Around the World Roundup: 'Kong' Strong But Disappointing in Global Launch

by Conor Bresnan
King Kong
December 21, 2005

King Kong charged the foreign box office with an $83 million in five days from 55 territories, but there were many signs that Kong was not king. Most figures barely matched Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire's second weekend grosses. Director Peter Jackson remake failed to top any of his Lord of the Rings movies in his native New Zealand, and it placed third in Italy and Japan.

Over the three-day weekend, King Kong grossed $65.5 million, which was the ninth-biggest international opening ever. Since most movies don't open day-and-date worldwide like Kong, the near record isn't that impressive as the picture played in every major market. The United Kingdom was the top market with $12 million from 482 screens, which fell short of all Lord of the Rings openings as well as The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe last weekend. Similar comparisons could be made for King Kong's openings in France ($7.6 million from 736 screens), Germany ($6.2 million from 739 screens) and Spain ($4.2 million from 365 screens).

The three-hour adventure was more impressive in Russia, grossing $5.1 million from 311 screens. It was the third highest opening of the year, behind War of the Worlds and Company 9, the local all time box office champion.

In Italy, two local movies trumped Kong, which managed $2.5 million from 298 screens. In Japan, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire's fourth weekend beat King Kong, which made an anemic $2.6 million from 316 screens.

King Kong was monstrous in Southeast Asia as the promise of a special effects bonanza lured most audiences. In South Korea, the movie scored the biggest opening ever for its studio, Universal Pictures, with $4.6 million from 323 screens. In Singapore, it grabbed $1.3 million from 27 screens, the market's biggest weekend on record for a Wednesday opening. King Kong smashed Universal's opening day and weekend record in Thailand, grossing $1.6 million from 77 screens., and it cracked the all time Top 10 in Taiwan with $3 million from 65 screens. Malaysia ($1.1 million from 49 screens) and the Philippines ($1.4 million from 104) were also impressive.

Other openings like Australia's $4.6 million from 248 screens, Mexico's $3.9 million from 395 screens and Brazil's $1.5 million from 309 screens were all disappointing for a would-be mega-blockbuster.

King Kong had a lot going for it, including distribution by United International Pictures (which has had a record year), a press blitz not seen since Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, and a director fresh from the multi-billion-grossing Lord of the Rings franchise. Yet, for some reason, the advertising didn't connect with the audiences. For the most part action and special effects fans were in force, but not the families that earlier this year made Revenge of the Sith and Goblet of Fire such hits. It's possible that word-of-mouth could make Kong a huge success, but it is an uphill battle now, especially with the volume of movies entering the market for Christmas that will eat into its screens.

Meanwhile, Goblet of Fire took the brunt of King Kong's attack, falling 48 percent to $26.8 million. France's third weekend supplied $5 million from 950 prints. With $37.9 million thus far, Goblet is nearly at pace with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and still leads the first two movies. Other third weekend totals include Australia's $19 million and South Korea's $16.5 million.

Next weekend, The Goblet of Fire will look to build on its $455.4 million international total with openings in Hong Kong and Russia.

In Spain, The Chronicles of Narnia tumbled almost 75 percent after its near-record breaking opening, earning $2 million for a $10 million total. Drops were more down-to-earth in the U.K. (39 percent) and Germany (38 percent). Narnia nabbed $8.7 million in the U.K. for a $30.2 million total and grabbed $3.7 million in Germany for an $11.5 million total.

Overall, Narnia added $20.3 million from 13 territories over the weekend, raising its total to $75 million. Next weekend, it opens in over 15 markets including Australia, the Netherlands and Singapore.

Chicken Little grossed $7.5 million over the weekend for a $66.5 million running total. In France, the computer-animated comedy was down a mere five percent to $3.5 million, bringing its tally to $7.7 million there.

The Family Stone offered counter-programming over the weekend, but its debuts were mediocre at best, amounting to $2.2 million from 18 territories. Highlights were Germany's $857,000 from 252 screens, South Korea's $295,000 from 100, and the U.K.'s $400,000 from 155.

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