Foreign Box Office to Save Movie Studios in 2011

4:07 PM PST 11/10/2011 by Pamela McClintock, Frank Segers
Weta Digital Ltd./Paramount Pictures
"The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn"

With Steven Spielberg's "The Adventures of Tintin" doing well overseas and several holiday tentpoles waiting to be released, the six majors are on track to score record revenue despite a slow domestic marketplace.

This story first appeared in the Nov. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

With Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin igniting the foreign box office during an otherwise quiet pre-holiday period, Hollywood's six major studios are on track to score record revenue for 2011.

PHOTOS: 'Adventures of Tintin' U.K. Premiere

That's good news considering the sluggish domestic marketplace, where grosses year-to-date are $8.5 billion, down more than 4 percent from the same period a year ago. (The domestic figure is for all films, including nonstudio titles.) Through Oct. 31, the six majors, buoyed by 3D and exploding markets including Russia and Brazil, have amassed combined international grosses of $11.7 billion -- just $1 billion shy of 2010's record $12.7 billion benchmark.

PHOTOS: Stills From 'Adventures of Tintin'

With a number of holiday tentpoles waiting to bow, there's little doubt that the majors will soar past last year's milestone. Thanksgiving pics include Warner Bros.' Happy Feet Two and Summit's The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1, while Christmas brings Fox's Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked, Warner Bros.' sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and Paramount's Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol.

"The international market continues to grow, and I think it's going to be a very big Christmas," says Paramount International president Andrew Cripps.

Paramount leads the pack for 2011 with an overseas take of $2.626 billion to date, followed by Warner Bros. ($2.5 billion), Disney ($2.054 billion), Fox ($1.925 billion), Sony ($1.493 billion) and Universal ($1.095 billion). Sony and Paramount's 3D Tintin, as well as DreamWorks Animation and Paramount's 3D Puss in Boots, are significant in proving that Hollywood can open its year-end holiday films earlier overseas, where there are midterm school breaks in a number of countries. Tintin doesn't open in the U.S. until Christmas, but it grossed another $40.8 million during the Nov. 4-6 weekend to hit $125.3 million in a dozen days.

"[Tintin] proves that you can release a big movie in this time period," says Cripps. "We should all be trained to rely on a 12-month trading period so that the big holiday titles aren't all jammed into the same slots."

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