AFM 2012: 'Cloud Atlas' Hoping for International Recoup After Soft Domestic Landing

 Warner Bros. Pictures

After a soft domestic bow, Cloud Atlas is looking to foreign shores to recoup its $100 million budget and pay back the international distributors who invested in the ambitious fantasy epic.

The sweeping drama from Tom Tykwer and Andy and Lana Wachowski will get its second shot at box office success November 1, when it premieres in Moscow, the first stop on Cloud Atlas' international roll out.

A Company Russia in cooperation with 20th Century Fox, will bow the film wide on more than 1,400 screens in Russia next week. A Company will do near day-and-date releases across most of Eastern Europe. Cloud Atlas will then roll out across most of continental Europe before the end of the year.

Performance in those European territories will likely determine whether Cloud Atlas can bounce back from its shaky U.S. start. The film opened to a soft $9.6 million on its first weekend in the U.S., notably less than the $12 million - $15 million domestic distributor Warner Bros. had been targeting. While the title did have the best pre-screen average - $4,787 - of any new release, it was easily beaten by Ben Affleck's Argo, which seized the number one spot on its third weekend. Based on its performance, Cloud Atlas could struggle to hit $30 million stateside.

Of course the U.S. release was disappointing, but it hasn't changed our release plans,” A Company topper Alexander van Dulmen told THR. “Cloud Atlas has a more intellectual approach and the European audience is more open to movies where you have to think a bit.”

In fact, Cloud Atlas's domestic performance mirrored that of a classic art-house release, drawing its best numbers in cities on either coast.

Van Dulmen points to Tom Tykwer's Perfume: The Story of a Murderer as an example of how a film judged too art house for the U.S. mainstream market can be global blockbuster. Tykwer's 2006 period drama earned just $2.2 million in limited release in the U.S. but upwards of $130 million internationally, including an hefty $53 million in Germany alone and more than $9 million in Russia.

Dulmen also argues that Argo wouldn't be a major box office threat to Cloud Atlas internationally.

Argo is such an American movie, I can't see it having a huge appeal in Europe,” he said.

But even if Argo doesn't challenge Cloud Atlas outside the States, there are plenty of other holiday tentpoles that will be vying for international eyeballs – from the new James Bond film Skyfall to Ang Lee's The Life of Pi to Peter Jackson's fantasy juggernaut The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Cloud Atlas has had a tough start but things aren't looking to get much easier as the most ambitious indie this year rolls out worldwide.

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