Box Office: Boom! Bust! Inside a Wild $25 Billion Year Overseas

Journey to the West H
Huayi Brothers Media

UPDATED: China hits $3.6 billion, Europe suffers and homegrown hits rival Hollywood fare as final 2013 numbers reveal a $25 billion bonanza.

A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

The international box office hit a milestone in 2013 as revenue approached $25 billion, fueled largely by gains in countries that have become movie-going meccas: China (where 5,077 screens were added), Brazil, India, Mexico and Russia.

"Foreign revenue was more than double the 2013 North American tally [10.9 billion] and absolutely shows you the importance of international territories in terms of box office," says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Rentrak.

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But not all markets thrived. Much of Europe, enduring an economic crisis, was down year-over-year, with revenue plummeting 15 percent in Spain.

"There were real ups and downs," says Universal's international chief, David Kosse, whose studio enjoyed its best-ever year overseas ($2.26 billion) thanks in large part to Despicable Me 2 and Fast & Furious 6. He adds, "The main reason in Europe was that there were no local films relative to 2012 [which had Skyfall and The Intouchables]."

Hollywood fare remained the big draw, commanding the first 24 spots on the foreign chart and topped by Disney's Iron Man 3 ($805.7 million). But local fare also prospered. In China, the Chinese film Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons clobbered Iron Man 3 in that country, one of several homegrown hits to perform well.

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Warner Bros., whose The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug took in $500 million before Jan. 1, was the studio leader with a record-breaking $3.14 billion in foreign revenue.

For Warners international distribution chief Veronika Kwan Vandenberg, the lesson of 2013 was the value of balancing presold franchises with fresh material: "Films like Gravity [$414.5 million] and Frozen [$342.1 million] proved that there is always room for a great original story to resonate with moviegoers the world over."

Below is a territory-by-territory breakdown, including estimated revenue for 2013 and the year-over-year change:


CHINA ($3.6B, ? 28%)

The world's biggest moviegoing market behind the U.S.'s $10.9 billion enjoyed another year of explosive growth. Chinese films represented the lion's share, grossing $2.12 billion for a year-over-year gain of 54 percent and accounting for 59 percent of total box office. Hollywood solidified its stake, though for much of the year studios didn't receive revenue because of a tax dispute.

Top 3 Titles

1. Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons, $205.9M

2. Iron Man 3, $124M

3. So Young, $117M


JAPAN ($1.88B, ? -3.6%)

Hollywood films continued to lose ground in Japan as local films dominated (official 2013 numbers are due later). Animated pics reigned supreme, taking seven of the chart's top 10 spots and led by Hayao Miyazaki's Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises). Monsters University was one of the few Hollywood breakouts, as was Ted. Major disappointments included 47 Ronin; the Universal epic, set in 18th century Japan, earned less than $5 million in the country.

Top 3 Titles

1. Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises), $119.5M

2. Monsters University, $90.1M

3. Eien No Zero (The Eternal Zero), $49.5M


SOUTH KOREA ($1.49B, ? 6.5%)

Cinema traffic continued to surge, with the number of moviegoers exceeding 200 million for the first time -- up from 146 million in 2012 (only a handful of countries could boast that sort of attendance). Korean films dominated, taking in a dazzling $874.3 million, or nearly 60 percent of the country's total box office. Iron Man 3 was the only Hollywood title to land in the top 10.

Top 3 Titles

1. Miracle in Cell No. 7, $87.9M

2. Iron Man 3, $68M

3. Snowpiercer, $64M


INDIA ($1.54B, ? 10%)

Official numbers for 2013 will not be released until March, but the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry estimated that revenue would hit $1.54 billion. The growth was due to a string of record-breaking Bollywood titles (for the most part, Hollywood has yet to crack the Indian marketplace). Most notable was Dhoom 3.

Top 3 Titles

1. Dhoom 3, $56.8M

2. Chennai Express, $36.1M

3. Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, $29M


AUSTRALIA ($965.3M,? -5%)

Not one film crossed $40 million at the Australian box office in 2013, compared with a handful in 2012 and other years, and it hurt the overall total. Revenue tumbled for only the fourth time in a 20-year period, though moviegoing picked up during the year-end holidays because of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, shot in neighboring New Zealand.

Top 3 Titles

1. Iron Man 3, $34.2M

2. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, $32M

3. Despicable Me 2, $31.4M


MEXICO ($934 million, ? 15.3%)

Mexico, along with much of Latin America, was red-hot in terms of growth. The country's biggest movie news was the record-breaking success of Spanish-language comedy Instructions Not Included, about an unlikely father-daughter relationship, which also did huge business in the U.S. Animated family films remained a huge driver, taking four spots among Mexico's top 10.

Top 3 Titles

1. Iron Man 3, $48.6M

2. Despicable Me 2, $47.7M

3. Instructions Not Included, $47.4M


BRAZIL ($831.1 million, ? 6.1%)

Thanks to a growing middle class and cinema construction, the Brazilian box office enjoyed another boom year. The appetite for 3D animated and action tentpoles remained strong (think Fast & Furious 6 and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters), but homegrown films likewise prospered, including Minha Mae e uma Pecca (My Mom Is a Character), the top-grossing local film of 2013 with $21.9 million.

Top 3 Titles

1. Iron Man 3, $47.9M

2. Despicable Me 2, $35.5M

3. Thor: The Dark World, $27.7M


U.K. (1.94B, ? -1%)

Blame Bond. Box-office revenue dipped for the first time in a decade, primarily because there was no Skyfall. In 2012, the James Bond pic smashed U.K. records, raking in $161.2 million to become the country's top-grossing film of all time. Among 2013 British films, Oscar contender Philomena took in a hearty $17.2 million. For the

Top 3 Titles

1. Despicable Me 2, $72.3M

2. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, $68.2M

3. Les Miserables, $63.2M


FRANCE ($1.6B, ? -5.3%)

French films made an unusually soft showing in 2013, driving down overall box-office revenue. Instead, Hollywood titles dominated, boasting a 54 percent market share, compared with 43 percent in 2012. Notable performers included Gravity ($38.2 million), while the top-grossing French film was Les Profs ($32.5 million).

Top 3 Titles

1. Frozen, $45M

2. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, $44.1M

3. Despicable Me 2, $40.9M


GERMANY ($1.3B, ? -15%)

Despite an overall dip (final revenue figures won't be released until February), it was a good year for German movies, including Constantin Film's comedy Fack Ju Gohte, which mocks current political debates. Homegrown titles co-produced or distributed by Hollywood studios also prospered, including Til Schweiger's Kokowaah 2, which took in $26 million from Warner Bros., and Fox's The Break-Up Man ($25 million).

Top 3 Titles

1. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, $81M

2. Fack Ju Gohte (Suck Me Shakespeer), $65.4M

3. Frozen, $44M


ITALY ($840M, ? 1.5%)

In a rare feat, Italy was one of a few European countries to see an uptick in revenue thanks to the hit comedy Sole a Catinelle, which pokes fun at the recession and stars popular actor Checco Zalone. It also helped that exhibitors lowered ticket prices, even if only slightly. The average cost of seeing a film in 2012 was $8.49. Revenue hit $840 million, up 1.5 percent.

Top 3 Titles

1. Sole a Catinelle (Sun in Buckets), $70M

2. Frozen, $25.3M

3. Despicable Me 2, $22M


SPAIN ($675.7M, ? -15%)

A hefty sales-tax hike on movie tickets, coupled with piracy and an ongoing economic crisis, wreaked havoc on the Spanish box office. It also didn't help that there wasn't a title to compare with The Impossible, an English-language Spanish film about the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami starring Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor that took in a massive $54 million in 2012.

Top 3 Titles

1. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, $22.7M

2. Frozen, $20M

3. The Croods, $18.5M


RUSSIA ($1.3B, ? 8%)

For the first time since the Iron Curtain came down, a Russian film topped the country's annual chart in 2013 (Hollywood tentpoles usually dominate). Opening in October, Fedor Bondarchuk's Stalingrad, recounting the famous World War II battle, took in a massive $66 million. The epic underscores the huge appetite for 3D fare in Russia, even as the format wanes elsewhere.

Top 3 Titles

1. Stalingrad, $66M

2. Iron Man 3, $44.2M

3. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, $43.7M

Nyay Bhushan, Gavin Blair, Patrick Brzeski, Pip Bulbeck, Clifford Coonan, John Hecht, Nick Holdsworth, Stuart Kemp, Hyo-won Lee and Scott Roxborough contributed to this report.