Simultaneous worldwide release a dilemma for films

Sun Jun 21, 2009 9:40pm EDT
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By Carl DiOrio

AMSTERDAM (Hollywood Reporter) - Two of this summer's biggest hit movies illustrate the lucrative possibilities of a simultaneous worldwide release -- as well as its limits.

Sony greenlighted its Tom Hanks starrer "Angels & Demons" -- based on author Dan Brown's less well-known follow-up to "The Da Vinci Code" -- specifically because of its international expectations. Staging a simultaneous worldwide bow in May, the results haven't disappointed: "Angels" has soared to $329 million internationally, combining with a more earthbound $128 million in North America.

"The world has become so small, and a film like 'Angels & Demons' is able to tap into a worldwide audience," said Sony worldwide distribution president Rory Bruer, who's in the Netherlands here this week for the annual Cinema Expo confab. "But you have to look at what's best for the picture."

Indeed, though executives at all studios now routinely scrutinize foreign boxoffice projections when developing projects and planning campaigns, one need look no further than "Terminator Salvation" to realize some films will always elude easy alignment around the world.

Warner Bros. opened the iconic sci-fi sequel Stateside on May 21, but Sony -- which holds most foreign rights on "Salvation" -- held it back a couple weeks in most foreign territories to allow "Angels" a more open playing field.

"Salvation" has earned $200 million internationally, so it's hard to see where the delay hurt its worldwide haul.

On an industrywide basis, domestic and international receipts now roughly even out. But "Angels" shows how disproportionately lucrative foreign campaigns can be, while Paramount's sci-fi reboot of "Star Trek" -- a $239 million domestic grosser that's done just half as much business internationally -- shows how individual films still can defy glib generalizations,

Still, a growing global trend is clearly afoot.   Continued...