The new economics of Hollywood

by on August 2, 2013 at 9:29 am in Film | Permalink

Pacific Rim, Guillermo del Toro‘s robots v monsters action movie, is likely to get a sequel after its $9m (£5.9m) record-breaking opening in China, according to Deadline.

The film, which has performed poorly at the US box office, is currently at the top spot internationally. It is yet to be released in over half of global territories including Spain, Brazil and Japan.

The story is here, and here is a good geopolitical analysis of the film.  I actually preferred the often unheralded Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II, and no sequels are not always worse.  Just ask Cervantes.

Jack P. August 2, 2013 at 9:45 am

How does $9 million more or less justify a sequel to a $100 million movie?

Unless they mean to say pacific rim has been a success internationally

(Not That) Bill O'Reilly August 2, 2013 at 10:01 am

The $9M is just China, and the fact that was a record is probably read as showing a degree of growth potential (plus money from licensing, although I don’t know how lucrative that is in foreign markets). The worldwide take is listed as $229M in the linked Deadline article – hardly a box-office smash, but it’s already recouped its budget before opening in about half of its markets (including a few, such as Japan, where one might anticipate it to do exceedingly well).

These days, any movie that can be reasonably expected to outgross its budget during the theatrical run will get the green light over something more daring.

mulp August 2, 2013 at 11:39 pm

It only earned $3.6M on Thursday night and $14.6M Friday all day on its US opening.

The US run earned $85M to the end of July.

Releases globally are being compressed, the delay between US, Europe, and most of Asia (all on 11-12 July) and China was just over two weeks. I wonder if the delay was with Chinese censors.

The goal, I think, is to create the same kind of first night/weekend buzz/event globally to drive people into theaters.

Just keep in mind that global pictures are defined by

- the dialog is simple and not critical to the movie

- it has women in subservient roles or non-existent

- having neither literate dialog nor women, it has action to hold audience attention

del Toro’s style is “oriental” (as in alien), not Hollywood, so that is a plus.

Millian August 3, 2013 at 6:02 am

When were Hollywood women cast in non-subservient roles?

Ted Craig August 2, 2013 at 9:54 am

Hey, there was a Ghost Rider 2. That’s just modern movie economics, as you said.

Ted Craig August 2, 2013 at 9:56 am

And that new Percy Jackson movie comes out this weekend, even though the first was considered a failure.

Yogesh August 2, 2013 at 10:21 am

In your My favorite things Japan, cinema edition post you included: “one of the MechaGodzilla movies (surprisingly good but don’t ask me which one)”. Were you thinking of the Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II linked above?

Culver August 2, 2013 at 10:26 am

There are lies, damn lies, and ‘Hollywood-Financial-Accounting’.

You can’t believe any of the sales/profit numbers issued by Hollywood Studios — they are notorious for outrageous accounting tricks & deceptions, over many decades.

And note that the film-makers (studios) only get half the money collected at theater box offices — theater-owners/distributors typically get the other half… and the tax-man hits’em all. Net profits & return on investment are murky calculations.

C August 2, 2013 at 10:35 am

The problem I have with the Film School Rejects argument is that it doesn’t take into account similar appropriations and wild delinkings of signfiiers from their historical referents that happen *every* *single* *day* in Japanese popular culture. There is a hentai manga that was all over the otaku news sites a few months ago which involves recasting the worst tyrants of history (Hitler, Mussolini, Ceaușescu, Stalin, etc.) as moe erotic characters. You can buy a PVC figure of the Hitler character if you would like. And believe me, this is not an isolated occurence in Japan. It’s a bit hard to get on board with an argument that Pacific Rim is somehow taunting an anti-nuclear symbology from 1950s Japan, when the Japanese pretty regularly appropriate, recast and fetishize historical figures and symbols themselves for their own pop cultural purposes. I’m not really too sympathetic for any hurt feelings in this case.

Willitts August 2, 2013 at 11:20 am

The first kaiju was a metaphor about the reckless American nuclear program, hence all subsequent kaiju’s to infinity and beyond must also be. Didn’t you know that? Apparently you didn’t fail out of film school hard enough. :)

I’m still waiting for the kaiju that rapes Chinese women, tortures prisoners of war, and kills itself in a suicide attack. We can slay that with two atomic bombs. Or maybe that’s what Pacific Rim was about.

PD Shaw August 2, 2013 at 11:29 am

The whole Kaiju genre appears to have been appropriated from “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms,” an American movie about a giant dinosaur brought to the surface by a nuclear bomb test to rampage on an American city. That, plus inspiration from King Kong, which the Japanese later appropriated away from its Hollywood context for their own purposes.

JWatts August 2, 2013 at 4:42 pm

The problem I have with the Film School Rejects argument is…

I was wondering if the article wasn’t actually parody?

Millian August 3, 2013 at 6:04 am

That argument is a non-sequitur. It’s like saying that if a person calls you a racist term, it’s morally correct to call her a racist term in retort.

Eric S. August 2, 2013 at 10:41 am

It’s interesting to hear that $9 million is a record opening in China, considering how important we’ve been repeatedly told is the foreign box office. Successful openings in the United States are 15 times that amount.

SunPapushi August 2, 2013 at 11:04 am

It’s not record breaking for China. It’s the biggest opening for a Warner Bros. film in China.

TallDave August 2, 2013 at 10:52 am

We would have killed for these movies when I was a kid.

Also, the fact $9M is a record opening underscores the fact China is still a very poor country.

Mike August 2, 2013 at 11:16 am

Or that most people in China watch western movies by buying a pirate DVD on the street for a nickle.

TallDave August 2, 2013 at 11:42 pm

Six of one…

Andrew' August 3, 2013 at 6:36 am

Yes! I have kids. Keep these horrific excuses for cinema coming!

We need 52 a year. At 2 years to make one, that means more than a hundred in production at any one time.

8 August 2, 2013 at 11:35 am

Yes, they are doing the math on China. It is already the second largest market. Let’s say you bet that consumer incomes will double over the next decade (as planned) and you know that sequels tend to outperform the original overseas.

I pay about $4 for a 2D movie and $6 for a 3D movie (in Beijing through group buy), but that is up from about $3 and $5 last year. (The official price is about $13 for a 2D movie and $20 for 3D, 50% less outside of major cities.) By the time the sequel is out, the theater will probably be charging 20% more for tickets and the audience will be 10-20% larger at least. Transformers 3 and Iron Man 3 both earned over $100 million in China (though they hauled in nearly half of that in the first weekend.)

Going back to the sequel posts about movies such as Ice Age 4 making big money, the Chinese audience has really only shown up in the last 3 years or so, when group buy started. Before it cost way too much, and there was only 50% Tuesday. I wonder if that stat about sequels isn’t caused by the fact that for a large percentage of movie goers in emerging markets, Iron Man 3 or Ice Age 4 is the first movie they have seen of the series.

Roy August 2, 2013 at 11:39 am

While sequels are not always worse, some times they are better, Every time I have finished the second part of Don Quixote, I always kind of wish I hadn’t.

prior probability August 3, 2013 at 12:43 am

Does this mean we should expect more shitty movies?

Millian August 3, 2013 at 6:08 am

Depends on your preferences, right?

Andrew' August 3, 2013 at 6:36 am

God I hope so! I have kids!

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: