Who in the World is Buying Movie Tickets?

Who in the World is Buying Movie Tickets?

fast five
Fast Five
Vin Diesel and Elsa Pataky in Fast Five, filmed in Brazil | Universal

This month, The Atlantic captured my attention with a world-movie-biz infographic, which notes that 70 percent of Hollywood revenue comes from outside the United States.

So what is Hollywood doing to maximize that international audience? According to the infographic, they’re doing some obvious stuff and some rather surprising stuff.

The Obvious: 

  • Set the film in a country like Brazil, the ever-expanding market where the high-grossing Fast Five and Rio were filmed. (Love that one, since  I write about movies that influence travel at A Traveler’s Library.)
  • Cast foreign nationals as co-stars or voices in animated movies.
  • Release and preview movies in hot markets internationally, like Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol in Dubai and Tintin in Europe. Here, Tom Cruise and the Ghost Protocol cast discuss opening their film in Dubai.

The Rather Surprising: 

  • Don’t bite the hand that buys the ticket. The not-yet-released Red Dawn‘s Chinese villains were changed to North Korean so as not to insult the huge audience in China.
  • Make lots of 3-D films for Russia, Brazil and China, where 40 percent of box office sales were from 3-D films (vs. 20 percent in the U.S.)
  • Expand the peripheral market — as in TOYS.  Cars 2 introduced new foreign characters and cars.

But most surprising to me is why spread the effort so thin? Yeah, TOTAL foreign markets are 70 percent, but when you break it down to individual countries, the U.S. has 30.4 percent of the worldwide market, and the individual country that comes closest to that percent of ticket sales is Japan at 7.9 percent.  Pandering to say, Brazil or  Mexico in a movie is only reaching slightly more than 2 percent of the world market in each case.

So while I’m delighted to see more movies with foreign locations that will draw travelers, American  filmmakers can’t afford to forget their major audience — right here in their own backyard. And I must admit, I find it rather creepy that the ethnicity of the bad guys has to be changed for market purposes.

What are your thoughts on this? Yes, filmmakers need to consider the bottom line, but are they going too far with the toys, 3D films, and re-working characters like the above-mentioned North Korean villains?  Is it affecting the quality of the films? 

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