The Summer movie season officially starts in the U.S. when The Avengers opens on May 4th. Overseas, though, the season has actually already gotten underway with Battleship's foreign rollout. This extended schedule is indicative of the growing importance of the overseas market to Hollywood's bottom line—last year, international grosses accounted for 69 percent of overall sales, compared with 66 percent in 2010 and 64 percent in 2009.
Nearly all big-budget movies this Summer are designed with the intention that they will earn at least 60 percent of their revenue in foreign territories, with the biggest grosses likely coming from developing countries China and Russia. As usual, sequels like The Dark Knight Rises and Ice Age: Continental Drift should fare the best, though some original movies like Brave, Snow White and the Huntsman and Prometheus will likely make their mark as well.
Here's a look at some of the top contenders, including a forecast for what they may gross during their overseas run. Keep an eye out for the domestic forecast, which should arrive next week ahead of The Avengers U.S. debut.
The Dark Knight Rises:The Dark Knight is the second-highest grossing comic book adaptation ever overseas with $469 million—still, compared to its domestic total of $533 million, that seems like an unremarkable number. In the four years since that movie was released, though, the international marketplace has expanded significantly, and The Dark Knight seems to be highly regarded (two years later, Christopher Nolan's Inception earned $533 million overseas). The promise that this is the end of Nolan's Batman story should also help, and the movie has a very good chance of becoming one of the highest-grossing movies ever on an overseas basis. Forecast: $850 million
Ice Age: Continental Drift: As hard as this may be to believe, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is the top animated movie ever overseas with $690 million. With very few exceptions, animated sequels improve on their predecessors, often by large margins. Since it's the fourth entry in the franchise, a strong comparison for Continental Drift is Shrek Forever After. That movie only experienced an eight percent bump over its predecessor, and something in that area seems reasonable for Ice Age 4. Forecast: $740 million
The Avengers: The five lead-in movies for The Avengers didn't quite breakout overseas—the biggest entry thus far is Iron Man 2 with around $312 million. Bringing the whole team together, though, to fight a large global threat should give the movie a huge boost. A nice comparison here is Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which brought wide-scale destruction to the city of Chicago (similar to what The Avengers is doing to New York City) and improved a healthy 78 percent over its predecessor. Forecast: $580 million
The Amazing Spider-Man: Five years ago, Spider-Man 3 earned $555 million overseas. The reboot, which subs out series regulars Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst for Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, could take a bit of a hit in attendance in developed markets for being so closely timed to the last entry. However, the title character is easily one of the most popular comic book characters on a global basis, and the expansion of developing markets like China, Russia and Brazil combined with the addition of 3D should allow The Amazing Spider-Man to match Spider-Man 3's gross. Forecast: $570 million Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted: After spending two movies in Africa, the Madagascar animals make their way to mainland Europe in Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted. That move will obviously help maintain the franchise's strength in that region, and with likely improvements in Asia and Latin America the DreamWorks Animation sequel should noticeably out-gross Madagascar 2: Escape 2 Africa ($424 million). Forecast: $525 million Brave: Disney/Pixar has an incredibly strong track record overseas—in the last five years, the lowest-grossing movie was WALL-E at $298 million, and Up managed to get to $438 million. The best comparison for Brave, though, is non-Pixar Disney animated movie Tangled, which earned $390 million a year-and-a-half ago. With the Pixar brand attached, Brave could wind up close to that amount. Forecast: $380 million MIB 3: There's a fair amount of cynicism being directed towards the third installment in the Men in Black franchise, and it may not wind up being a huge hit domestically. However, Will Smith's status as an international superstar has never been in doubt—Hancock and I Am Legend, Smith's most recent action movies, earned $396 million and $329 million, respectively. MIB 3 will at least join these movies in the $300 million club. Forecast: $370 million Snow White and the Huntsman: Producer Joe Roth also brought 2010's Alice in Wonderland to the big screen, and that movie earned over $690 million overseas. That total is unthinkable for Snow White and the Huntsman, but it does have an internationally recognizable cast (Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth), and fantasy movies tend to do disproportionately well overseas (look at the last two Narnia movies for evidence of that). Distributor Universal Pictures International got Robin Hood to $216.4 million in 2010, and Huntsman's fantasy elements should help it get noticeably higher than that. Forecast: $280 million Battleship: It's cheating to make a forecast for Battleship at this point, considering it's already opened in most foreign markets and has made over $141 million. Depending on how it holds on in China and Russia, and how it plays in Latin America, the movie could wind up close to $300 million, though we'll play it more conservative for now. Forecast: $270 million G.I. Joe: Retaliation: With $152.3 million, G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra was a decent overseas performer, though it was probably held back a bit by its U.S.-centric premise. Retaliation combats that problem by adding The Rock and Bruce Willis, both of whom are major international stars. The Rock recently helped Journey 2: The Mysterious Island get to over $220 million, while Willis' last blockbuster-level overseas release was Live Free or Die Hard, which earned $249 million. Retaliation should be able to get to similar levels. Forecast: $260 million Prometheus:Ridley Scott's quasi-prequel to Alien is a tricky one to gauge on an overseas basis. Sci-fi movies don't play quite as well as fantasy—for example, J.J. Abrams' Star Trek only earned $128 million in 2009. That being said, Alien Resurrection did $113 million fifteen years ago. Using that as a launching pad, Prometheus could be in for over $200 million. It's also important to remember that 20th Century Fox International got Rise of the Planet of the Apes to over $305 million last Summer, which is probably the high-point for Prometheus. Forecast: $250 million
Dark Shadows:Johnny Depp and Tim Burton's last collaboration, Alice in Wonderland, earned an incredible $690 million overseas. A more modest comparison, though, for Dark Shadows is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which did $268 million. One thing that might keep Dark Shadows even lower than that is China's stance on the supernatural—it doesn't look like any of the Twilight movies played there, implying that Dark Shadows, which stars Depp as an un-dead vampire, may also get squashed by censors. Forecast: $240 million Rock of Ages: The two best comparisons for Rock of Ages are Hairspray and Mamma Mia!, though there's a huge discrepency between the two movies in overseas grosses. Hairspray earned a meager $83 million, while Mamma Mia! did an incredible $465 million. While Rock of Ages hews closer to Hairspray in many ways (including sharing a director, Adam Shankman), it can split the difference between the two movies thanks to the presence of international star Tom Cruise. Forecast: $230 million The Bourne Legacy:The Bourne Ultimatum hit a new high for the Bourne series when it earned $215 million overseas in 2007. For The Bourne Legacy, though, star Matt Damon is replaced with Jeremy Renner. While Renner is a recognizable star following Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol and The Avengers, Damon's portrayal of Jason Bourne was integral to the franchise's success to this point. A slight drop seems inevitable for the Damon-less entry. Forecast: $200 million The Expendables 2: While official figures aren't available for the first Expendables movie, it definitely earned over $171 million. Bringing back all of the essential cast while expanding the roles of Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger should help it reach roughly the same point. Forecast: $180 million