The Global Appeal of Blockbusters

Movie poster courtesy of comicbookmovie.com

Movie poster courtesy of comicbookmovie.com

This past weekend, Avengers: Age of Ultron had its much-anticipated North American opening. Box office experts predicted that Age of Ultron, the sequel to the wildly popular Avengers release in 2012, would exceed the $207 million that its predecessor made in its opening weekend. With the results in, it is official: it didn’t break the record, but the studio shouldn’t be too worried. Age of Ultron almost earned its entire budget back before its US release with countries around the world screening the film a week in advance.

Age of Ultron’s domestic opening weekend brought in an estimated $191 million, a full sixteen million under its first entry, and thirty million under the prediction. This comes as a surprise because the first sequel to a large franchise almost always surpasses the first in terms of opening weekends. To put things in perspective, Transformers 2 improved on Transformers by $40 million, Catching Fire made $6 million more than Hunger Games, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest brought in a whopping $90 million more than the first in the series.

Picture courtesy of destructoid.com

Picture courtesy of destructoid.com

There’s no mystery to why sequels make more money. Audiences are familiar with the characters and the story, and are eager to see what happens next with characters that they are already invested in. Studio executives take full advantage of marketing campaigns so that the next entry can appear to be bigger and better. This strategy was in full swing for Age of Ultron, but even with its massive opening, it failed to meet the original’s $200 million-plus number.

While the North American box office may be plateauing, the rest of the world is certainly not taking a break. As of right now, 70% of ticket sales for Ultron have come from outside of the US. Global audiences have taken quite the liking to US blockbusters; last year’s Transformers made only $245 million overall in the US, but passed $1 billion thanks to international markets. The strength of these numbers indicates a trend in modern film production: moviegoers around the globe are willing to sacrifice well written characters and dialogue for explosive, high octane action sequences with little thought involved. Movies like Transformers play especially well for those who don’t speak English as a first language. With less complicated story and dialogue to follow, audiences can simply enjoy the movie without missing important plot points or misunderstanding dialogue.

This brings up a much talked about concern over the current state of the film industry. This summer’s movie line up consists of a large number of sequels and spinoffs, which forces one to ask: Is our film industry running out of creativity? Is it more business-savvy to cater to international crowds at the expense of quality storytelling?

Avengers: Age of Ultron is almost guaranteed to gross over $1 billion overseas (it already has $400 million in foreign receipts), and Avengers: Infinity War (Part 1 and 2) is scheduled for release in 2018 and 2019, respectively.