That puts even more importance on those If-It’s-Tuesday-It-Must-Be-Germany publicity swings that the big stars hate to work but must (as long as they have plenty of agent-negotiated perks). Barbell-brained Arnold Schwarzenegger at least had sense enough to barnstorm around the world for his big flicks like no one before or since. Tom Cruise took a page out of Arnold’s book, and then Brad Pitt took a page out of Tom’s book. Which is why Warner Bros.’ Troy did horribly here but terrifically there, thus saving the tree-hugging derrière of Warner Pic’s head honcho, Alan Horn. (Now he’s counting on foreign to save Poseidon’s sunk box office. But missing from the pic was everything that made Irwin Allen’s 1972 Poseidon Adventure a delicious romp, including the campy and kvetchy Shelley Winters character.)
With all the competing entertainment choices that Americans have, foreign audiences still see films as primo recreation. Plus, the international marketplace isn’t as saturated with megaplexes as we are here; Russia and China and Latin America are just beginning to build movie theaters like crazy. All this has meant that studio bosses and their bean counters aren’t so quick to sell off or even split foreign rights to hedge risk. Brad Grey put an end to that when he took over at Paramount Pictures (though his other idea to replace the studio commissary with a Daily Grill, as if Paramount were a concourse at LAX, is crazy talk, I tell you). In addition, Grey dismantled Paramount’s joint foreign distribution system with Universal (UIP); now his studio will be self-distributing in 15 of the major foreign territories by 2007.
This puts pressure on U.S.-made films to appeal to overseas audiences. For a long time, the mantra among moguls was that American comedies didn’t travel (unless they were animated). It was that cultural thing. So, in 1999, Universal sold off foreign for American Pie. When it turned out that teen titties were appreciated everywhere, the studio kicked itself (or rather, Wall Street slapped around Edgar Bronfman Jr., whose Seagram was Universal’s owner back then). By 2000, Universal had learned its lesson: Meet the Parents (and later its sequel, Meet the Fockers) did boffo box office in this country and around the globe, and Universal raked in all of it.
So what can we expect from the rest of the summer, here and foreign-wise? 20th’s X-Men 3 will fare well, though Brett Ratner’s violent, Hard-R direction was ridiculously given a PG-13 rating. Not even Universal thinks The Breakup is funny, despite Vince Vaughn’s best efforts. (Please, can we accept once and for all that Jennifer Aniston is a movie stiff?) Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is gonna kill both here and overseas. Warner Bros.’ Superman Returns, now a metrosexual in Metropolis, will bring more than respectable returns. Paramount’s World Trade Center will be box-office challenged, despite Oliver Stone’s international luster, because of its 9/11 subject matter. And the anticipation is that M. Night Shyamalan’s Lady in the Water from Warner Bros. will drown, and, pity, not even near a topless beach in Cannes.