NEW YORK — Now that the smoke has cleared on many of Hollywood’s day-and-date actioners — which have invaded international territories with mixed results this summer — a pair of slow-rolling family films are quenching auds’ thirsts for something less bombastic.
Moviegoers are responding less enthusiastically to “Batman Begins” and the like than they did last year to “Spider-Man,” “Harry Potter” or Jesus Christ, leaving studio execs scratching their heads.
Over the last three weeks, family pics have dominated internationally.
Warner Bros.’ “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” led the way last weekend, with nearly $20 million; UIP’s “Madagascar” took the previous two frames against actioners “Fantastic Four” and “War of the Worlds.”
The trend mirrors one in the U.S. in which auds seem drained by the spate of superheroes and spaceships that have lately been flying by. (Last weekend, at the U.S. box office, four of the top five pics were not actioners but films ranging from gross-out to romantic comedy.)
Both “Charlie” and “Madagascar” have topped the international B.O. scene not in their first weekends of release but rather as gradual rollouts to woo kids and their parents on vacation.
“Charlie” might have rolled in even more dough had it gone out more aggressively on a weekend when actioners disappointed. Pic has played particularly well in France and the U.K., and in its Blighty bow it played as well as “Worlds” last weekend.Warners’ international distribution exec Nancy Carson said Monday that the studio’s choice to start the pic slowly was the right one.
“Trying to find the right date for each territory for a family film, you have to find your audience. You don’t want to go head to head with ‘War of the Worlds,’ ” she said.
WB Intl. marketing prexy Sue Kroll added that a film such as “Charlie” would not work using “War’s” battle plan of instantaneous world domination.
“You need to go into each market and individually tailor the approach,” she said on “Charlie’s” overseas take, which has totaled $37.3 million so far. Pic hasn’t yet hit Germany, Spain, Japan or Korea.
“This film is also extremely viable in capturing older audiences. That makes more reasons to find the right dates, as you layer these factors in,” she added.
The emergence of two such slow-boilers shows that reliance on day-and-date films continues to stymie the biz.
Warners’ “Batman Begins” has not been able to capture auds in some key markets. Pic has flown to just $156 million so far, about $4 million less than Fox’s much-less-costly “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.”
Meanwhile, Warners’ “The Island” has also managed to make a go of it internationally in a slow rollout.
Whereas the pic has played poorly in the States, it has made some good gains in Asia and Australia.