When I was a kid in the mid to late seventies, “playing games” meant we were either playing pick-up baseball on the fields behind Holy Cross church, or we were folding our board games onto the thick shag carpets of our parents’ living rooms. Companies like Atari, Sega and Nintendo were still a few years away from injecting our lives with incredible video games riddled with mind-blowing graphics. So, once the sun collapsed into the Kansas wheat fields and it was too dark to play outside, my friends and I were regulated to either watching TV or listening to eight-track tapes while we played board games for the rest of the night.

Of course, we usually opted for music and board games because our parents were too busy watching TV to supervise us. “Monopoly” and “Operation” were my two favorite board games, which are ironic because today I’m still obsessed with owning property (“Monopoly”) and my wife is a doctor (“Operation”). I also played “Battleship” on occasion, which brings us to today’s article.

Kyle N., one of the readers of this column, contacted me recently to ask about the distribution history behind the “Battleship” (2012). Kyle correctly pointed out that even after this film sunk domestically, it has gone on to earn some serious green, (or whatever colors international currencies come in), throughout several worldwide territories. The unexpected reversal of fortune for “Battleship,” has tipped its scales to the positive side of becoming a financial success.

Thus, today we’re sinking into the theatrical release of “Battleship,” and discussing the winners and losers throughout the process. Before we start, I’d like to thank Kyle N., for sparking this topic and for reading “Going Bionic.” Now let’s launch our collective torpedo into “Battleship.”

The budget for “Battleship,” the Peter Berg directed board game turned 3-D action film, was a steep $209 million dollars. The film also spent about $40 million more in P&A costs.

Release Dates
“Battleship” was originally supposed to be released domestically in 2011, but the release was held back until May 18, 2012. Additionally, the picture was released in the UK on April 11, 2012, with its world premiere actually opening in Japan on April 3, 2012.

Reverse Release Strategy
One significant strategic move made by Universal Studios during its distribution of  “Battleship,” was that they allowed the picture to be released in Japan and the UK, before it bowed on screens in the United States. Traditionally, a major studio’s domestic release date will precede its international release, because domestic success often times triggers financial success abroad. More importantly, a “hit” at home also helps set the prices the studio can demand for their “gem” from international buyers and distributors.

Universal Studios must have known that “Battleship” was destined to sink at home, so they most likely allowed their international buyers to release the $209 million dollar dog first, because if the foreign territories waited until after the U.S. release, the picture’s anemic performance in its home country would have almost certainly killed any hope of foreign success.

Domestic Release Statistics
“Battleship” was released domestically on May 18, 2012, on 3,690 screens. During its opening weekend, the film earned a respectable $25,543,825, which earned it second place at the box office. But, unfortunately, the film died a quick death thereafter, as it only totaled $64,996,175 as of July 22, 2012.

International Release Statistics
“Battleship” performed far better internationally, earning $237,602,860, bringing its worldwide box office total to an astonishing $302,599,685 so far.

The Winners
The foreign distributors won big on this “Battleship,” because they paid very little for this projected dog-to-be, and thus, none of them could have ever expected such a financial surge from a film destined to tank in the United States.

The Losers (Well, Kind of….)
Universal Studios would have earned far more money if “Battleship” made its international numbers domestically and its domestic numbers internationally. However, the eventual success of “Battleship,” clearly increased the film’s financial worth and global earning potential in ancillary markets like DVD, television and cable sales, as well as Internet streaming.

Blueprint For Future Releases
I highly doubt studios like Universal will rely on the foreign box office to bail out their overpriced productions that flop mightily in the USA. But, I do think we may see the powers-that-be release more “less than brilliant” tent pole films internationally, prior to their domestic release, in the hopes of capturing interest from cultures that may not possess the same cinematic preferences as the United States.

Okay, people! That’s what I have for you today. Thank you all once again for lending me your eyes and I look forward to borrowing them again next Tuesday.

I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.

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  1. shamim Zaidi says:

    Very well written.

  2. Miles Maker says:

    Your final paragraph summed it up for me. You have no idea what you’re talking about. As China overtakes the U.S. by 2018, it’s apparent that dwindling U.S. box office revenue is decreasing in significance and foreign revenue is absolutely essential to sustain the Hollywood model. In fact, 75% of studio revenue is now foreign sales, so please open your eyes to the bigger picture and come to grips with the reality that Americans are no longer the preferred consumer. Do you think American box office receipts will rise to their former glory days? You say, “in the hopes of capturing interest from cultures that may not possess the same cinematic preferences as the United States” when the studios are in fact making movies for THEM, not us. Do some research–explore the burgeoning markets like Japan, Brazil, etc. and you’ll see we’re shipping our movies overseas just like we sent domestic jobs packing.

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