'Pompeii' Studio Says It Can Survive Disastrous U.S. Box Office

Pompeii Film Still - H 2014

Pompeii Film Still - H 2014

Germany's Constantin relies on foreign presales and tax subsidies to buffer a $100 million U.S. flop.

This story first appeared in the March 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. 

Pompeii, Paul W.S. Anderson's big-budget disaster movie, is the latest costly production fully financed by Germany's Constantin Film to flop at the U.S. box office. The $100 million epic, starring Kit Harington and Carrie-Anne Moss, got buried in ash over the Feb. 21 weekend, grossing just $10.3 million in the U.S. while collecting another $22.8 million in 37 markets abroad. It follows last year's The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, which grossed a paltry $31 million domestic and 2011's The Three Musketeers, also directed by Anderson, which grossed just $20 million in the U.S.

Such high-profile misfires would be enough to sink most independent companies. But the Munich-based Constantin says it's able to weather the financial hit. "Constantin is still going to do everything," the company's film and TV head Martin Moszkowicz tells THR. "International, studio-level films as well as German-language movies, German TV productions and international TV."

STORY: 'Pompeii' Struggles Internationally With $22.8 Million

Moszkowicz says Pompeii's opening weekend "isn't a disaster. We knew a film like this with a, shall we say, very international subject matter, wouldn't do $100 million in the U.S. Internationally, in the territories where it has come out -- Korea, France, Russia -- the results have been in line with our expectations." He notes Anderson's films tend to perform stronger globally, doing "around 25 percent U.S. and 75 percent international."

Constantin's model for international productions was set with Resident Evil, Anderson's 2002 sci-fi horror actioner, which grossed more than $100 million globally, launching a franchise; 2012's Resident Evil: Retribution grossed $240 million worldwide. But Constantin has failed to replicate that success. Mortal Instruments, for instance, was trumpeted as a Twilight-style YA franchise.

Constantin shrugs off the disappointments because it finances its own films via a combination of presales, soft money (film subsidies, tax incentives) and some equity/loans. Pompeii was sold out and fully financed through international presales (handled by Summit) before it was shot. And Constantin's equity in the movie is probably no more than a minority stake. (The downside risk for U.S. distributors like Sony, which released Pompeii under its TriStar banner, is small, too.) Constantin also has a buffer because of its booming German businesses. Its recent low-budget German teen comedy Suck Me Shakespeer, produced by its subsidiary Rat Pack, has earned $72 million and counting in its home territory. Enough, perhaps, to enable it to dig out from under Pompeii.