Film News

"Avatar", 3D drive foreign box office to record year

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Ticket sales at the foreign box office soared almost 20 percent to a record high in 2010, powered by higher prices for 3D movies even as the number of people who went to the movies was roughly unchanged.

According to preliminary estimates, receipts for the six major Hollywood studios from all countries outside the United States and Canada will total $12.7 billion, breaking the $10.7 billion record set in 2009.

This was accomplished despite the fact that “admissions (the number of tickets sold) have been more or less flat internationally versus 2009,” one studio executive noted.

What made the difference was a more than doubling of the number of 3D titles released abroad at steeper ticket prices, thus yielding a roughly 35% 3D ticket surcharge.

(In the United States and Canada, 2010 is on track to match last year’s take of $10.6 billion, despite a notable five percent drop in admissions.)

“2010 was certainly the year when 3D had a major impact on box office, with eight of the top 15 international titles (presented) in 3D,” said Andrew Cripps, president of Paramount Pictures International.

Leading the way was “Avatar,” which grossed almost $1.5 billion of its $2 billion foreign haul during 2010.

Other major 3D titles included “Alice in Wonderland” ($690.2 million), “Toy Story 3” ($649.2 million), which topped the list of 2010 releases. Among other 3D notables were “Shrek Forever After” ($505 million), “Clash of the Titans” ($330 million), “Despicable Me” ($291 million) and “How to Train Your Dragon” ($277.5 million).

Among 2D titles, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” ($610 million) and “Inception” ($531 million), ranked at No. 3 and No. 4, respectively, ahead of the “Shrek” sequel.

The top-five films on average earned about two-thirds of their worldwide sales from outside North America.

Not all was smooth sailing in 2010. The enormous success of “Avatar” -- plus the robust performance of “Alice in Wonderland” -- wildly skewed results of the first quarter. The second quarter went largely in the other direction thanks to the football World Cup, crippling releases such as “The A-Team,” whose foreign total stalled at $101 million. The third quarter was better, but 2010 ended on a down note because of tough year-ago comparisons with “Avatar”-fueled business.