2014 World Cup: Own Goal for Movie Attendance? (EXCLUSIVE)

The world's biggest soccer tourney, a potential perfect movie storm for Brazilian market

Maracana Stadium Brazil

Brazil is synonymous with soccer, the beautiful game. The country is the only five-time world champion and by far the most successful country in the history of the FIFA World Cup, the next of which, the 20th, takes place in Brazil between June 12 and July 13, 2014.

Expectations are high in Brazil, especially after the national team won the recent Confederations Cup, beating reigning World Champions Spain 3-1 in the final at Rio’s Maracana Stadium on June 30.

But could the tournament turn out to be a massive own goal for Brazilian distributors and exhibitors, and indeed their colleagues across the globe, especially in Europe?

The World Cup, unlike any other event, is a truly global occasion that captures the world’s imagination and eyeballs for four full weeks. This is nearly double the length of the Olympic Games, which also comes to Rio de Janeiro in 2016, and covers five full weekends.

Globally, distributors and exhibitors have long been wary of the impact that the World Cup can have on the box office every four years, especially if the games coincide with the prime cinema-going hours.

In the past, exhibitors could counter program by scheduling a more female-orientated slate of films. But this is becoming less and less the case as more women tune into the games, and the games themselves become the magnet for social gatherings of both sexes in homes and bars across the world.

For Brazilian distributors and exhibitors, the 2014 World Cup could turn into something of a perfect storm as the month of July is far and away the biggest month at the Brazilian box office, and by a considerable margin.

In 2013 21.9 million tickets were sold in the month of July, the next best month being January with sales of 15.4 million admissions.

June is also an important month for the overall annual box office take, selling 13.3 million tickets in both 2013 and 2012, and across a wide range of titles rather than the few year-end blockbusters that boost the December and January figures.

In the past the June-July window in Brazil has been popular with a wide range of family friendly fare. Back in 2010, when the World Cup was played in South Africa over a similar period, ticket sales in June were just 8.2 million tickets in Brazil, and the fact that sales reached 17.8 million admissions in July 2010 can probably be put down to the fact that Brazil was knocked out of the tournament on July 2 by Holland. The games were also aired on TV in Brazil during the early afternoon, leaving the evening free for cinema going and novella watching. This will not be the case in 2014.

In Brazil, where it is expected the country will almost come to a stop during the tournament (it has in the past, even when it is not hosting the tournament), the games (and there are three games a day throughout the period June 12-26 2014) will kick off at 13.00, 16.00 and 19.00.

In most of Europe that translates to the more ‘damaging’ times – for the box office – of 18.00, 21.00 and 24.00, while North America should go relatively unscathed with the games kicking off on the East Coast at noon, 15.00 and 18.00.

The Brazil World Cup also has a record number of host cities, 12 in total, that cover all the main cinema going centres in Brazil from Porto Alegre in the south, to Fortaleza and Manaus in the north, via Curitiba, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Recife and Salvador. All of which will have fan zones with giant screens to further encourage audiences away from the movie houses.

While release schedules are yet to be set in stone, many of the majors will have to consider moving their Northern hemisphere summer blockbusters away from the World Cup window, especially in South America and Europe.

Currently Doug Liman’s “Edge of Tomorrow” is due to open in Brazil on June 6, the week before the cup kicks-off, as is “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” “How to Train Your Dragon 2” is currently slated for a June 20 release in Brazil, while other family friendly titles, such as Disney’s “Maleficent,” also fall in the World Cup window.

For the moment, the obvious major summer blockbuster scheduled to open globally during the period of the World Cup is Michael Bay’s “Transformers: Age of Extinction” which is listed for June 27 in Brazil and the U.S., but has already been pushed back to July 10 in the U.K. and July 17 in Germany.

Distributors and exhibitors will certainly be hoping that the World Cup does not herald an age of extinction for the box office of June and July 2014.

A former Moving Pictures editor, Christopher Pickard is chairman of the Latin American Travel Assn., and co-editor-in-chief of Redentor, the Rio de Janeiro Festival’s Daily.