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Hollywood Is No Longer An American Business

Michelle Man |
September 22, 2014 | 6:25 p.m. PDT

Web Producer

Increase in International box office sales (The Economist)
Increase in International box office sales (The Economist)
"Guardians of the Galaxy" is currently the top-grossing film in 2014, making $313 million in domestic box office so far. However, its foreign box office sales, $318 million, have already doubled what "Divergent" made in the domestic market ($150 million). What do these numbers tell us? Hollywood is not just an American business anymore.

In the past decade, total box office sales have increased steadily but these numbers didn't come from the domestic box office. According to The Economist, total box office spending has increased by one-third in North America while it has been more than doubling in foreign markets.

The Winter Solider (mrscaptainrogers/tumblr)
The Winter Solider (mrscaptainrogers/tumblr)

Take a look at "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," it has a domestic gross of $259 million which is a big increase from the first film. The foreign numbers are even more impressive with a $454 million gross, which takes up more than half of the film's total lifetime gross. And an even more astonishing fact? China took up a quarter of the foreign gross with a $115 million box office sales. 

READ MORE: Film Review: "Guardians of the Galaxy"

It is no doubt that studios are starting to take notice of the potential China has as the next biggest film market. Marvel and Disney's "Iron Man 3" created an exclusive version for the release in China that includes additional scenes featuring Wang Xueqi playing Dr. Wu and Fan Bingbing, one of the most popular female celebrity in China, as his assistant. This is a clear move that studios in North America are trying to break into the Chinese market, and they're very determined. 

This phenomenon also hints that studios are making films with a global audience in mind, and therefore will choose movies with specific themes. For example, movies like "Her" and "Boyhood" were much more popular in North America than in foreign markets. Even the foreign box office gross for the franchise giant, "Hunger Games" ($283 million), was just a little over half of domestic sales ($408 million).

READ MORE: Film Review: 'Captian America: Winter Soldier"

Ice Age 4 (popculturebrain/tumblr)
Ice Age 4 (popculturebrain/tumblr)

On the other hand, films like "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" or "Ice Age: Continental Drift" are proven to be much more popular overseas. "Ice Age" had a foreign lifetime gross of $715 million, which was four times the box office sales in North America ($161 million).

Hollywood used to be a simple business - Studios were familiar with what the North American market wanted and as long as they use the blockbuster formula, there was a good chance the film would do great in box office. Nowadays, producing a successful film is more complicated when taking into account the unfamiliar target audiences of foreign markets. Whether this will push studios to prdouce better films or encourage them to create more generalized films, only time will tell. 

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