Rotten potatoes

Fri, Jan 11, 2013, 00:00

TARA BRADYon the idiosyncrasies of the Irish box office

A lot of studios spent a lot of money on high rotation TV spots over Christmas, and not all of it was money well spent.

Case in point: Playing for Keeps. The Gerard Butler vehicle spluttered into ninth place at the Irish box office. Distributor Lionsgate was surely hoping for better than €57,918 from 49 sites on the back of its heavy advertising campaign. But hey, the same film’s a No 1 box office smash in Russia. So that’s where the Butler loyalists are hiding out.

Quartet fared little better, hitting the 10th spot with €49,265 from 21 locations. Is this the end of the Grey Pound boom? And so soon after a Bafta nod for Best Exotic Marigold Hotel? Perhaps not, but it does illustrate a problematic industry disjoin. It’s all well and good making films aimed at a certain demographic; it’s another matter marshalling that demographic toward a multiplex near you. Marigold required time to make its $134,388,807 global haul, and today’s theatrical circuit doesn’t have time.

The studios know that TV ad bombardment and engineered internet frenzies work just fine for casual Bond and Avengers fans. The same strategies, however, are proving less successful with older, more discerning demographics, who still prefer word-of-mouth recommendation to obeying the newest billboard on the block.

Without the backing – the patient backing – of a sizable studio such as Fox (the imprint that scored with Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), the incoming wave of Grey Pound films, including Quartet, won’t hang around in cinemas long enough to generate the necessary number of personal recommendations.

Meanwhile, sitting pretty at the top of the chart for the fourth week straight we find The Hobbit. The Impossible, another heavily promoted title, is a new entry in the second spot but will have to hold on big if it expects to keep pace with Life of Pi at No 3.

With €977,237 already in the ROI kitty, Ang Lee’s all-ages 3D extravaganza looks certain to sail past the million mark this week. It’s good but it’s to be expected: the same film has topped £17,857,428 in the UK and $392,367,788 internationally. Most of that business – 76.7 per cent of it to date – has come from outside the US.

This is getting to be a habit. There are quite a few discrepancies between the final US box office chart and the worldwide tallies for 2012. And most of those are pointing toward blossoming international territories. The Americans loved The Avengers (their No 1 film) but not as much as the Rest of World loved Skyfall (only America’s fourth favourite title), which made 71 per cent of its $1,023,709,483- and-counting box office outside the States. And that’s before it opens in the People’s Republic of China.

Tastes are expanding. But can the movies hang around long enough to fulfil them?

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