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Fox International President Tomas Jegeus Encourages Investment in Foreign Markets

Tomas Jegeus
Eric Charbonneau/REX/Shutterstock

Film exhibitors should think of locally produced films around the world as complimentary to movies made in Hollywood and not as competition, Fox International president Tomas Jegeus told a CinemaCon audience Monday morning.

Jegeus stressed that even with the huge potential for U.S. films overseas, growing film markets still give most of their business to locally made films.

The phenomenon has been epitomized in the world’s fastest-growing film market, China, where the huge popularity of American films is still outstripped by movies made in the Middle Kingdom. As China’s box office overall grew 48.7% in 2015 to $7.1 billion, some 62% of the receipts went to movies made in the country, Jegeus said. And seven of the 10 highest-grossing films in China were made in the country.

That pattern appears to have grown in the first quarter of 2016, with 88% of the box office going to films made in China — though that huge take is driven largely by one film, the blockbuster “The Mermaid,” with a global take of $552 million.

“If you are not in the local movie business, you are not 100% in the movie business,” said Jegeus. “Some of the greatest cinema is created in languages other than English.”

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Jegeus said it remains unclear how the growth of motion pictures released via the Internet will impact theatrical distribution. He said he hopes that the wide dissemination of foreign language material will inspire audiences to seek out new content not just online, but in theaters.

He cited the Netflix program “Narcos,” which had as much as 30% to 40% of its dialogue in Spanish, as a foreign-themed program that found a substantial audience in the U.S. “Will this help and grow this interest theatrically?” Jegeus asked. “I don’t know that yet. But it’s something we want to do: Grow that audience and whet their appetite. … It’s something we have to work on together.”

In another example of the power of locally made films, Jegeus cited India, where 84% of the $1.6 billion in box office last year went to films made in the country. He noted that those films can pack a bit of punch in other countries — citing “PK,” which made 32% of its box office outside of India.

Fox International has brought in $1.1 billion with films produced and acquired overseas since its 2008 inception, Jegeus said. He said the business also benefits the parent studio by helping find talented filmmakers around the globe. The Fox unit focuses on commercial films, not art house fare, he said.

Concluding the panel, the Fox exec said: “A healthy local industry assures a health global industry.”