By David Poland firstname.lastname@example.org
Gross Hyperinflation: International Edition
The news today that Harry Potter has finally scored a billion dollar title and that Transformers 3 is right on the cusp means that 2011 will be the first year in box office history with three billion dollar grossers. 2010 set a record with two billion dollar movies in one year.
Prior to that, it was Titanic breaking the ground in 1999, holding that singular slot until 2003′s LOTR3, then 2006′s POTC2, 2008′s Batman 6, and 2009′s Avatar. So 5 times in history… and then 5 times in 2 years.
And bad news for Mr. Ebert… all 6 of the billion dollar movies in the last 3 years were in 3D. None of them, so far, has grossed more than 10% over a billion, which suggests that they all relied on the 3D bump to make that mark.
Getting off the billion dollar mark, let’s look at $800 million. Only 3 movies in history had gotten there prior to 1999. Not coincidentally, these films were also the first 3 films in history to gross over $500 million worldwide. In 1999, The Phantom Menace came up just short of $500m foreign, but became, at that time, the #2 domestic grosser of all time, also becoming the #2 grosser of all time at that time.
Since then, only 5 of the 26 films that have grossed over $800 million worldwide have done it without a $500m international gross. None have earned less than Spider-Man’s $418m international.
In the last 3 years, only 1 of the 11 films to gross over $800 million worldwide has done it without a $500m international gross.
Six franchises represent 19 of the 30 $800m ww films: Rings, Spider-Man, Star Wars, Pirates, Potter, Transformers. Amazingly, these 6 franchises arrived via 6 different studios. (WB has since eaten NL.) Pixar has 2 more, 1 from before Disney’s purchase… bringing Disney’s total to 6. WB has 9. Fox has 6, the only repeater being Star Wars, though they share Titanic with Paramount, which has 2 more in the Transformers franchise. NL has 3 Rings. Sony has 2. And Universal and DreamWorks have 1 each.
Of the franchises, Pirates, Potter, Ice Age, Toy Story, Transformers, Rings, Spider-Man and most amazingly, Shrek, all had their biggest international gross on their most recent trip into the market. The sole exception is The Da Vinci Code, whose sequel fell by more than $250 million overall.
This year, the growth has been a little shocking. Pirates 4 is the biggest international Pirates film by $140 million. Transformers grew from $391m international to $434m with its sequel to $645m this summer… and counting. Potter is the biggest international hit of the series, but not by leaps and bounds (at least, so far).
And you can forget about $500 million… $600 million has become the international gold standard for film grosses since 2006. 13 of the 18 films grossing over $800m worldwide have grossed over $600 million.
In the last two years, with five billion dollar films so far, Toy Story 3‘s $648m is the low man on the international totem pole… still over 60% of the total worldwide growth, which is also the lowest percentage of international to domestic in this group.
What does this all mean to what is likely to be the biggest comic book summer in history, Summer 2012 (Avengers/Spider-Man/Batman)? Well, Marvel’s international high for in-house movies is $310 million. They will clearly be aiming at $500 million or higher… especially with Disney taking over the marketing reins.
Spider-Man hasn’t hit $600 million international yet… they’ll be aiming at it, even with a reboot. When Spidey 3 did $554m international, it was a top ten all-time number. To rank there next summer, they’d have to hit at least $650 international. That may not be possible. But the gold ring is hanging out there.
The Dark Knight almost tripled any other international Batman gross… but still under $500m. When the film broke out, it was a phenom in the US, but amongst the big franchise, just so-so internationally, well behind Potter, Pirates, But they have to be targeting $600 million international and $1b worldwide.
Ice Age 4 will be anxiously hoping they can push it to $700m international. Reboots of Men In Black, Alien, and Total Recall will both be looking at international as a potential cash cow. And of course, Battleship will be depending heavily, given its pricetag, on a $600 million draw internationally.