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What Skyfall’s blockbuster ticket sales tell us about the global movie market

Skyfall, the 23rd movie in the James Bond movie franchise, has thus far grossed $518 million worldwide just 22 days after its Oct. 23 world premiere in the UK. That’s almost as much as the previous Bond film, Quantum of Solace, grossed for its entire run ($586 million). It has reached the half-billion mark faster than did The Avengers (23 days), Avatar (32 days), Dark Knight (45 days), or Titanic (98 days). Quartz asked Gitesh Pandya, editor of Box Office Guru, what Skyfall‘s success tells us about the international movie business.

Quartz: Skyfall has done particularly well in India, where it had the highest-grossing weekend of any Hollywood movie, and the highest grossing weekend of any 2-D movie. The gross intake was 275 million rupees ($5 million). The film also did well in Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Is it possible that former British colonies are particularly keen on the Bond franchise?

Gitesh Pandya: It’s hard to come to that conclusion based on that, since the film is doing well everywhere. For India, one of the reasons Skyfall is doing so well is that Sony is very aggressive in promoting its brands in India.  Sony’s biggest brand in India is Spiderman, which are among the top grossing films there. Sony created posters in India for Skyfall in Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu.

Quartz: Is there any logic behind how studios stagger the worldwide release dates?

Pandya:  In the last two or three years, America is no longer the first market for a lot of these action films.  It’s no longer, “let’s open in America first, because America is awesome.” The studios realized they have to maximize revenues. It makes sense to release the film when the audience is spending the most money. Sometimes other countries have a holiday and we don’t, so they release to coincide with the holiday, even if it means the US doesn’t get it first. The US is one of the last countries to get Skyfall because mid-November is when Bond movies release–the last six James Bond movies were released in November. The US has more moviegoers close to Thanksgiving, whereas late October–when it opened in the UK–is a weak time for the US box office.

The Avengers and Fast Five, for example, opened overseas two weeks before they opened in the US. Part of that is because of the spring holidays like Easter [in most parts of Europe, the Monday after Easter is a holiday]. On Mayday, Europeans get time off, but not in the US. The first weekend of May is the kickoff of the summer movie season in the US. Studios reserve that weekend two years in advance. They plant their flag and scare everyone else away.

Battleship is an extreme example of a film that opened five weeks in the rest of the world before it opened in the US. Avengers was opening at around the same time, so Battleship needed two weeks clearance before the Avengers steamrolled over them.

Soccer is another thing that affects movie release dates. It’s big around the world but not in the US, so if there is a big event, like the World Cup, it might affect Europe premieres, but in the US it’s irrelevant.

Quartz: Is the fear of piracy a factor in determining the order in which movies are released?

Pandya: That was the theory for a while. Years ago, Singapore and Malaysia were the first international markets because there was a lot of piracy there [with people watching bootleg copies from the US.] Now Russia and China have big piracy problems. But even in those countries, the demand for Hollywood movies is such that people will still leave the house and pay for a ticket.

Quartz: Japan will be one of last countries to get Skyfall, on Dec. 1, 38 days after its premiere. Why so late?

Pandya: Japan is typically the last major country to open. Part of that is that their domestic film business is so strong, they don’t need all these foreign movies from Hollywood. On any given weekend, the top 10 movies might include seven or eight Japanese films.

Quartz: Is that partly because of Japan’s protectionist policies toward its own films?

Pandya: There is some protectionism in Japan, but there’s more in China. They have quotas for non-Chinese movies every year, which the studios are vehemently trying to fight. Skyfall‘s release has not yet been scheduled in China, but I’d be shocked if it didn’t get the green light. A portion of the film takes place in China. Whenever there’s a China element to a movie, it’s more likely to be let into the country.

But once you get in, the potential is huge. China is an important market, becoming one of the top three movie markets in the world. It’s as if China is a hot night club with a bouncer at the door, but once you’re in, it’s open bar and free food.

Quartz: Do studios intentionally set movies in China or use Chinese actors to increase their chances of breaking into the Chinese market?

Pandya: A lot of Hollywood studios are trying to make co-production deals with Chinese comopanies. Having a Chinese element definitely improves the odds. For example, Ironman 3 has a co-production deal with a Chinese company.

Gitesh Pandya tweets @giteshpandya

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