Small pix put BVI in the $1B club o'seas
This year’s overseas billion-dollar club is now three strong … but is it a major benchmark anymore?More a reflection of volume than a parade of blockbusters, the Mouse House has cleared the $1 billion international barrier in 2005, joining Fox ($1.5 billion) and Warner Bros. ($1.15 billion). It’s Disney’s 11th straight year topping a billion. Only two of its pics cleared $100 million, but five more topped $50 million and a total of 45 films took in more than $1 million. Among other studios, Sony’s overseas tally is at $737 million, and the three parts of the soon-to-be-dissolved UIP partnership have totaled about $1.75 billion — DreamWorks with $820 million, Paramount with $485 million and Universal with $440 million. “Hitting $1 billion is expected of us,” BVI president Mark Zoradi said. “There’s no question that admissions have been down during the first three quarters, but we’re pretty encouraged about the fourth quarter because of our films — ‘Flightplan,’ ‘Chicken Little,’ ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ — along with ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘King Kong.'” Warner’s 2004 achievement of becoming the first studio to reach $2 billion appears safe, as does BVI’s record of $1.88 billion in 2003. BVI’s announcement that it’s hit the billion-dollar mark also underlines the importance of foreign box office. That figure’s 55% higher than the current $642 million domestic gross for Disney films this year. BVI’s top performers came from two holdovers from 2004: “National Treasure,” with $108 million grossed this year out of its $173 million total; and “The Incredibles,” with $107.4 million this year out of its $370 million total. Its other biggest foreign performances came from a pair of family comedies — “The Pacifier” with $85.5 million and “Herbie: Fully Loaded” with $79 million — followed by “Flightplan” with $61 million, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” with $53.5 million and “Sin City” with $52 million. Zoradi said results underscored the ongoing strength of the Disney brand in overseas markets, pointing to “The Pacifier” and “Flightplan” as pics that didn’t appear headed for success at first glance. He also noted that BVI’s been able to select foreign pics that generated solid results such as “Barefoot” with $13 million in Germany, “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “Wild Bunch 2.” The exec expressed particular satisfaction over performances in emerging markets, such as last weekend’s $1 million opening for “Chicken Little” in Poland — the highest launch for an animated film in that market.