If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, goes the old saying. While the studios continue trying to crack the nut of getting Hollywood films into China, many of the majors also have a wider global strategy that’s proving lucrative both there and elsewhere: Local-language production. Hollywood’s involvement in the area is not new. But, increasingly, movies that are co-produced or distributed by the majors in such places as China, India, Germany, Italy, Spain, Korea and Latin America are finding themselves reaping strong returns.
The markets “are huge,” especially where local box office rivals that of Hollywood pictures. Homegrown films in China, for example, generally snag about 50% of the annual market share and are currently widely outperforming Hollywood films – this week’s Iron Man 3 notwithstanding. In India, the indigenous share of a $2B market can be as much as 90%. There’s an argument to be made that Chinese or Indian films don’t cross cultural borders, but with those kinds of numbers, “Why would the film need to travel?” posits an exec.
Richard Fox, EVP International for Warner Bros., says the studio is looking to develop relationships to make Chinese-language films. “There are a lot of moving pieces in assessing which countries to focus on,” but, “if it doesn’t recoup in the country of origin, we don’t get involved,” he says. Warner recently bet well in Mexico where its comedy Nosotros Los Nobles smashed records with the second biggest opening ever for a non-animated local film.
Another studio exec says local language production “is all relatively opportunistic.” It can be a distraction to try and stay abreast of local material, but “paying attention to local markets, filmmakers and stories around the world gets you more educated in terms of worldwide taste and emerging filmmakers.” Plus, “the minute you have a hit, it’s ‘How much money are we making? Why don’t we up this business?’” Here’s a look at how the studios are speaking in various tongues: