By Daniel Loria
2013 has proven to be a great year for family fare at the
global box office. Early hits like Oz: The Great and Powerful ($258.3M
Overseas / $493.2M Global) and The Croods ($400M Overseas / $586.5M
Global) set the stage for a busy summer that has seen four animated wide
releases take over the overseas marketplace, posting big openings and strong
holds throughout their respective runs.
Despicable Me 2 is the biggest success story of the year in this arena. The Universal release has been one of the biggest hits of the summer with a $369.1 million overseas gross and a $683.1 million global total. The sequel is the third highest grossing film of the year worldwide, behind Iron Man 3 and Fast & Furious 6. Despicable Me 2 will have to close out its theatrical run without a release in China, a market that allowed The Croods to thrive despite an inconsistent track record for Hollywood animation in the country. The original Despicable Me finished its overseas run with $291.5 million and a $543 million global total.
Monsters University has also posted big numbers around the world. A $321.6 million overseas tally and $577 million worldwide total ranks the Pixar prequel among the year's most successful releases. Monsters U has surpassed the success of Monsters Inc., which walked away from theaters with $269.1 million overseas and $559.2 million worldwide.
Turbo and Epic haven't reached a similar blockbuster status but have performed steadily overseas. Epic has earned $140.6 million outside of North America and $246.9 million globally, without the help of an established property behind it. Turbo is having a much slower time at the box office, a factor that can be attributed to an overseas release scheduled to scale out through the rest of the summer. Turbo has grossed $41.5 million overseas and $103.1 million worldwide with 41 territories still left to release.
Sony desperately needs good news this summer and will hope that this weekend's day-and-date roll out of The Smurfs 2 will help mitigate the box office damage instigated by costly misfires like After Earth and White House Down. The company was able to soften the blow of After Earth's disastrous $60 million in North America with a respectable $181 million overseas, a figure close to Tom Cruise's Oblivion ($197 million). White House Down hasn't been able to find a comparable audience, languishing with $45.5 million from a limited overseas exposure and $116.5 million global total. The Smurfs 2 will have team up with the upcoming Elysium to turn around Sony's summer. The original Smurfs film was a global hit through a $420.4 million overseas run and $563 million worldwide total.
As with any animated release, Latin America should indicate just how much global audiences are looking forward to the Smurfs sequel. Brazil was a key market for the original film, earning a $32.9 million cume after opening to $6.9 million. Mexico contributed $20.6 million to the original after a $5.7 million opening weekend. Those are high numbers to match but it shouldn't be an impossible feat in a global market where Despicable Me 2 and Monsters University have already had ample time to shine. The easy counter-argument to make is Turbo, which has been swept by the one-two punch of Monsters and Minions. The Smurfs 2 can't be considered in the same light, however, if we take into account the global recognition of the franchise across generations. The Smurfs doesn't need to create the audience that Turbo needed to succeed; The Smurfs created that audience decades ago and confirmed the brand's viability with the original feature film release.
A $500 million overseas tally is a possibility for The Smurfs 2, particularly if the franchise can succeed in China again. A crowded animated slate, however, could damper those expectations. No animated film has hit the half-billion overseas mark this year, and the strong runs of The Croods, Despicable Me 2, and Monsters University raise doubts that global audiences are clamoring for another family-oriented picture. A more realistic expectation for The Smurfs 2 involves a strong overseas debut this weekend and a steady hold through the remainder of the summer, even if it can't reach the same heights as the original. The Smurfs 2 will need to rely on strong word of mouth if it wants to surpass, or even match, the $420 million overseas gross of its predecessor.
By Shawn Robbins
20th Century Fox announced today that James Cameron is expanding his plans for two Avatar sequels into three. The current plan is to release Avatar 2 in December 2016, Avatar 3 in December 2017, and Avatar 4 in December 2018.
The announcement of an additional sequel now being in the pipeline is champagne-worthy news for Fox. The original Avatar grossed nearly $761 million domestically and an astounding $2.78 billion around the globe over three years ago. With the continued market expansion since from countries like China and Russia, among others, the overseas potential for the first sequel is massive. So long as Cameron keeps to his reputation of delivering crowd-pleasers, that story probably won't change for additional franchise installments in the years after 2016.
Originally planned for 2014/2015, the delay of Avatar 2 comes as no surprise as pre-production has slowly (but surely) ramped up. Cameron has been working on the sequel scripts for some time now, and he's certainly the kind of filmmaker who takes the "it'll release when it's ready" approach. That's one reason he's such a reliable filmmaker at the box office.
If there are any negative sides to the news, they are mere cautionary tales. Taking one film at a time is the wisest approach for any series. Even then, following in the footsteps of an uber-blockbuster is no cakewalk--look at the Jurassic Park sequels for proof of just one franchise that peaked early on. Will audiences be willing to turn out in droves for as many as three more sequels?
Moreover, with 3D firmly established in the world of movies now, will the format prove to be as big of an attraction seven years after the first film blazed its trail? Domestically, that's very up in the air as audiences have begun favoring 2D presentations over the last few years.
That being said, if there's a shortlist of filmmakers who can overcome such challenges, Cameron is certainly on it and it's nearly impossible to bet against him. If history is any indication, he probably has one or two more technological innovations in store for his Avatar sequels (he's already confirmed the use of underwater motion capture scenes). Only time will tell. Either way, Fox has its global cash cow firmly planted for the next half-decade.
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A $7.2 million opening weekend for The Wolverine led the box office chart in the United Kingdom. The superhero film opened in 522 screens and dominated the market with a $13,822 per-screen average. Monsters University placed second in its third frame with $4.7 million, taking its U.K. total past the $20 million milestone. Despicable Me 2 passed an even bigger milestone, reaching a $52.5 million total in its fifth week in release. The U.K. is the biggest overseas market for the animated Universal release. Depiscable Me 2 has grossed $662 million worldwide and is the third biggest film of 2013 at the global box office, behind Iron Man 3 and Fast & Furious 6.
The World’s End posted a strong hold in its second weekend, grossing $2.2 million and reaching an $8.3 million total in its home market. Now You See Me raised its cume after a $1.3 million weekend, reaching a $13.7 million cume. Pacific Rim was the last strong hold of the weekend, falling 45% in its third frame for a $1.1 million take. The Guillermo del Toro popcorn flick has earned $10.7 million in the United Kingdom. Noah Baumbach’s micro-budget Frances Ha impressed in limited release, breaking into the top ten with a $3,863 per-screen average across 60 locations.
Top Ten Films in the United Kingdom. July 27-29, 2013