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David Poland

By David Poland

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.

Interesting times.

10 Responses to “Gross Hyperinflation: International Edition”

  1. bulldog68 says:

    Just reading some of the commentary on HP’s billion dollar mark, and I sometimes wonder whether some of these writers have any idea about box office.

    This from the Herald Sun: “The film’s success stands in stark contrast with its predecessor, Deathly Hallows Part 1, which took in just $659 million internationally last year.”

    Since when is $659M a stark contrast to $690M like if $659M is some kind of failure at the box office, and also, since when can $659M be described as “just”, when only four films prior to 2011 had grossed more.

  2. yancyskancy says:

    bulldog: That is indeed nuts. Especially since Deathly Hallows Part 1 had no 3D bump.

  3. Steven Kay says:

    Another film is destined to join the elite Billion Dollar Club. That’s right: MIDNIGHT IN PARIS. Yes, it has $900M worldwide to go, but it sold out every showing at Laemmle’s Fallbrook 7 today. (Admittedly, I bought every seat for every screening in the auditorium, so I could bask in the rapturous glow of Woody’s dialogue and masturbate into my medium-sized popcorn bag undisturbed, but still — a sell-out is a sell-out). I am planning on embarking upon a global tour of every theatre in the world showing Midnight In Paris and am prepared to exhaust all my resources making sure it beats Trannies 4 at the international boxoffice. And believe me, my resources are considerable. I mean, just look at all the time I spend commenting on blogs about the Woodman! If you could put a dollar figure on those man-hours, it could easily solve the Federal Deficit in one fell swoop. Now, if you excuse me, I have a flight to Uzbekistan to catch.

  4. Steven Kar says:

    The billion dollar club will get a few more members between now and 2015: Hobbit 1 and 2, Avatar 2 and 3, possibly Dark Knight Rises, the Avengers 3D, and Ice Age 4 3D. The billion dollar club will no longer be so special.

  5. The Pope says:

    Since we’re making predictions about the billion dollar club… methinks Spielberg might have a crack at it.


  6. Mikkel says:

    How much does the variation in exchange rates factor in with this? Just looking at Harry Potter, a 10 euro ticket in November 2001 would be worth 8.8 dollars (using as a reference) while a similar 10 euro movie ticket in July 2011 would be worth 14.3 dollars.

    That is a 60% increase in gross (in USD) right there, without even assuming any inflation in (local) ticket prices (I’d assume you’ll notice the same exchange rate-trend in a number of other key markets, e.g. Japan).

    Compared to many here, I’m not terribly familiar with worldwide movie economics, but surely this must have a certain influence on the numbers, no?

  7. SamLowry says:

    Inflation, inflation, inflation, people: a film would have to make $1.4 billion today to beat Titanic’s $1 billion.

    Today’s big numbers simply aren’t impressive anymore.

  8. The Pope says:

    I agree with Sam Lowry. The entertainment dollar is being divided up so many ways; movies, music, TV, games and internet, and each one hikes the price to augment its profits because the units sold are not what they once were (with the exception of games because they’re still on the rise).

    So in terms of records, I still think the best way to judge it is for the number of tickets sold. Like they’ve done for years in the music industry (regardless of how they cook the numbers).

    I remember Spielberg was on TV about two decades ago and he said if Jaws were to be budgeted in the late 80s/early 90s it would have been $40m+. It cost $7m, and grossed $260m, but the 1980s/90s box office take would not be 6 times that.

  9. SamLowry says:

    And, IIRC, didn’t Spielberg say years ago that tickets should be the indicator of popularity, not money?

    Butts in seats is a better indicator, anyway, not extra charges like 3D and night-time shows vs matinees.

  10. JS Partisan says:

    Kar, I have more faith in the Tin Tin movies banking a billion then either Hobbit film or either Avatar film. Seriously.

    The fact that you think it’s just POSSIBLE TDK-R reaches a billion, is pretty funny. Nolan got to 800 million with Inception. You really think a BATMAN movie isn’t going to push him over the edge with that last 2 bills? Come on. Just come on!

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