Are Foreign Audiences Cooling on Hollywood?

We'll know at the end of the eight-day business conference called the American Film Market

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Richard Foreman / Summit Entertainment

It wasn’t that long ago that the lion’s share of a movie’s box-office haul came from tickets sold in North America. But markets overseas have become an increasingly significant part of a film’s success. Take for example, this past summer’s action-thriller Pacific Rim: the film earned just over $100 million dollars on our shores — and a staggering $304 million in foreign ticket sales (mostly in Asia).

Which is why the annual  American Film Market — an eight-day gathering during which, among many other kinds of deal, foreign rights to U.S.-produced films are sold — has become a popular destination for Hollywood execs.

But the early vibe coming from this year’s AFM (which begins Nov. 6), according to a report from The Hollywood Reporter, suggests that foreign distributors are in no hurry to snatch up the rights to the latest batch of still-in-production Tinseltown offerings. Their wariness is no doubt tied to the failure of certain homegrown films — from indies like The Fifth Estate to big-budget projects like Rush and  Ender’s Game (pictured) — to  engage overseas audiences.

The Solution Entertainment Group’s Lisa Wilson tells The Hollywood Reporter that international distributors are interested in only a select few big-name stars, meaning there is less dealmaking early in a film’s process when just script, studio and director are known. Distributors hold out to see the final casting list.

Among the high-profile films with rights still up for grabs — most big-budget films are locked in with a distributor even before shooting begins — are the Adam Sandler comedy The Cobbler and the Elton John biopic Rocketman, which will star Tom Hardy. The singer (who is exec-producing the movie) and actor showed up at a pre-AFM breakfast earlier this week. It’s never too early, it seems, to start the money game.