Europe, Latin America Look for Box-Office Rebound After World Cup (Analysis)
Like the defeated team leaving the field after an exhausting match, international distributors are probably just happy the World Cup is behind them. The sporting event, which wrapped up last Sunday, is widely feared as a box-office killer, as soccer fans worldwide turn away from movies for a month of matches.
Anticipating the drop, the studios held back their tentpoles in many territories until the end of the Cup. Transformers: Age of Extinction hit key soccer-crazy markets, such as the U.K., Argentina, Mexico and Colombia, last week and helped reignite the box office. And this weekend sees the rollout of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes across many soccer-loving territories in Europe and Latin America after Fox delayed it last weekend, partly due to Transformers 4.
It's a difficult task to assess the precise damage the 2014 World Cup has had on the international box office. This has been a lousy summer all around, with few megahit blockbusters on offer. Revenues are down sharply in North America as well (hardly a soccer mecca, despite a marked increase in interest in the game during the Cup).
Local factors also come into play, particularly the weather. Distributors in northern Europe fear warm and sunny weekends — which drive crowds outside and away from theaters — more than any soccer tournament.
Nevertheless, a look at weekend box-office receipts from numerous international territories paint a similar — and glum — picture. Returns during the tournament were sharply down in most countries, with many seeing year-on-year declines of 50 percent or more.
Interestingly, there is no direct correlation between the performance of a country's box-office take and that of its national side at the World Cup. England's squad was knocked out in the first round of the World Cup, but ticket sales in the U.K. were down year-on-year throughout the tournament. The sharpest drop came on the World Cup's opening weekend, which saw the box office slump to $13 million from some $27 million on the equivalent weekend last year.
Box office in Britain didn't rebound until the weekend of the World Cup final with the arrival of Transformers: Age of Extinction, which saw the U.K. box office surge to more than $40 million, more than double the $16 million weekend take from last year.
Angelina Jolie-starrer Maleficent helped buoy the totals in several continental territories, with revenues actually up on the first World Cup weekend in Spain and Italy, two territories with massive and fanatical soccer-watching populations. Over the course of the entire tournament, however, sports topped cinema and receipts slid dramatically in both territories. It was a similar story in France, which saw receipts slide dramatically over the past four weeks.
Germany, which was engulfed by World Cup fever en route to its first championship title in 24 years, saw a sharp decline throughout the entire four weeks. With victory celebrations over, German exhibitors are hoping this weekend — and the arrival of Transformers 4 — will turn things around.
In Latin America, the box-office drop during the World Cup was sharpest in Argentina, the tournament's runners-up. Weekend revenues throughout the four-week period, in dollar terms, were less than half their equivalents from last year. However, part of this effect was due to the sharp decline in the value of the Argentine peso against the U.S. dollar.
Box office in Mexico was down over the entire tournament, falling to a low of $10.7 million on the weekend of June 27-29, the same weekend Mexico was knocked out of the Cup in its second-round match against the Netherlands.
Surprisingly, box office in Brazil, this year's World Cup host nation, wasn't affected too much. Sleeper hit The Fault in Our Stars helped raise box-office totals in the territory to $11.8 million in the first World Cup weekend, against $8 million for the comparable period last year.
The first weekend of How to Train Your Dragon 2 also boosted Brazil's box office numbers to $18.5 million for the period of June 20-22, compared to $9.5 million over the same period in 2013. It likely helped that Brazil's national squad didn't play any matches over the first two weekends of the tournament. Once the Brazilian team entered into the knockout rounds, the box office took a hit, falling year-on-year despite the arrival of Transformers in the territory.