With a massive overseas push for “The Hangover Part II,” Warner Bros. looks likely to overcome the box office aphorism that American comedies don’t travel.
The studio is opening the sequel in 40 international markets with more than 4,500 screens day and date with the U.S. release — a vivid contrast with the 2009 original,which launched overseas in a staggered pattern after the domestic start. Warner Bros. Veronika Kwan-Rubinek, head of international distribution, said the final screen count will top 7,500 by the time “Hangover 2” finishes its run, or 3,000 more than two years ago.
As much as “The Hangover” was a surprise hit Stateside two years ago, with $277 million domestic, it was equally unexpected in foreign markets with $190 million. That was an astounding number in the context of the history of R-rated comedies that performed well in the States and failed to gain traction internationally such as “Wedding Crashers” ($210 million domestic, $75 million international), “Knocked Up” ($148 million domestic, $70 million international) and “Jackass 3D” ($117 million domestic, $53 million international).
Hollywood survives on its ability to sell tentpole properties such as “The Dark Knight” or “Pirates of the Caribbean” in every major market from Munich to Manila, but when it comes to comedies — particularly those aimed at adults — it’s a far dicier proposition due to the ongoing problem of audiences of different cultures understanding the nuances of comedy. Distribution vets assert that, thanks to the combo of its out-there premise and the Las Vegas setting, “The Hangover” managed to clear those barriers with $36 million in the U.K., $20 million in Germany, $18 million each in Australia and France and $9 million in Spain.
“I’m still surprised at how well the first ‘Hangover’ did in Spain,” said Yolanda del Val Guilabert, head of acqusitions for Barcelona-based DeAPlaneta. “American comedies — like the ones starring Will Ferrell and Steve Carell — just don’t do that well. I think that what happened was that it was mostly guys that supported it, so the new one should do just as well or better.”
With its traditional Wednesday opening, France is the first to go with “The Hangover II,” released as “Very Bad Trip 2.”
“Every territory was asked to come up with a title, most representative of the humor and mood of the film, in their local vernacular,” Kwan-Rubinek said. “In France, it is hip to create titles from English phrases that are commonly used in the vernacular.”
In Spain, where the pic opens June 24, the title will be “Resacon 2, ahora en Tailandia!,” which translates to “Hangover 2, in Thailand Now!” In Latin America, the title’s “Que paso ayer? 2,” or “What Happened Yesterday? 2”; in Italy, the title is “Una notte da leoni 2,” or “A Roaring Night 2.”
Besides France, this weekend’s major markets are Italy, Belgium, Holland, Scandinavia, Australia, the U.K., Brazil and Mexico. Next weekend will see 13 more countries, including Germany and Russia.
In addition to the Hollywood preem last week and one in New York with the Cinema Society on Monday, Warners staged another premiere in Berlin on Wednesday night, followed by a junket today. Some of the talent will then travel to London to do press and talkshow appearances.
“We came to Berlin for our junket and premiere because it’s a big market and the reception to the first Hangover was terrific,” said Warner marketing topper Sue Kroll. “We’ve had weather delays due to the volcanic ash, but everything still went very well!”
Despite the raunchy content, the film’s gotten past censors in all markets, except for Malaysia. The first film did not pass in Malaysia and Warners has not received its censorship rating yet for the sequel.
There are also no plans for a launch in China, where there remains a strict limit on the number of U.S. films.
Rival distribs believe Warner has the goods for “The Hangover II” — which has received mixed reviews so far — to exceed the original’s international take via a strategy of taking advantage of the goodwill from the original and getting it out into the market before the other tentpoles (“X-Men: First Class,” “Green Lantern,” “Captain America,” “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” and the final “Harry Potter”) begin flooding the market.
“This summer’s just brutal,” one exec said, “so it makes sense to get this out there before it gets its legs cut off by all the franchise films.”