40% of its movie theaters operating, with the Top 10 off 17% from last session. France, Italy, Spain, Latin America, Korea, Middle East and Japan are still to open Unhinged.

Elsewhere, the Netherlands saw a 60% hike, led by the debut of Universal’s Trolls World Tour. At 129 locations, the sequel drew $300K, and was the top family choice in a market that is currently crowded with options. Local comedy drama Alles Is… (Life As It Should Be) came in 2nd in its bow, with $140K from 118. Unhinged dipped to 3rd place, off 28% from opening and cuming $597K through Sunday.

Reliable numbers are not yet available for Japan, however, local titles are leading play with the latest Doreamon taking over No. 1, followed by recent hit Beginning Today It Is My Turn in 2nd after four frames for a $30M cume. Almost all of the market’s cinemas are operating.

Germany has around 60% of its theaters running, and is in need of major new titles after Unhinged came on the scene four weekends ago. The local total on Unhinged is now $877K. It landed in 4th place behind a André Rieu’s 2020 Live From Maastricht concert film ($107K/230 locations), The Secret: Dare To Dream ($88K/300) and German family adenture Max Und Die Wilde 7 ($89K – including previews). Overall, the Top 10 was down 27% this session.

A slight 9% uptick across the Top 10 in New Zealand was driven by local comedy This Town from director/writer and star David White. The new entry grossed $142K at a little over 100 locations. It pushed Unhinged to the No. 2 slot on 77 screens where it now sits with a cume of $193K. Train To Busan sequel Peninsula was in previews this session and opens wider next weekend.

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