Reason Crappy Sequels to Crappy Movies Get Made - International Logic
Duds become studs o'seas
Int'l revs spur sequels to domestic disappointments
By IAN MOHR
NEW YORK -- The fortunes of DreamWorks and Warner Bros.' soggy sci-fiactioner "The Island" provide the latest proof that a pic doesn't necessarily need a high profile in the U.S. to score overseas. In some cases, foreign revenues are spurring studios to make sequels to films that were perceived as underperforming in their own backyard. Thanks to the trend, producers and reps shopping rights on pics say overseas buyers no longer covet a film's guaranteed Stateside release the way they once did. Prior to "Island" -- which has so far taken in nearly $30 million more abroad than it has domestically, where its take is just $34.1 million -- a number of pics that were pegged as domestic duds have done better abroad. In particular, overseas auds embraced a raft of bloated historical epics that flooded the world market in the wake of "Gladiator's" success in 2000. Both "King Arthur" and "Alexander" made almost $100 million more overseas than they did Stateside. This summer's "Kingdom of Heaven" made $163 million
abroad after topping out at $47.3 million in the States. But the trend extends beyond pics with largely Brit casts that seem intrinsically Eurocentric, such as "King Arthur." Fox's 2004 summer kidpic "Garfield: The Movie" was savaged by most critics, and a swift slide to the videostore shelves was predicted. The CGI/live-action pic managed $75 million-plus in its domestic run but shockingly clawed up $123.2 million overseas. It played particularly strongly in the U.K. ($17.2 million), Spain ($10.1 million), Germany ($8.8 million) and France ($8.2 million). Pic's perf accented a trend that come August, Euro auds are looking for family fare and nursing action hangovers. (DreamWorks' CGI "Madagascar" has made almost $50 million more overseas than domestically, mostly in late-summer playdates.) As a result, Fox is making a "Garfield" sequel, with Bill Murray in talks to return as the voice of the fat cat. Science fiction/fantasy is another genre that seemingly scores better abroad than at home. Keanu Reeves starrer "Constantine" didn't click with U.S. auds but was embraced by the Asian market. Warners pic took in $75.5 million domestically but bagged more than $154 million abroad, with strong showings in Japan and South Korea. As for "The Island," which DreamWorks distributed domestically and Warners handled overseas, pundits have pinned its Stateside troubles in large part on the marketing campaign. Sci-fi can prove a tough sell if an out-of-this-world plot doesn't come across clearly.
But in Korea, where cloning is a hot topic, pic has cleverly piggybacked on current events. As a result, "Island" has so far grossed just a hair under "War of the Worlds" in that territory and looks to overtake the Tom Cruise pic next weekend. Predictions were that "Island" would sink in territories that have closer ties to the U.S. buzz machine, but Mexico and the U.K. performed solidly last weekend, making "Island" the unlikely No. 1 pic overseas. Warners, despite getting that sinking feeling after the pic's poor opening, has found the film floating overseas, a trend execs will watch as they divvy up rights to pics in a tough marketplace.
It's the pics that are perhaps too American, such as military-themed actioners "Stealth" and "XXX: State of the Union," that can run into real problems when they don't work here and have little hope of falling back on overseas coin.