Survival Mode: ‘After Earth’ Looks Abroad

Recent sci-fi pics paint a troubling comparison for the Sony tentpole

In the aftermath of the $27 million Stateside crash landing for “After Earth,” Sony has little to do but hope the film works internationally. So, can it? Right now, the outlook seems uncertain, at best, though comparisons to recent sci-fi pics like “Oblivion” paint a troubling picture.

This weekend, Sony launched “After Earth” in only one territory, South Korea, where the film grossed $2.7 million. That’s 10% better than “Prometheus” locally, but still behind “Oblivion,” which earned nearly twice that earlier this month.

While “After Earth” overperformed “Prometheus” in South Korea, the latter pic benefited from a cult-like word-of-mouth, with boffo results in places like the U.K.,where it grossed nearly $40 million. “Prometheus” topped out at $276 million internationally, with just north of $400 million worldwide.

“After Earth” will need to make at least that with a $100 million-plus budget and tens of millions of dollars spent on global marketing. “Prometheus” reached $126 million domestically; “After Earth” will be lucky to make $75 million at home.

Instead of a worldwide blowout this weekend, which helps publicity matters, Sony will bow “After Earth” in 60 overseas markets next weekend.

The dearth of day-and-date debuts was the consequence of Sony’s decision to bump up the pic’s Stateside bow one week. The week-long gap between domestic and overseas wouldn’t have meant much had the film worked domestically. Yet, word of the film’s Stateside belly flop could hurt its chances next weekend overseas.

Universal, on the other hand, went the opposite direction with “Oblivion,” launching the Tom Cruise starrer internationally a week before its domestic debut. That film never took off enough — either domestically or abroad — to recoup its $120 million budget and worldwide marketing costs. “Oblivion” launched in Japan this weekend (its second-to-last territory), lifting the pic’s worldwide tally to just $274.6 million.

Like Cruise with “Oblivion,” Sony banks on the overseas cache of its “After Earth” star Will Smith. It’s hard to say whether Smith will be enough to carry the film, however. His last film, “Men in Black 3,” scored with $445 million internationally, though the one before, “Seven Pounds,” earned just $98 million in 2008.

“After Earth” faces tough competition over the coming weeks from pictures including “Man of Steel,” “World War Z” and “The Lone Ranger,” as well as holdovers continuing to roll out internationally.

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