‘The Garfield Movie’ Is Impressive Overseas, ‘Mars Express’ And ‘Dragonkeeper’ Are Snubbed In U.S.

While we’re still a few weeks out from the U.S. release of The Garfield Movie, the Sony film started its international rollout this weekend in 18 markets, pulling in $22 million.

The Mark Dindal-directed pic performed strongest in Spain ($3.2m over five days), followed by Brazil ($2.2m), Italy ($1.6m), and Peru ($1.3m).

Sony’s internal comps for the film, as reported by Variety, suggest a strong launch. The numbers are 76% above DC League of Super-Pets and 41% higher than Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, and roughly equal to The Secret Life of Pets for the same markets.

In other global news, Kung Fu Panda 4 reached $520m global, which is just one million shy of surpassing Kung Fu Panda 3. While ticket prices have risen since the earlier film was released eight years ago, the theatrical marketplace has also shifted dramatically post-pandemic and a half-billion for this film is an enviable result. Deadline recently went in-depth on how Universal pulled off this box office feat and it’s worth a read.

Not to end this box office report on a dour note, but two international features also opened in the U.S. this past weekend and both went unnoticed by the public. GKIDS released the César-nominated French sci-fi pic Mars Express on 250 screens for $95.7k, or $383 per screen, while Viva Pictures launched the Spain/China co-pro Dragonkeeper on 760 screens for $429k, or $564 per screen.

It’s not that these distributors aren’t trying. Viva recently launched a two-for-one deal on children’s movie tickets to encourage families to see its films in theaters, while GKIDS has been positioning mature animated features in front of audiences for years. Despite these efforts, there remains minimal awareness for non-American animated features.

Even film reviews for such titles are slim to non-existent. Hundreds of film reviewers will give their takes on even the most run-of-the-mill major studio title, but less than a dozen film American film reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes bothered to give a perspective on Mars Express for the occasion of its release. And even less took a look at Dragonkeeper. Is this the fault of editors at publications not commissioning reviews or general disinterest in foreign animation from film reviewers? Slice it up however you want, but the bottomline is that if even film reviewers aren’t engaging with these films, what expectation can there be from the general public to show up for these titles?

If there’s a glimmer of hope, at least one type of foreign animated product continues to expand American theatrical market share: anime. The domestic release of Spy x Family Code: White has now grossed $7.8m, while earlier this year, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba – To the Hashira Training earned $17.6m during its theatrical stint.

It needs to be pointed out that both of these tv-derived titles benefitted from built-in audience awareness, a luxury not available to standalone titles like Mars Express and Dragonkeeper. There are no easy answers as to how to expand the audience base for foreign animation in the U.S., but whatever has been done up to now clearly isn’t working for most titles.

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