24 January, 2011
by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor
Figures are now emerging of the Top Ten international titles that saw the light of day in theatrical venues in the US and Canada in 2010. As one would expect, most of the films share the English language and come from the United Kingdom. Of the ten films cited in order of their theatrical box office take, three comprise the Swedish-language adaptations of the phenomenally successful Stieg Larsson trlogy. One film with French production origins (BABIES) and one title from Italy (I AM LOVE) made up the list of non-English language titles in this Top Ten. The only other non-English language film was last year's Oscar winner from Argentina, THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES.
Two of the top films on the list are still in theatrical release and both are major blockbusters with production roots in the United Kingdom. HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HOLLOWS still qualifies as an English film, despite its mega-production and release by a major studio conglomerate. Its box office take of $291 million by year's end places it securely in the Number One spot. Following behind with a strong $58 million take at the end of December (but still in wide release) is the royal drama THE KING'S SPEECH, which The Weinstein Company is positioning as a major Oscar contender (having just won the Producers Guild of America top prize this weekend).
The Number Three spot is THE GHOST WRITER, Roman Polanski's stylish political thriller, which secured a modest $15 million, despite its uniformly strong reviews and casting of such stars as Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan. The film was a French/German co-production between Polanski's production company, France 2 Cinema and Babelsberg Film Studios. Following on its tail at Number Four is 127 HOURS, the endurance morality tale from Oscar winner Danny Boyle, which fixed $11.3 million by year's end and will presumably get another boost after its lead James Franco is announced as a Best Actor Oscar nominee on Tuesday morning. If the film secures multiple nominations (perhaps for Best Film and Best Director), then its American distributor Fox Searchlight is expected to launch an intensive campaign to bring the film beyond the urban market.
Occupying positions 5, 6 and 9 on the list are the Swedish language adaptation of the Stieg Larsson uber-thrillers THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO ($10 million), THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE ($7.8 million) and THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET'S NEST ($5.5 million). All three films were released in North America by Music Box Films, a tiny distribution boutique company that also released the French crime epic MESSRINE. The success of this triple shot of Swedish films (prior to the eventual release in 2011 of an American version of the films by director David Fincher and starring Daniel Craig) has literally put Music Box on the map and has made it an instant player in the distribution game.
Focus Features, the distributor of the documentary film BABIES, perhaps was expecting a bigger impact with the film, which was widely promoted prior to its release last summer. Directed by French documentarian Thomas Balmes and funded by Canal Plus, the film secured $7.3 million during its North American theatrical run, bringing it in at Number Seven on our list.
The remaining films, clocking in at Number 8 and Number 10 respectively, were the Argentine drama THE SECRET OF THEIR EYES, which showed a respectable $6.5 million take after being the upset winner of last year's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, and I AM LOVE, the stylized romantic drama directed by Italy's Luca Guadagnino and starring Tilda Swinton, in a ravishing performance that has inexplicably fallen off the radar in this awards season.
Of course, monies taken in is not the same as film quality, but it is rather interesting to note the films that clicked at the box office (even at a substantially modest level compared to most Hollywood titles).