Box Office: Can 'A Dog's Purpose' Avoid the Overseas Curse?

Courtesy of Universal Pictures
'A Dog's Purpose'

Asia and the Middle East (where many see pooches as taboo) may prove troublesome for the PR-plagued family pic, which opened to a respectable $18.2 million in the U.S.

Dog movies famously are a tough sell overseas. Pooch ownership is frowned upon or outlawed everywhere from China (the Communist Party views it as elitist) to the Middle East (the Koran forbids people from keeping dogs inside the home). And in some Asian countries, dog consumption is common.

Still, Universal is hoping overseas ticket sales can boost A Dog's Purpose, which opened Jan. 27 to a decent $18.2 million but likely was hurt by a leaked video showing a dog shoved into a water tank. As the Lasse Hallstrom-helmed film is unleashed in 20 territories, the initial results are promising.

On Jan. 27, Dog's Purpose opened in Latin America and overperformed everywhere but Brazil. The film earned $3.4 million in seven territories, outgrossing 2008's Marley & Me in the same countries. Bill Johnson, who produced Hallstrom's previous canine movie (2009's Hachi: A Dog's Tale), says the rap on pup pics is incorrect: "If you look back at the history of dog movies, they usually work." But Warner Bros.' 2015 film Max earned 97 percent of its gross domestically, and 2008's Beverly Hills Chihuahua and 2009's Hotel for Dogs did about two-thirds of their robust business in the U.S. Still, Universal will expand Dog's Purpose, which bows Feb. 3 in Argentina, Panama and Venezuela.

Amblin will release the film in China and the Middle East via Alibaba and Italia, and perhaps China will save the day: Dog ownership actually has increased rapidly there, with more than 62 million companions registered nationwide in 2016. From a box-office standpoint, that's nothing to bark at.

This story first appeared in the Feb. 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.