The US box office takings for the Edge of Tomorrow (2014) were surprising. A high budget film with two bankable stars (Blunt and Cruise), and raving reviews from critics had all the earmarks for a summer success. However, America has spoken.
Domestic (US) box office takings were a paltry $35,409,969 on its opening weekend. A serious shock to Warner Bros, and a serious financial issue. Especially when it is ranked behind films such as Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (2014) (indeed!).
When a film bombs at the box office there is no way to recoup the losses, DVD sales and downloads never amount to much, and a film loses 30-60% of its value every week after the opening. Having spent $267million on Production, marketing, and other various media-based undertakings, Warner Bros are obviously concerned.
Except Edge of Tomorrow is recouping its losses. The international box office is making it a success, latest figures have it at $111,000,000 (before it opened in China this weekend to $25million). Whereas in the US the film has been a flop, on the international market it has been a secret success much like Warner Bros other summer flop, last year’s Pacific Rim.
What could explain this? Both are action films with Michael Bay-esque explosions and set pieces, they have anti-heroes, and they follow some of the cannon tropes of cinema such as their Hollywoodian endings. But these films are not American, aside from the protagonists.
Pacific Rim (grossing $309,200,000 at the international box-office versus $101,802,906 on the US box-office), Del Toro’s homage to mech manga’s of his youth, is a style with which Asian markets are familiar with. Gundam, Macross, Escaflowne and other inspirations to the film helped boost its market profitability abroad due to the already existing fandoms of its content. Edge of Tomorrow is based on a Japanese novel (Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s All You Need Is Kill) in which Mech armour is heavily used. The Chinese market alone has brought $100million to Pacific Rim and the previously noted $25million on opening to Edge of Tomorrow.
How did this happen? The WTO. Back in 2011 the US managed to get a small but very economically important piece of legislation to be agreed upon. China has a 20 film per annum quota on foreign films, although this was not lifted, it was softened to exclude14 premium format films ( IMAX or 3D as well as their 2D releases of these films). The initial estimation was that this would increase box office yields by 4% in China (from 13-17%).
That gives the Chinese market 34 films on which it can tip the balance. 34 opportunities to turn a hit into a miss and a push a flop to the top. Hollywood is going to pay attention to it’s bottom line, and if the Chinese box-office demonstrates its ability to spend on American films, Hollywood will have the incentive to create films which are less ‘Hollywood’ and more international. A plurality in genres and styles can only be a good thing.
Too long has the film industry rested on its laurels churning out the same film rehashed, rebooted and regurgitated. Hollywood may not be intentionally gearing itself to these markets (note both films are Warner Bros and that these are a year apart) but it is finally sitting up and taking notice that crowd pleasing the US market is not the alpha and omega of sales. Perhaps Hollywood is slowly starting to hear the plurality of voices in its audiences. A golden age of Godzilla and robot films with Hollywood budgets… Yes please!
I, for one, welcome our new mechanical overlords.