Warner Bros., the studio behind "Edge of Tomorrow," is mobilizing for an ambitious overseas debut even as initial tracking suggests that the Tom Cruise film faces fierce headwinds at the domestic box office. True movie stars, those actors and actresses who can ensure big opening weekends on their name alone, may be a diminishing breed, but the studio believes Cruise is still enough of a draw to pack in foreign audiences.
"He has a very strong track record with international audiences and it's a terrific film that's getting a great reaction," said Veronika Kwan Vandenberg, president of international distribution at Warner Bros. "We're in it for the long haul and we think it's going to play very well in a congested marketplace."
The film and Cruise face stiff competition from the worldwide roll-out of "Maleficent" and one of the few truly bankable actors working today, Angelina Jolie.
Kwan Vandenberg admits that the sci-fi film, which finds Cruise as a futuristic soldier stuck in a time loop, will likely play better internationally. To that end, Warner Bros. plans to debut "Edge of Tomorrow" in 29 territories next week, including such markets as the U.K., Brazil, Germany, Spain and Indonesia. The goal is to get the film into certain countries, particularly those with strong soccer teams, before the month-long World Cup kicks off on June 12.
"Edge of Tomorrow" has also snagged a berth in China, where it will debut on June 6, the same day it bows in the United States. From there it will premiere in Australia and Russia on June 5 and Japan on July 4.
At nearly every turn, "Edge of Tomorrow" will run up against "Maleficent." The Walt Disney Studios film stars Angelina Jolie as the "Sleeping Beauty" sorceress.
Of late, Cruise has been a bigger draw on foreign sands than he has in his own backyard. "Oblivion," "Jack Reacher" and "Knight & Day" all made between 60 and 70%of their global hauls from international territories. Of his six most recent films, only "Rock of Ages" did better domestically than it did overseas.
Jolie is also no slouch when it comes to foreign box office muscle. Both "Wanted" and "Salt" (a project originally developed for Cruise) racked up 60% of their worldwide grosses in foreign markets, while "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" pulled in 61% of its worldwide haul from abroad. Even the critically scorched "The Tourist" made $210 million or 70% of its total gross overseas, indicating that some things are indeed better when lost in translation.
"Maleficent" will debut next week in 46 countries, representing about 75% of its total international footprint. The only major markets where it won't debut are China and Japan, where it will premiere on June 20 and July 4, respectively.
"Edge of Tomorrow" will need to play well with foreign audiences if it will make a profit. Co-financed with Village Roadshow, the film cost $178 million to produce before marketing costs are taken into to account. Currently, the film is on track to debut to about $30 million, a paltry figure for such an expensive film.
It's not clear if Cruise will make it to China to promote "Edge of Tomorrow," but Warner Bros. said it hasn't ruled out the possibility of a visit to the world's second biggest film market.
Over the past two weeks, media reports have been quick to speculate that "Edge of Tomorrow" may be one of the summer's first big bombs based on the lack of enthusiasm by U.S. audiences. That may come to pass, but these reports downplay the centrality of foreign markets in today's globalized movie industry.
"There's too much of a mentality that if a movie doesn't succeed in North America then it's doomed," Phil Contrino, VP and chief analyst, at BoxOffice.com, said. "It's a really dated way of looking at things, particularly if a film is led by a big movie star with an international following."
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