How ‘Kingsman’ Braved ‘Fifty Shades’ & Topped $400M Worldwide

20th Century Fox’s Kingsman: The Secret Service always had enough bullets at the box office to survive against S&M romance behemoth Fifty Shades Of GreyThe Matthew Vaughn-helmed action film, based on Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons’ comic book The Secret Service was, for the most part, smartly placed on the domestic and foreign schedule as prime-grade meat for those guys around the globe who wouldn’t waste a $1 on the feature adaptation of the E L James novel. But Kingsman wound up being more than just standard counterprogramming, striking a chord with the masses as a hip, subversive spy pic. So much, there’s talk of a sequel in the works.

Kingsman crossed the $400M mark Sunday after bowing on January 30 in the UK, with gradual foreign market rollouts, ultimately going in 39 markets during the same frame as its February 13 U.S. release date. At $401.1M worldwide, Kingsman has made close to 5X its reported $81M production budget.

Fifty Shades would rule the U.S. box office at $85.2M that opening weekend, with Kingman owning second place with $36.2M. But Fifty Shades, which was front-loaded by its femme fans during Valentine’s Day weekend, plummeted out of the top 5 by its fourth weekend and out of the top 10 two frames later. Kingsman stuck around in the top 5 for six weekends and remained in the top 10 for eight. mr porter kingsmanAlthough the pic earned a B+ CinemaScore, Kingsman outperformed the 3.2X average that comes with the rating; its current stateside cume of $126.6M being 3.5x its bow. While Fifty Shades obviously attracted the bulk of estrogen crowds with 78%, Kingsman played beyond guys, with 43% of the crowd composed of women. That figure moved up to 45% by weekend two.

20th Century drummed up the marketing for the Colin Firth action film — his highest U.S. opening of all-time — 10 months in advance with clips at Anaheim’s WonderCon, followed by a global first-look rollout across various media outlets when X-Men: Days Of Future Past bowed on May 23, a partnership with men’s retail clothing outlet Mr. Porter (left), advance fan buzz screenings with Kingsman talent in attendance, tastemaker screenings with The Hateful Eight cast and major league sports teams and a Comic-Con stop among many other elements that moved the needle.

“We chose our release date very carefully and deliberately,” said 20th Century Fox domestic distrb chief Chris Aronson. “We felt there was an opportunity. After opening quite well, word-of-mouth really spread.”

kingsman french movie posterOverseas, where Kingsman has rung up $274.5M, its top markets have been China ($75M since March 27 bow), South Korea ($47M), Firth and Vaughn’s UK homeland ($24M), Oz ($14M), Russia ($12.6M) and France ($11.2M). The title Kingsman remained in English on one sheets and billboards in most foreign markets in an effort to establish the pic’s brand. Some translated the word Secret Service into their respective local language.

Explaining how the Hollywood marketing was essentially stretched around the world (one of the standard teaser posters being that of a men’s closet with guns), Fox worldwide marketing/distribution co-president Tomas Jegus said it was to maintain “an English gentleman” image for the film coupled with its “subversive, audacious take on the spy genre.” It wasn’t uncommon to walk through shopping malls in Malaysia or South Korea (right) and see the U.S. teaser poster in its respective local language.

A number of the Asian release dates were timed to the Chinese New Year, with China going much later as Fox International didn’t know if the film was going to make the nation’s quota.

Elaborating on how Kingsman translated to China, Fox worldwide marketing/distribution co-president Paul Hanneman said, “At CinemaCon, we spoke with the film’s distributor, China Film, and they mentioned that Chinese audiences were drawn to the British, sophisticated sense of humor in the film.” Imax large format also provided some gun powder to Kingman in the Middle Kingdom with as much as $8M.

korean air chairwomanWhile a popular clip uploaded on the web around the world was the scene shown at Wondercon 2014 where Firth beats up a pub of guys, South Korea produced a number of original online vignettes related to the film. It capitalized on a class struggle that was occurring in the country, in which poor citizens were being abused by politicians and corporations. Fox’s viral videos parodied real-life incidents — one of which was the Korean Air vice chairwoman abusively dressing down a flight attendant.

Kingsman also resonated in the anglicized Euro territories where British TV comedy and James Bond pics perform well — read English-speaking Scandinavia, Belgium ($2M) and Netherlands ($2.7M).

Reflecting on the success of Kingsman, Hanneman says: “It was a strong campaign where the whole company came together. Different aspects of the film appealed to different cultures and we tried to make the campaign as global as possible.”

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