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Box Office Shocker: 'Battleship' Boldly Opens More Than a Month Early Overseas

Alexander Skarsgard
Universal Pictures

The Universal pic begins rolling out internationally this week, becoming the first summer tentpole in Hollywood history to target foreign audiences so far in advance of a film's domestic debut.

Talk about making a splash.

Universal and Hasbro's tentpole Battleship is opening in major foreign markets across the globe this week and weekend -- five weeks before it opens in the U.S. on May 18. Directed by Peter Berg, Battleship stars Taylor Kitsch, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker and Liam Neeson.

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More and more, Hollywood studios are testing the once-taboo practice of opening a film first overseas if it is better for scheduling purposes. A movie's performance at the domestic box office often drove its foreign run, but that is no longer true; in fact, most tentpoles make the lion's share of their money overseas.

Last summer, Paramount and Disney opened their tentpole Thor a week early in many international territories -- two weeks in Australia -- with no backlash. Around the same time, Universal opened Fast Five in several key markets a week ahead of its domestic opening.

Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson's The Adventures of Tintin made headlines last fall when opening overseas in late October, two months prior to its North American rollout. At the same time, Tintin was a natural European property, where the character is far more popular (The film ended up earning $296.4 million internationally, compared with just $77.6 million internationally).

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Battleship tests this growing practice in new ways, since it's opening earlier internationally than any previous Holllywood action tentpole. Rival studios are buzzing about the move and will be paying close attention to see how Battleship's foreign performance affects its domestic run.

If all goes well, other Hollywood summer tentpoles could start in opening in April overseas.

Universal had good reason for wanting to open Battleship now -- between the competition from other May releases, including The Avengers and Men in Black 3, and European Soccer Championships, which will be held from June 8 to July 1 in Poland and Ukraine (there's also plenty of advance coverage of the Euro Cup to distract soccer fans, many of whom are male, Battleship's key demo).

Battleship essentially will have opened in every foreign market before mid-May launch in North America. This week and weekend, it opens in many major European markets, as well as Japan.