Around the World Roundup: 2006 Review

by Conor Bresnan
March 16, 2007

While the domestic box office may not have been exciting in 2006, the foreign box office provided some thrills, with many pictures more than doubling what they did domestically. All told, four pictures from 2006 crossed the $300 million mark and 24 reached $100 million or more, compared to 2005's six $300 million-plus and 20 $100 million-plus movies.

The following are 2006's ten most impressive pictures at the foreign box office, determined by contextual factors such as expectations, genre and what they grossed relative to the domestic market. Please note that this is not simply a list of the highest grossing movies and that these selections do not necessarily reflect the quality of the movies.

1. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest - This picture's rank is not surprising given that it was the highest earner of the year at $642 million, but it was also the most impressive because it was 84 percent higher Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl's $348.5 million and was No. 1 in every market. Distributor Buena Vista International's staggered release strategy allowed for maximum box office results, opening on weekends historically strong for this type of movie. Studios that attempt a worldwide day-and-date launch with the United State often miss out on a lot of money.

2. Perfume - The Story of a Murderer - With $119 million and counting, this English-language thriller delivered Germany's highest gross ever for a dramatic movie ($50.4 million), topping Schindler's List and breaking with the country's tradition of flocking only to action, family and comedic pictures. Perfume wasn't a one-market wonder, however, and recorded No. 1 openings in almost every market.

3. The Da Vinci Code - Although expected to be a worldwide phenomenon, The Da Vinci Code still blew past forecasts, raking in $541 million overseas. The mystery thriller played with enormous strength in all regions except the Middle East. Japan was its top market at $79.3 million, but Spain's $34.5 million and Italy's $39.2 million ranked among the all time top three grosses in each country.

4. The Devil Wears Prada - A comedy light on romance and without a strong male lead isn't the typical blockbuster, but The Devil Wears Prada nonetheless played well to both women and men, grossing nearly $200 million. It surprised everywhere with returns like the United Kingdom's $26.2 million, Italy's $18.8 million and Australia's $12.5 million.

A scene from Ice Age: The Meltdown
5. Ice Age: The Meltdown - Referred to as Ice Age 2 internationally, this computer-animated sequel saw a whopping 70 percent (or $456 million) of its worldwide tally come from foreign territories, a figure rarely seen in the animation genre. It more than doubled its predecessor's total with stunning results like Germany's $59.7 million and Mexico's $29.4 million, and it did it mostly in March and April, an unusual period for a blockbuster.

6. X-Men: The Last Stand - For an action trilogy to post progressively higher grosses with each movie is unique, but the third X-Men did just that with a $225 million tally. The original started the franchise with $139 million, and X2: X-Men United followed with $193 million. The Last Stand was excellent all-around, but stood out in Brazil ($11.2 million) and Mexico ($16.5 million).

7. Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties - This family sequel ranks highly for quadrupling its domestic gross internationally, transforming a disappointment into a hit. It made only $28 million domestically but $113 million overseas.

8. Casino Royale - James Bond's restart improved on an already popular franchise. Casino Royale's $426 million (and counting) was 57 percent higher than the last Bond picture, the impressive Die Another Day. Nearly a quarter of Casino's gross came from the U.K. alone, where it's the highest-grossing of the franchise at $106 million. Outside of Europe, however, Casino played like any other Bond.

Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain
9. Brokeback Mountain - Released internationally in 2006, this cowboy romance surprised with a $95 million gross. After the disappointing $10 million performance of the action western Open Range and the meager $6.8 million of the dramatic western The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Brokeback was treading murky waters, but it kicked off its campaign with a phenomenal $1.5 million run in Taiwan, Brokeback director Ang Lee's native land. Brokeback proceeded to dazzle in Europe and even grabbed $1.4 million from action-oriented Hong Kong.

10. Night at the Museum - Despite little buzz and a star (Ben Stiller) that was unproven overseas, Night at the Museum exceeded expectations with $287 million and counting. The comedy benefited from being just that: the only picture of its kind during the New Year's holiday.

2006 also saw two sporting events, the FIFA World Cup and the Winter Olympics, take their toll during their respective months, but the box office rebounded thereafter. Several domestic disappointments even saved some face overseas, such as Poseidon, Miami Vice and Mission: Impossible III.

Outside of American movies, local fare reached record highs. Movies like France's Les Bronzés 3 - amis pour la vie, South Korea's The Host (Gwoemul), Japan's Death Note 2 (Desu nôto 2), France's Arthur and the Invisibles (Arthur et les Minimoys), Russia's Day Watch (Dnevnoy dozor), Germany's Deutschland. Ein Sommermärchen, and China's Curse of the Golden Flower flourished in their respective markets, overshadowing many Hollywood titles.

South Korea in particular saw local pictures dominate the market. Of the 52 weeks of the year, only 12 were led by American movies. South Korea's all time record fell in 2006 as Wang-ui namja (The King and the Clown) grossed more than $75 million. With local movies budgeted at $2 million on average, they're deemed a disappointment if they don't gross $5 million and many take in $10 million or more. There was still room for American pictures in South Korea as Mission: Impossible III proved, grossing a non-local high of $37.6 million.

A scene from Cars
The foreign box office also saw several Hollywood pictures disappoint, and Cars was the most notable. Pixar's computer-animated feature generated $218 million, compared to $244 million domestically. It was the first Pixar release of the decade not to exceed its domestic gross internationally, and it wasn't in the league of The Incredibles ($370 million), Finding Nemo ($525 million) and Monsters, Inc. ($269.5 million). A contributing factor may have been its NASCAR racing subject matter, which isn't as popular overseas as it is stateside, as well as a storyline that wasn't as striking as Pixar's previous efforts.

Two dystopian future pictures floundered as well. V for Vendetta mustered $62 million, while Children of Men managed $33.5 million. Both were below their domestic tallies and, given their genre and international flavor, both had been expected to easily eclipse domestic.

• 2/24/07 - 'Illusionist' Impresses Most in Bland 2006
• 2/25/07 - Q. What Records Were Broken in 2006?
• Scott Holleran: 2006 Retrospective

International Box Office Results

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2/7 'LEGO Movie 2' and 'What Men Want' To Lead Weekend Newcomers
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> MORE: News | Features
WEEKEND: 4-Day Weekend Estimates, 'Alita' #1
DAILY: Monday, 2/18 (29 tracked)
WEEKEND: Weekend Estimates, 'Alita' #1
DAILY: Friday Estimates, 'Alita' #1
WEEKLY: 'LEGO Movie 2' Tops the Week with $41.47m
DAILY: Thursday 2/14, (59 tracked)
DAILY: Wednesday, 2/13 (44 tracked)
DAILY: Tuesday, 2/12 (39 tracked)
New MPAA Ratings Added