FINAL UPDATE: Spectre led the international frame for a third weekend in a row, boosted by a fantastic start in China. That $48.1M gross set records for a 2D film and far outpaced Skyfall‘s Middle Kingdom debut. Because the Chinese government controls so many variables including release dates and keeps 75% of ticket sales, there is a perception that studios are helpless and can only hope for the best. That’s not really true. In fact, Spectre‘s record-breaking performance is directly attributable to an aggressive campaign by Sony to market the film in the territory. It is not an accident how strongly Spectre finished its opening weekend, even though the series has traditionally underperformed in the world’s No. 2 market, where Skyfall finished with a China gross of $59M.
The efforts included screen time for Daniel Craig with Alibaba founder Jack Ma that reached over 500M viewers; digital partnerships; and a key upcoming installment of a hugely popular talk show that will be devoted to Spectre – and conveniently air the same day as The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 enters the market to try to sling an arrow Bond’s way.
China is a crowded market where massive grosses are not always automatic; and less so recently as I wrote last week. And with that smaller cut going to the studios, it’s worth it to make sure you’re front and center — especially as local movies have been gaining more traction.
Sony is not entirely rewriting the playbook here, but it is a strong example of how to boost potential to great effect. More and more studios are bringing talent to China, while DMG Entertainment has had success with its promotional efforts from staging a massive Iron Man 3 event inside a sacred temple in 2013, to bringing Johnny Depp to town for a Transcendence primetime special and having him play guitar for about 1,000 invited guests. Although that movie tanked everywhere else, it made more than 50% of its international box office in China with $20M+. Disney, in a move to boost Star Wars awareness ahead of The Force Awakens, recently placed 500 Stormtroopers on the Great Wall — those photos might have been visible from space.
P&A is still smaller scale-wise than a lot of markets, and flying talent to Beijing for promotional tours is an efficient way to get a massive boost. Last week, Craig and co-star Léa Seydoux along with producer Barbara Broccoli were in town. Seydoux and Broccoli made a strategic visit to the Apple Store with a Q&A streamed to more than 23M people. And, there were visits to shows with some of the biggest ratings in China, including The Best talk show, which led into an airing of Quantum Of Solace.
Despite Skyfall’s underperformance in China, it ended up having a life after theatrical. Sony and MGM made sure that the Craig Bonds were available online. A deal was recently struck with Tencent, China’s biggest social-networks and online-games company, to distribute the 007 films there including Spectre.
Once Chinese audiences see the films, it’s a lot easier to entice them. Promotion on Spectre started early. That’s not always a slam-dunk given the vagaries of the Chinese market where the powers that be typically don’t inform studios of their release dates until about 30 days out. But Sony took the bet and pushed out materials over a wide period including video blogs from the production. Doing that push early may be a leap of faith, but going for it paid off.
Chinese moviegoers are voracious in their appetite for news which they largely consume online. That makes digital, mobile, online ticketing and word of mouth hugely important. Online is so important, in fact, that the majority of the studios do not buy TV advertising which can be inefficient and overly expensive.
Sony also smartly partnered with local singing star Jane Zhang who is doing a Chinese version of this year’s Bond theme, “Writings On The Wall.” She’s got millions of social media followers. Chinese audiences want to be part of the pop culture outside PROC gates and that means seeking out talent with big followings who are also invited to premieres.
In the case of the Jack Ma showcase for Singles’ Day, he got 007 on his show, and Spectre got a big platform. A major contributor to Spectre’s opening box office was this pre-release week publicity. It made it an event whereas Bond movies are generally events elsewhere but traditionally not so much in the Middle Kingdom.
The tremendous boost that Bond got this week doesn’t mean it works for every movie. But on big titles that have potential to resonate, it’s increasingly important that the studios embrace China. And yet, this is a market that moves fast — witness this summer’s all-time box office record set by Furious 7 which was supplanted a few months later by a local film. What’s working one day might not the next. Bond is nevertheless expected to have sturdy legs here despite the circling Mockingjay.
All figures for films below have been updated to reflect actuals (compiled by Deadline’s Kinsey Lowe).
PREVIOUS UPDATE, SUNDAY, 2:55 PM PT: International esimates are in for what’s been a slow frame for pretty much everyone but James Bond — and Salman Khan. Disney didn’t even report figures given its current films have wound up their international runs ahead of The Good Dinosaur later this month — and some movie that features droids and light sabers next month. 007 led the weekend overseas for the 3rd time in a row, despite seeing one of its debut markets, France, suffer a massive terrorist attack which bit into box office for all movies. Bond’s $153.3M was propelled by openings in 14 new markets which notably included China. There, a savvy marketing campaign got the locals so mobilized that Spectre‘s first frame is only $11M below the entire run of Skyfall. This was also the debut session for Bollywood megastar Salman Khan’s Prem Ratan Dhan Payo from Fox International Productions, and boy did it pay off. Oh, and the answer to “What is a weekend?” has been answered by Maggie Smith’s latest. Studio titles are broken down below with more to come; hit refresh for latest.
PREM RATAN DHAN PAYO
From Fox International Productions and Fox Star Studios, PRDP reteams Bollywood titan Salman Khan with director Sooraj R. Barjatya. The romance drama grossed an incredible $30.1M from 4,753 screens in seven markets after opening at the beginning of the Diwali holiday frame. In India, it smashed the record for the biggest Bollywood opening of all time, taking $26.5M over the four-day weekend. That puts the movie in the coveted 100 crore ($15M) club which it joined after just three days. The UK was also a record with the biggest opening weekend of all time for a Bollywood title earning $1.4M. which was good for the No. 4 spot. In the U.S., the FSS is $2.4M in 286 cinemas. The cume since Thursday is $2.79M. This is the 4th biggest Bollywood opening of all-time in North America and the largest ever for distributor FIP. There’s more on this Bollywood phenom in my separate story, here.
THE LADY IN THE VAN
My English mother-in-law asked me the other day if I’d seen this film. “We can’t wait,” she said, and then promptly queried me about all I know of Maggie Smith given my close dealings with Downton Abbey. I couldn’t provide too much intel, but this movie is clearly striking a chord. The UK start this weekend was a big $3.5M from 540 screens. That was good for No. 2 behind Spectre. The opening is 52% bigger than Philomena and just above Smith-starrers Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Quartet. SPC has it in the States.
Spectre grossed a phenomenal $153.3M in its 3rd overseas outing. That’s 30% up on last week and largely down to the addition of China, Korea and Australia. In total, Spectre added 14 markets. One of those was France of which Sony is being respectful and not reporting grosses given the atrocities that happened in Paris this weekend. The terror attacks resulted in cinemas being shuttered on Saturday. Prior to that, a local box office reporting service said that Spectre broke the all-time record for an opening day in France on Wednesday with more than 850K tickets sold. We will look more closely at France’s grosses at a more appropriate time.
In the meanwhile, let’s look at how 007 gained that extra $153.3M+. On 31,302 screens in 91 total markets, Spectre is currently No. 1 in SPRI’s 63 territories. The international cume is $413.8M, after only 3 weeks.
Holdovers have been strong here while new markets this frame added $83.7M, 75% ahead of Skyfall at current exchange rates. China, as I reported here, brought the biggest opening weekend of all time with $48.1M from 14,700. That was 198% ahead of Skyfall and was aided by a boots-on-the-ground marketing campaign. An extra smart move after Skyfall had a run-in with the censors back in 2012.
Other major openers included Australia with $8.6M (including previews) from 610 screens, which is on par with Skyfall. Korea opened to $8.145M (including previews) for the weekend from 1,100 screens, 2% ahead of Skyfall; New Zealand bowed with $1.22M (including previews) from 136 screens, on par with Bond 23.
In holds, the UK, where the film is now the 3rd highest grosser of all time, dropped just 36% with $11.9M from 2,100 screens. The cume there is $120.2M. Germany slipped 26% from opening to pull in a crazy $14M for its 2nd weekend. The local cume to date has reached $39.4M.
Here are the other major SPRI cumes: Italy ($10.1M); Russia ($10.7M); the Netherlands ($11.9M); Mexico ($8.3M, surpassing the lifetime total of Skyfall by 7%); Brazil ($5.3M); and Spain ($5.55M).
As for the markets where MGM has the film, Denmark has made Spectre the highest-grossing film of the year at a $10.5M cume. That’s 23% ahead of Skyfall in local currency. Sweden has a similar boast with 007 now the top-grosser at a total $9.43M. Same for Norway at $7.27M; and Finland ($6.3M). Poland’s cume is now $6.5M (43% ahead of Skyfall in local currency); the UAE has a total $4M (20% ahead of Skyfall locally; and Portugal is up 12% of Skyfall with $1.7M.
Spectre also smashed records in China for IMAX. With $4.6M on 246 screens, this is a three-day opening record for a November release and nearly four times as much as Skyfall’s debut weekend of $1.23M in 2012. IMAX screens occupied five of the top 10 engagements, including the No. 1 spot. The overseas total for the weekend is $9M on 483 IMAX screens. The total worldwide is now just under $40M.
HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2
After crossing $400M globally last week, HT2 continues to perform. Halloween is long gone, but this picture, which along with Spectre will be one of Sony’s biggest hits this year, added $9.79M this weekend from 10,500 screens in 77 total markets. The international cume has now reached $255.87M. Major market cumes include the UK at $28.4M; Mexico with $23.7M amd Venezuela at $19.8M. Also China with $17.6M and Russia with $17.1M and Germany with $11.6M. Oz and Korea are still to come.
Ridley Scott’s latest continues to cultivate box office wherever it lands. A $5.8 weekend from 3,462 screens in 63 markets blasts the offshore total to $271M. This film, from Fox, is on track to best all of Scott’s overseas performances. Despite the tragic events in Paris and a day when movie theaters were shut, the territory drew $1.4M for an $18.25M cume. Other key cumes after several weeks of play are the UK at $35.3M, Korea at $33.6M and Germany at $16M. China releases November 25 and Japan goes later in February.
Taking its cume to $86.2M, Warner Bros’ Pan grossed an estimated $3.5M over the weekend from over 3,257 screens in 54 markets. Italy, where it beat two local openers, was a strong opening with $1.4M from 376 screens, ranking No. 2 behind Spectre’s 2nd weekend. The result, says WB, is on par with Night At The Museum 2.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE GHOST DIMENSION
From Paramount and Blumhouse, the 6th PA installment now has a fantastic $56M cume overseas. The weekend was worth $3.2M in 47 markets. The last opening came in Trinidad this frame. Key cumes include Germany ($5.7M); Brazil ($5.1M) and Venezuela ($2.8M).
SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE
The spooky spoof bowed in 15 more markets this session, grossing $3.2M in a total 32 international territories. The international cume is now $6.1M. Brazil bowed to $440K from 234 locations; Germany grossed $373K at 182 cinemas, 14% above comp Fright Night; Mexico delivered $360K from 196 locations, 52% above undead comp Warm Bodies; Venezuela also beat Warm Bodies by 985% with $365K from 45 locations; and Peru excelled with $233K from 85 sites, ranking No. 2 and coming in 158% above comedy horror pic Fright Night.
The movie about the Apple founder froze domestically, but found itself in the UK this weekend with $1.3M at 403 dates. Combined with 13 more markets, it grossed a total $2.8M internationally. Germany, where Spectre leads followed by some holdovers, the Michael Fassbender-starrer landed 7th with $598K at 304 dates. Following the terrorist attacks on Paris this past Friday, Universal cancelled a screening of Steve Jobs and Q&A with Danny Boyle that was set for Monday in the French capital. International dates roll out over the next few months. Next weekend, Steve Jobs opens in Egypt and Slovenia.
THE LAST WITCH HUNTER
The Vin Diesel adventure added $7.1M from 79 markets in its fourth session, swelling its international cume to $72.8M. Russia has been the strongest market, where the movie has grossed $9M. Brazil has been the second-best cauldron for Witch Hunter, with $6.7M. With the weekend’s domestic box office of $1.48M bringing the North American cume to $23.06M, that makes $98.86M worldwide. The Last Witch Hunter will cross $100M worldwide this week.
MAZE RUNNER: THE SCORCH TRIALS
Running to $2.8M from 2,920 screens in 23 markets, this Fox release hit China for the second frame. The YA sequel is now at $28.8M in the Middle Kingdom, again reflecting growth in the market at 22% bigger than the lifetime cume of Maze Runner there. The international box office cume for The Scorch Trials is $229M and is outpacing the lifetime cume of the original by over 10% at current exchange rates.
THE PEANUTS MOVIE
After bowing last week, Fox’s The Peanuts Movie has added $2.35M from 2,770 screens in 14 markets. With only 7% of the pawprint for Snoopy and the gang, the early cume stands at $7.9M. This is the big counterprogramming challenger to Star Wars internationally and release is set over the Christmas holidays.
Sony added an estimated $2.4M this weekend from 1,787 screens in 46 markets. That brings the international cume to $29.7. ahead of releases in Russia next month and several key markets through January and February.
As it climbs towards $200M worldwide, Everest from Universal, Working Title, Cross Creek and Walden Media grossed an estimated $1.9M in 41 territories. The offshore gross is now $155.3M for a worldwide total of $198.4M. The China total is now $15.4M and Japan is holding strong in its second weekend at No. 2. The frame is estimate at $1.1M for a 9-day total of $4M.
A stylish run continues for this Australian Kate Winslet-starrer with a weekend estimate of $1.6M. From Universal Down Under, the total is $9M. The Dressmaker dropped to No. 2 with Spectre entering Oz, but is well ahead of all other films in the market. Australia’s weekend estimate is $1.4M for a 17-day total of $8.2M. New Zealand held at No. 3 behind the openings of Spectre and Salman Khan’s Prem Ratan Dhan Payo. The weekend estimate is $148k for a 17-day total of $757k.
BRIDGE OF SPIES
Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, which Fox is releasing internationally sheltered $1.26M from 988 screens in 24 markets. The international cume is $19.26M with the bulk of the international marketplace set to release through early December.
Legendary’s Guillermo del Toro horror drama added $1M in 49 territories to bring the offshore total to $41.5M. With no new openings this frame, Mexico was the top holdover at No. 3 behind Spectre and The Little Prince’s opening. The total there is $5.1M. The final two releases are: Korea Nov. 26 and Japan Jan. 23, 2016.
Burnt‘s weekend tally of $1.9M brought its international cume to $13.2M. Mixing in its third session tally of $1.1M in North America, its stateside take comes to $12.7M and worldwide total is $25.9M.
MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.
In its final territory, WB’s spy caper opened to $918K in Japan on the Saturday/Sunday. The international cume is now $60M. The results are on par with Kingsman: The Secret Service and ahead of Now You See Me and Sherlock Holmes.
BY THE SEA
Angelina Jolie’s latest directorial effort floated into Italy, Hungary and Sweden in limited release and grossed an estimated $294K at 272. More releases come for the intimate art-house look at a marriage in Czech Republic, Denmark, Philippines, Poland, Romania and Turkey next weekend.
Ex-Files 2: The Backup Strikes Back added 5.5M from four markets this frame. Directed by Tian Yusheng, the film centers on an attractive director’s assistant who schemes to exact vengeance on an actor who manipulates her affections to accelerate his career. International cume is a handsome $34M.
The Priests collected $9.3M in its second frame in the home market bringing its cume to $25M. CJ Entertainment is handling writer/director Jang Jae-Hyun’s movie about a girl believed to be possessed and the priest who gets more than he bargained for in his attempt to exorcise the demon.