Two years ago, the backers of “Rush” and its director Ron Howard went to the AFM in Santa Monica to introduce the racing drama to buyers, reasoning that the project would generate far more traction outside the U.S.
It was a prescient move. After six weeks of release, international grosses are headed for a solid if not spectacular finish in the $90 million range while the U.S. cume will finish under $30 million. Reviews had been largely positive with an 88% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The tale of British Formula One star James Hunt and his Austrian rival Niki Lauda — portrayed by Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl, respectively — also received plenty of promotional push, first at the Berlin Film Festival in February, followed by September premieres in London, Cologne, Vienna and Toronto, with a warmly received Lauda on hand to praise the film along with Bruhl’s portrayal.
“We knew that Formula One has far more prominence in the minds of people outside the United States,” says Alex Walton, president of international distribution for Exclusive Media.
“Rush” gererated solid business in markets where Formula One is well-known. In the U.K., it topped $15 million after a month, followed by Italy with $8.5 million and the German-speaking markets with $7 million-plus, with about a third of that from Austria, where the film finished first for several weekends.
Walton points that the Italian grosses were particularly impressive, given that market’s decline as a pre-eminent territory. “The distributor Andrea Leone did a great job of getting women to see the film,” he says.
Walton also praises Howard for his work in aiding individual marketing campaigns. The $50 million pic was Howard’s first to be independently financed. Cross Creek split the costs with Exclusive, which financed through a bank loan made against presales generated in 2011 at AFM, where Exclusive secured $33 million in foreign presales in the wake of Howard’s efforts. Cross Creek’s Brian Oliver and Andrew Eaton of London-based Revolution Films structured the project as a U.K.-German co-production, enabling them to secure about $12 million in soft money.
For Walton, the story of the playboy Hunt had particular resonance, since he’s from Wimbledon, where Hunt lived. “It was always a thrill to see him when I was growing up.”