GOING BIONIC – DISTRIBUTING INDEPENDENT FILMS INTERNATIONALLY – CHANGE OF TITLE… Image

A few days ago, Jack Moik, the director of Nydenion, the German sci-fi film that my company represents, sent me a trailer of his film’s upcoming release in France. While I was impressed with the French language promo, one noticeable element was missing: the word “Nydenion.” That’s right, this February, Nydenion will forever be known in France as…Star Cruiser. Never mind the fact that bringing Nydenion to the silver screen was a 15-year development to production journey for Jack Moik. The French distributor went with Star Cruiser, because they felt it’s the most effective title to sell the picture to their target market.

Additionally, when we released Nydenion in Japan last month, we learned that a substantial number of Japanese filmgoers mistakenly think the “Ny” in Nydenion stands for New York. Thus, they refer to the film as “New York Denion.” I don’t know what stings (or amuses) Jack Moik more; having the title of his life’s work changed, or having it misinterpreted all together. Either way, title changes in are common in the world of distribution, because each “territory” knows better than anyone else how to sell a film to their audiences. Thus, today I wanted to cite a few notable theatrical releases that changed their film’s name for their international release. My point of doing so is to show you that no matter how big or small your film is, film title changes are designed to accomplish one main goal: to get “butts in seats,” and hence, increase the box office take.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Due to a significant amount of international disdain for American politics and economics these days, Paramount originally wanted to change the title of the film to The First Avenger, and drop “Captain America” from its title. However, their international film sales department protested the idea, because they felt the Captain America brand name outweighed the disdain for America internationally. Thus, a compromise was struck. The picture was released under its original title throughout most of the world, except for Russia, Ukraine and South Korea, where it was released as The First Avenger.

The Hangover 2 (2011)
Since there is no direct translation for the word, “hangover” in the French language, this film was released in France under the title, A Very Bad Trip 2.

Tangled (2010)
I always wondered why Disney didn’t just release this film as Rapunzel worldwide, since it is a modern retelling of Rapunzel. The answer is Disney feared that titling a film after a young woman character would keep young boys in America from wanting to see the film. Thus, they titled the film Tangled. However, Disney did release the film in Europe as Rapunzel.

Free Willy (1993)
This is my favorite case. When this wonderfully inspirational and equally cheesy film hit screens in 1993, Warner Brothers expected a sure-fire family friendly hit internationally. However, audiences in the UK got quite a laugh when this film’s trailers started to play theatrically, because the term “Willy” is a polite term for “penis” in the United Kingdom. Just imagine being a family in the UK, watching a “family film” trailer with your kids, and having the trailer’s narrator boast the equivalent of “help this troubled whale free his penis.” All jokes aside, I’m sure the faux pas negatively affected the box office performance of the film.

As you can see with the above examples, all title changes are meant to help your film’s box office performance. Thus, you should never be offended when a distributor wants to change your film’s title. Hell, you may actually want to rejoice when that happens, because it means he or she thinks your film will do well. Remember, distributors will never spend money to do a film title change unless they are sure the change will increase the film’s box office appeal.

Okay, everyone. That’s what I’ve got for you on the day I turn 44. I thank you for lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them again next Tuesday, after I return from attending the Super Bowl for my birthday.

I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.

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  1. anon2 says:

    Actually, anon, you got it backwards. What NYDENION DIDNT have, was money. Unlike IRON SKY. (In relative terms). What NYDEION DOES have, is a fan base. Again, unlike IRON SKY.

  2. anon says:

    It took two years after film was finished to hear it for first time for years. Nydenion has no fanbase, as wide release or publicity like Iron Sky but I do hope Nydenion will be part of new frontier of new kind European cinema.

  3. SWG says:

    Legal question- If you & a distributor decide to change the title of your film, is there a need to revised all contracts & agreements with the new title to protect the filmmaker interest.

  4. shamim Zaidi says:

    Very well done.

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