Foreign (Box Office) Top Ten
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Sweden) $8.8
Scandinavia doesn't often claim the biggest hit, so good on them. Skål! In our modern marketplace, where more and more people wait for DVDs for anything other than films with 8 figure ad campaigns, 8 million is now a huge gross for a foreign film. The "hits" rarely make the kind of bank that they used to. Amélie's $33 back in 2001 seems like another era altogether. Even Pan's Labyrinth's $37 as recently as 2006 is a miracle. Especially when you stop to consider that Let The Right One In only managed $2 million in 2008 just two years later despite crazy passionate word of mouth.
Incidentally I tried to read The Girl... recently and just couldn't get into it but even just reading a small portion of the bestseller made this Nora Ephron spoof laugh out loud funny to me.
- The Secret in Their Eyes (Argentina) $5.4 Oscar winner
- My Name is Khan (India) $4.0
- A Prophet (France) $2.0 Oscar nominee
- Kites (India) $1.6
Interesting that this internationally-minded effort with American setting, Mexican and Indian stars, and even an American "remix" didn't do any better than more traditional Bollywood entries did.
- Raajneeti (India) $1.4
- Mic-Macs (France) $.7
The latest from the visually gifted Jean Pierre-Jeunet (Amélie). Fun movie but also a bit exhausting. I suspect audiences will take to it in greater numbers on DVD where you can watch it in (set)pieces.
- Vincere (Italy) $.6
A decent gross I suppose but IFC waited way too long after this film's first explosion of buzz to open it. Especially since Italy didn't even submit it for Oscar consideration. There was no use waiting since it couldn't use Oscar as platform anyway. And some films with passionate fans do better if people know that they're not eligible for the foreign film Oscar. People like to be outraged. Why not September or October back in 2009 hot off its Cannes buzz with an attempt to generate faux 'look what Oscar's missing' outrage?
- Ajami (Israel) $.6 Oscar nominee
- Raavan (India) $.5
Starring the married superstars Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai
You'll notice that the top grossers are from Bollywood -- have they usurped France's spot as most reliable in the US market? -- or are Oscar holdovers. A few of these used the Oscars as a platform rather than risking regular release. Secret only showed itself in theaters once it could use the Oscar win as advertisement but that's a risky strategy since you can't guarantee a win. The two rather robust contenders it beat on Oscar night, France's A Prophet and Germany's The White Ribbon, had twin buzz trajectories: hot ticket Cannes debut, Cannes trophies, well regarded auteur at the helm, rave reviews. Ribbon opened with only those things to guide it last December. A Prophet, like Secret, banked on Oscar love for ticket sales, only opening after the expected but not guaranteed nomination. Box office result: Slightly smaller box office for Prophet than Ribbon.
What does it mean? Interpret as you will. I prefer to interpret things as "open when the film is ready" and stop making audiences wait! This is the age of gimme it now and film distribution is lagging compared to tv and music, which both seem to be (slowly) adapting to the instant gratification / 'on my terms' culture.
But then numbers are highly interpretable. It might simply indicate that Oscar means nothing unless you win.
FWIW: The Milk of Sorrow, Peru's first Oscar nominee, is the only 2009 Foreign Film nominee that never opened in the US. Such a shame. Sorrow's director Claudia Llosa was just invited to join AMPAS's directors branch.
My favorite foreign release of 2010?
Italy's I AM LOVE improved remarkably on second viewing and I was fond enough of it the first time. It's just ravishing and my only real concern about it the first time through was what seemed like a sexphobic denouement. On second viewing, I believe I misread the film initially, taking the narrative happenings too literally when the images were the key. Most of the film is shot, designed, scored and acted with a more symbolic, sensual, operatic mindset in mind. I suddenly have a lot of things to say about it but it feels like the kind of movie you only discuss once people have seen it. So I'll wait a bit more.
[box office note: It's currently grossed just under over half a million in limited release but it should end up as one of the top foreign grossers of the year when the year wraps.]
Oscar buzz for 2010?
Those Oscar nominees we've just discussed are ineligible for further honors -- they already had their Oscar year -- so we look to Cannes buzz to guide us in predicting the Best Foreign Language Film Submissions for 2010. As for I Am Love... I think it's probably not so Oscarable (despite exquisite craftsmanship) but if it catches on in theaters, you never know. Oscar likes an arthouse hit.