International Day was a special treat at last year’s ShoWest convention, and while this year was a tamer affair with far less exclusive footage premieres and the like, it was still an informative day for those who know nothing about the international film market beyond the fact that there’s a lot of money coming in from those markets, as we see every Sunday when box office is reported. One thing that most people forget when reporting international box office is that this is money from literally hundreds of countries, each with their own languages and cultures, so it’s a challenge for American-based companies to market their movies to so many different people. This was all too evident from the cultural diversity present at the seminars and presentations at this year’s International Day at ShoWest.
Earlier in the day, there was a seminar featuring all of the heads of the international divisions of the major studios, which we’ll discuss at the end of this piece, but the most interesting part of the day tends to be the international film presentations, which was notable last year for the early footage shown from Disney’s Enchanted and Paul Greengrass’ The Bourne Ultimatum, both huge international hits.
There was nothing quite that major this year, as the presentations began with Warner Bros. International, represented by Veronica Kwan-Rubinek, President of Distribution for WB International. They decided to use their time to focus on the international foreign language films that have been funded and distributed by WB in other countries, rather than talking or showing anything from Warner Bros.’ big summer movies, presumably because they were saving it all for their Thursday “The Big Picture” presentation. Instead, she talked about some of Warner Bros.’ international hits from the past and future, with the ones that had the most significant American play being Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, Pedro Almodovar’s Volver and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s A Very Long Engagement.
Some of the coolest new foreign films WBI is producing include Der Rote Baron from Germany, which stars Lena Headey (“Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” 300) and Joseph Fiennes. The presentation included some impressive dogfight footage surrounding a zeppelin that looked similar to the Dean Devlin-produced Flyboys, maybe because that movie dealt with some of the same WWI air battles, though obviously from a different perspective. In Japan, they’re working on the animated sci-fi movie The Skycrawlers from Ghost in the Shell director Mamoru Oshii, which mixes 2D and 3D animation to impressive effect, and they’ll soon release L: Change the World, the third film in the popular “Death Note” series, this one planned for a U.S. release next year.
Warner Bros. is also producing Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s long-anticipated new film Micmacs à Tire-larigot, which stars Dany Boon, who has had memorable roles in Patrice Leconte’s My Best Friend and The Valet, as well as Dominique Pinon, who has been in just about every Jeunet film so far. They’re also excited about a comedy called Seuls Two from Ramzy Bedia and Eric Judor, who appeared in the French hit Double Zero (and no, I’d never seen or heard of it or them either.)
After working with Warner Bros. International on his last few Spanish films, Guillermo del Toro is producing the Mexican drama Cosas Insignificantas, the feature debut of Andrea Martinez, and Warner Bros. is also making in-roads into the world of Bollywood with their first Indian production Chandhini Chowk to China, an action-comedy starring Akshay Kumar.
While I’m sure I’ll try to see most of these movies–that is, if any of them are released in the United States–it was somewhat disappointing that Warner Bros. International took this route, considering the amazing slate that Warner Bros. has this summer and beyond.
This meant that it was up to Andrew Cripps, President of Paramount Pictures International (PPI), to save the day, and sadly, they didn’t have any new footage to show despite having an impressive summer line-up. What’s amazing about PPI is that this is only their second year in business after splitting from Universal to create its own separate international distribution branch. Of course, the primary focus of his presentation was their three big summer movies, Iron Man, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Kung Fu Panda
They showed the Iron Man trailer that went out last week with 10,000 BC before getting into “Indiana Jones,” showing a trailer that included the international versions of the title and some of the text in different languages. Cripps told the audience that the movie would be going out with over 12,000 prints–it’s unclear if this was just internationally or worldwide including the U.S. and Canada–dubbed into 16 languages and subtitled with 40 more, and Paramount will have a new trailer debuting in April. They also will rerelease the first three “Indiana Jones” movies in a collected DVD and there are plans of screening the first three movies in theaters before the release of “Crystal Skull.” (Cripps wasn’t clear if this was internationally or domestically, which was one of the problems with this seminar, as we saw with the announcement of the earlier international release date for Iron Man.)
Cripps stated the obvious when he mentioned that Kung Fu Panda is a big film for DreamWorks Animation, claiming it to be the “next Shrek”, not only being their first movie that will be rolling out on IMAX screens–though not in 3D as originally presumed–but they’re really hoping for the movie to be a franchise ala Shrek and Madagascar with Cripps hinting that they’d like to produce one or two sequels. They showed the most recent trailer with the promise of a more “action-driven” trailer to come out in April. (We saw an unfinished version of the full movie later that night, but we’ll decline from commenting for now.)
PPI finished their presentation with a reel of upcoming Paramount and DreamWorks films starting with Drillbit Taylor starring Owen Wilson, which seemed like a slightly different trailer for international markets with more of the lovely Leslie Mann and her relationship with Drillbit, scenes from the Iron Man and Indiana Jones trailer we’d already seen.
The newest thing they had to show was a teaser for the sequel to DreamWorks’ 2005 animated hit Madagascar, which was originally going to be called Madagascar: The Crate Escape, which we discussed here, and they also showed some footage from Stiller’s Tropic Thunder, mostly showing Jack Black’s character talking about the movie, though it wasn’t clear if it was Black talking about Tropic Thunder or if it was him in character being interviewed about the war movie being made in the film, because it’s somewhat of a movie-within-a-movie, just to make things more confusing. They also showed the cute international trailer for Gurindher Chadha’s new romantic teen comedy Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging, which looks to be more in the vein of her hit Bend It Like Beckham.
Next up was Mark Zucker of Sony Pictures Releasing International, who knew that they didn’t have a movie on the level of Spider-Man this summer, but they had high hopes for Will Smith’s Hancock, and they showed the still impressive trailer which features a lot of Michael Bay level action.
The rest of their reel kicked off with the trailer for the horror film Prom Night, which starts off like some sort of prom from “The O.C.” before turning into a typical slasher thriller within a hotel as they’re stalked and killed by an escaped psycho. It was followed by Patrick Dempsey’s romantic comedy Made of Honour (spelled this way for the European market), which also looked cute and funny with Michelle Monaghan looking great, as always, although the trailer seems to give away the entire plot of the movie. The presentation continued with the trailer for Adam Sandler’s You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, which looked mostly the same, the red band trailer of David Gordon Green and Seth Rogen’s Pineapple Express, again nothing we hadn’t seen already, and the trailer for Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly’s Step Brothers, which looks subtler than Talladega Nights in terms of the characters, although these two were great together in that movie, and there looks to be a lot of funny bits in this trailer, even if it doesn’t seem as immediate. (It’s interesting that both Paramount and Sony used The Hives as the music for their show reels, except while Paramount went with the tired and played-out “Hate to Say I Told You So,” Sony went for the much cooler “Try It Again” off their new album.)
Sony wrapped up their presentation with the behind-the-scenes footage from Quantum of Solace that you can watch here. The most interesting reveal from the footage is that there will be even more conflict and friction from the newest 00 Agent played by Daniel Craig and Judi Dench’s M, and that Craig had been given stunt driving training as well as training on a jet boat, meaning that there will likely be a couple major chase scenes on the road and water in the upcoming movie. (The footage also shows Craig crashing through a glass roof of a building while fighting with an assailant and hanging from ropes.)
Duncan Clark of Universal Pictures International prefaced their reel by saying that some of the stuff for Wanted and The Incredible Hulk was being saved for their presentation on Thursday, but they still had the most impressive presentation with trailers or photos from almost all of their ’08 releases.
Universal is all about comedy in April with George Clooney’s third movie, the football rom-com Leatherheads kicking off the month, and they showed the international trailer which features more story and footage than the American one, playing up the love triangle between Clooney, John Krasinski and Renee Zellweger, looking very much like Clooney’s movies with the Coen Brothers. That’s followed by Jason Segel’s “romantic disaster” movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall–the red band trailer was shown–and Baby Mama, reuniting former “Weekend Update” duo Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, which probably got the most laughs–pregnancy humor plays well internationally apparently, better than the early days of football.
They did show some stills from The Incredible Hulk including a look at Tim Roth’s Abomination, which does look very different from the comic book version i.e. no fins/gills coming out of his head, followed by the full trailers for Wanted and Guillermo del Toro’s
Hellboy II: The Golden Army, pretty much the same trailers we’ve already seen already. (As a big fan of Mark Millar and J.G. Jones’ comic book and knowing that the movie will be different, I’m really excited by what I’ve seen of Timur Bekmambetov’s vision for the movie version, which might be the most exciting action movie since the first Matrix!)
The entire trailer for the Abba musical Mamma Mia! was shown, and it was surprising how little of Meryl Streep it shows, and even less of the trademark musical numbers, and that was followed by the already-seen international trailer for Wild Child, Emma Roberts’ follow-up to last year’s Nancy Drew, which frankly looked like a cross between Hilary Duff’s Material Girls, Amanda Bynes’ What a Girl Wants and The Princess Diaries, and was only saved by its ending scene with Hot Fuzz star Nick Frost dressed as an outlandish hairdresser character named Mr. Christopher.
The only really new footage shown in Universal’s international presentation was a first look at their first animated film The Tale of Despereaux directed by Gary (Seabiscuit) Ross and featuring the voice cast of Matthew Broderick, Robbie Coltrane, Frances Conroy, Emma Watson, Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Kline, William H. Macy, Tracey Ullman and Sigourney Weaver. It’s a fantasy fairy tale about two outcast mice named Despereaux Tilling (Broderick) and Roscuro (Hoffman) who travel on different paths on their quest to rescue Princess Pea (voiced by Emma “Hermione” Watson in her first non-Potter role).
Universal held back any footage from the long-anticipated 3-quel The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor and the Paul W.S. Anderson remake of Death Race starring Jason Statham, though we did see some pictures of Statham behind the wheel of his car. Likewise, they only showed stills for Clint Eastwood’s 1920’s thriller Changeling, starring Angelina Jolie, and Ron Howard’s Frost/Nixon, both which are thought to be early frontrunners in next year’s Oscar race.
Earlier in the day, there was an interesting seminar called “The Industry Speaks Out: An Open Dialogue of the Worldwide Marketplace,” which featured representatives from all the international studio branches, except for Warner Bros., possibly a no-show because they were moderating the luncheon which followed. On hand were Andrew Cripps and Mark Zucker joined by David Kosse, President of Universal Pictures International, Paul Hanneman, the co-President of 20th Century Fox International and Anthony Marcoly from Disney’s international division. Representing the international exhibition industry was Paul Heth from Rising Star Media, who handles distribution in Russia, and Tim Richards, CEO of Vue Entertainment, who talked about the amazing all-digital multiplex they had built in Hull, England.
Moderator Eric Mika, Vice-President of The Hollywood Reporter did a great job asking all of the panelists sharp and pointed questions that made it an informative hour as each of the studio heads talked about the issues faced by the studios in the international markets, some of which also affect those in North America. A big issues is the upcoming recession but all of the panelists agreed that the movie business is somewhat “recession-proof” since people tend to give up expensive dinners and theater, rather than not going to the movies. They also saw a lot of potential growth in booming markets like Russia, China and India, and the Middle East was also noted as a growing market. A few of them discussed how it was important to approach each market separately as their own market rather than lumping every other country besides the United States as “international.”
One of the big things contributing to the growth of the movie theatre business is the advent and evolution of 3D Digital technology and content, and that was definitely one of the hot topic at this year’s ShoWest with 3D being taken a lot more seriously in the industry since the “Hannah Montana” movie (it was mentioned a lot in the last few days) has shown that moviegoers are willing to pay a premium for the 3D experience, as well as it helping with the fight against piracy. Cripps and Marcoly both talked about the number of movies (10!) they have in production for 2009 that will be created using 3D technology, while Fox will have Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and Avatar released in 3D. (ComingSoon.net will have an exclusive interview with Real-D Chairman/CEO and Co-Founder Michael V. Lewis sometime next week talking about the state of 3D and his company’s involvement.)
Piracy continues to be a huge factor in the industry even with new technology that makes it more desirable to see movies in theatres and harder for people to record movies using camcorders, and Mika tried putting the panelists on the spot by pointing out how all of them have mentioned how their business was booming despite all the talk of “piracy killing the movie business.” Cripps mentioned that in Spain alone, there were 30 million legal DVDs bought in one year and 200 million illegal downloads and piracy is still a big issue when one considers the rising costs of production and marketing, which eats into the box office grosses being reported.
The coolest thing said repeatedly at the seminar was how internet sites (like ComingSoon.net) have greatly helped the international markets since information is a lot more readily available to world markets than print newspapers and magazines which tend to have far more limited circulation. This means that the international audiences are far more well-informed and the internet has made it easier to reach a specialized international audience. That’s pretty cool if you think about how well many movies have been doing internationally in the past few years, often making even more money there than in the United States.