'Deadpool' arrives in US this weekend after overseas success

The superhero movie 'Deadpool' opened earlier this week in some countries and has done well financially. What part does international box office play in Hollywood's current thinking?

Joe Lederer/Twentieth Century Fox/AP
'Deadpool' stars Ryan Reynolds (l.) and Morena Baccarin (r.).

“Deadpool” is just now arriving in US theaters, but the superhero has already made a very good showing elsewhere in the world.

The comic-book movie opened on Feb. 9 in some parts of the world prior to its Feb. 12 American opening. And “Deadpool” set some records, with the film having the best British opening for a movie released by Twentieth Century Fox that is rated 15, which is similar to the US R rating. “Deadpool” achieved this by opening with more than $3 million on Feb. 10. 

It also had the best debut for a movie rated R in the Philippines, taking in $357,000, and the best opening for a movie rated M18 in Singapore (also similar to an R rating) as well as the best superhero film debut in Belgium, where it grossed $270,000.

“Deadpool” is the story of Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), also known as Deadpool, an unstable, fourth-wall-breaking antihero. 

The R rating for “Deadpool” sets itself apart from other superhero movies, most of which are usually rated PG-13. 

The international numbers for "Deadpool” so far are wowing industry watchers. How big a part does foreign box office play in today’s Hollywood thinking? 

Moviefone staff wrote in 2013, “It's become increasingly common for Hollywood's would-be blockbusters to open all over the globe before they finally make it to our own shores.” Why? “More than anything else, the shift reflects how the international market, once just gravy for Hollywood, has eclipsed the domestic market as the main source of revenue for mainstream theatrical releases,” staff wrote.

Foreign box office is now a major part of a movie’s revenue.

There are certain genres that traditionally perform well outside American borders. “Large blockbusters (particularly action and sci-fi) play well overseas and have a built in fan-base that is rabidly enthusiastic for this type of entertainment,” Paul Dergarabedian of the entertainment analysis firm Rentrak told CBS.

Superhero movies like "Deadpool" often perform well worldwide, with "The Avengers," "Avengers: Age of Ultron," and "Iron Man 3" all making the list of the top 10 highest-grossing movies of all time internationally.

Besides the appeal of the superheroes themselves, another factor helps these movies find a global audience, wrote Brent Lang of TheWrap. "The special-effects driven and animated films that movie studios are so busy exporting have the advantage of being heavy on spectacle and light on dialogue, allowing them to overcome culture barriers to be enjoyed by a wide and remote audience," Lang wrote.

Movie results can be different in other countries, however. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which is now the highest-grossing movie of all time in the US without adjusting for inflation, has not set the same record in the world. 2009’s “Avatar” remains the highest-grossing film of all time internationally.

“’Star Wars’ is a distinctly American franchise,” Forbes writer Scott Mendelson wrote. “... The nostalgia and firmly entrenched cultural associations regarding the 38-year-old cinematic folktale gives ‘The Force Awakens’ much of its emotional pull and would-be importance.”

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