Global figures rise as domestic numbers stay flat

International box office is clearly the growth area as overall 2010 overseas numbers are expected to top $20 billion, beating 2009’s $19.3 billion benchmark, while last year’s domestic B.O. stayed relatively flat with that of 2009.

China saw spectacular growth of 61%, while France and Japan were flat. But other European markets such as Germany and Spain saw drops due in part to piracy and weak local films. The numbers are even more impressive since boxoffice typically drops in World Cup years. This year was more resilient despite blizzard conditions in Europe during the fourth quarter.

International totals are calculated from Jan. 1-Dec. 31, though some territories, including Russia, reported box office numbers late due to the holidays, with numbers still trickling in. India, with its highly complex and regionalized system, likely won’t have final figures until March.

While 2010 was the year of 3D, the top studio internationally, Warner Bros., saw its two highest-grossing pics (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1″ and “Inception”) earn top coin in 2D.

Warners and 20th Century Fox jostled neck-and-neck for record international box office totals, with final 2010 figures putting Warners on top at $2.93 billion, up just slightly over Fox’s $2.90 billion gross.

But in worldwide totals, Warners was the clear winner, with an industry record $4.8 billion, while Fox took $4.5 billion worldwide. Warners included in its overseas totals $70 million generated by Village Roadshow territories.

Warners claimed the triple crown in 2010, also winning domestic B.O. market share at $1.88 billion.

Fox held the previous international high of $2.45 billion in 2009; Warners beat its $4.01 billion worldwide record set that same year.

“Deathly Hallows,” with $611 million, ranks as Warners’ top 2010 title overseas, followed by $531 million for “Inception.” Fox’s best, “Avatar,” earned $1.48 billion for the studio in 2010, with the pic cuming $2.03 billion internationally.

In overseas market share, Disney nabbed a studio best, ranking third with $2.3 billion, while Paramount saw its second-best year with $1.98 billion internationally. Sony was fifth with $1.4 billion, followed by Universal at $1.2 billion.

Collectively, the studios were up a buoyant 20% internationally over last year, though the addition of local fare and non-studio pics means the overall overseas box office grew about 3.5%.

In France, Europe’s biggest movie market, blockbusters saw better-than-usual perfs, with several hits also among local pics.

Admissions in Gaul hit 206.5 million, the most since 1967, with a record B.O. of $1.7 billion, according to France’s CNC export board. The bonanza was driven by high-performing titles headed by “Deathly Hallows” ($45.8 million), which squeaked past Guillaume Canet’s “Little White Lies” ($43 million), France’s top local title for the year.

Bizzers expect Indian totals to end up just under $2 billion, up from 2009’s $1.4 billion, which saw a drop due to a three-month producers strike.

Other markets like Japan, the top territory with $2.2 billion, played in line with the previous year. Japanese B.O. was up 16% in its first quarter, supplemented by 3D pics “Avatar” and “Alice in Wonderland,” but stayed flat during the rest of 2010.

“It’s a market that’s been struggling a lot,” said one distrib exec.

Chinese B.O. grew from $900 million in 2009 to approximately $1.5 billion. The territory’s local player “Aftershock” broke records in China, becoming the most successful Chinese movie of all time.

“India and China will continue to see significant increases,” one exec noted.

Like China, Brazil is surging, with a 30% increase over 2009. With $764 million total, it’s quickly moving up as a top territory thanks in part to local hits such as “Elite Squad 2.”

The U.K., with $1.6 billion vs. $1.5 billion in 2009, wasn’t affected as much by the World Cup as other European countries, since Blighty’s team was taken out of the picture early on.

“The growth in the U.K. could be attributed to the increase in 3D ticket prices,” said an exec.

A weak performance by German films, coupled with the World Cup, resulted in an 8.9% drop at the German box office.

And despite a strong showing from 3D blockbusters such as “Avatar,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “Despicable Me,” the total number of admissions in Germany between Jan. 4, 2010, and Jan. 2, 2011, plummeted 17.4% to 118.9 million compared with 144 million in 2009. Indeed, if not for the 3D premium-priced tickets, 2010 would have seen a steeper fall at the Teuton box office.

(John Hopewell, Elsa Keslassy, Marcelo Cajueiro and Ed Meza contributed to this report.)

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