Short-sighted American than I can be sometimes, I rarely pay attention to overseas ticket sales. I was raised with the shallow understanding that American dollars are the only dollars worth tracking and comparing. In my youth I assumed other countries either hated all our movies or patiently waited for them to be released on home video. More and more, though, chatter about film performance elsewhere keeps leaking into media reports, possibly because it gives them another fallback topic on slow news days, or perhaps because such info can provide a more comprehensive answer as to whether or not all those big-budget spectaculars truly earn back their production budget plus tips.
While the aforementioned BOM data compliation covers the domestic and grand-total worldwide grosses of the top films of 2012 (which have also been shared in the February 8th issue of Entertainment Weekly), I decided to examine another aspect of those figures. The following list ranks the twenty highest-grossing films of 2012 in all countries except the U.S.:
With our formerly mighty American dollars excised from the stats, the preferences of the moviegoing public show interesting trends:
* Animated animals transcend. Here, the fourth Ice Age was the worst performer of the series (and the first one my son and I skipped). Elsewhere, Scrat and his increasingly tired friends still command a loyal following. Likewise, Madagascar 3 became the biggest breadwinner of that trilogy, but made an even wider impact in other markets. On the other hand, The Lorax, which charted at 11th in America, left other countries cold and came nowhere near placing, either because Dr. Seuss’s Anglocentric wordplay doesn’t translate well or because they couldn’t figure out what kind of animal the Lorax was supposed to be. Such needless ambiguity surely alienates them.
* There is a demand for nonwhite lead actors, famous or not. The improved positions for MIB3, Life of Pi, and arguably Journey 2 predictably reassure us that other countries were understandably more cosmopolitan in their viewing preferences. America is kind of sad that way sometimes, Will Smith notwithstanding.
* Sometimes they love the movies we hate. Science has yet to determine the factors that led to, of all things, Battleship leaping thirty-one spots up the chart thanks to a fan following that loves it some exploding, some aliens, or some exploding aliens. And lurking just below the chart at #21, internationally speaking? John Carter. If you were among that vocal online minority who saw merit in Andrew Stanton’s live-action directorial debut, rest assured someone far away agrees with you.
* R-rated films feel a lot less love. Adults-only fare reached the top twenty with just three viable representatives — Ted, Prometheus, and The Expendables 2. Blame it on cultural barriers, marketing issues, other governments’ restrictions, or what have you. Yes, we’re in an age in which artists feel free to create their art as they see fit, as long as they don’t mind their prospective audience diminishing. Other foul-mouthed flicks that were embraced more in America than in not-America included Django Unchained (American history turned into live-action cartoon), 21 Jump Street (American joke-remake of American TV), and Safe House (that darn Ryan Reynolds).
* Something went wrong with The Hunger Games. Was it the concept of children killing children? Was it the annoying District 12 shaky-cam? Was it the massive conceptual debt it owes to Battle Royale? Or did Lionsgate book showings in too few countries? Curious minds demand an answer, or at least some baseless speculation.
* Their womenfolk are just as addicted to Twilight as ours are. Huh. Figures.