The State of Wonder Woman Internationally

Posted September 15, 2017 by Luke Miller in Movies

I’m just going to go ahead and tell you that today I’ll be straying into territory where I might not know what I’m talking about. (Yes, yes, “not terribly dissimilar from most times.” I hear you.) Specifically, I’ll be talking about movies. Even more specifically, the film industry and international markets.

I don’t think I’ll be blowing anyone’s mind or setting off any breaking news alerts to say that international box office numbers are increasingly important compared to domestic numbers. They’re probably even more significant now. Every time you see a list of the top movies at the box office, it’s always domestic numbers. (It’s also never adjusted for inflation, which is an entirely separate issue, but I’ll spare you that rant for now.)

For example, the top movie of 2017 so far is Beauty and the Beast at $504 million. But really, it’s The Fate of the Furious, which did $225 million domestically, but clocks in at $1.23 billion worldwide. That’s right: 81% of that film’s gross came overseas. That’s an insanely high percentage, but Beauty and the Beast is sitting at 60% right now, too. (When I started writing this article, that was true, by the time I finished it, Beauty and the Beast had increased its worldwide take to $1.26 billion. But you get the point.)

My new, entirely-made-up-and-based-on-one-week’s-worth-of-research rule-of-thumb is that if a film in 2017 doesn’t at least double its box office take with international receipts, someone will be disappointed, regardless of how much money it makes at home.

Why do I bring this up? Well, first, The Avengers seems to have been the turning point. I’m not going to claim that this single movie changed the way movies are consumed worldwide. This could be coincidence or there could be other things going on with markets that I simply don’t understand. But here are a few facts: The Avengers was released May 4, 2012. Since then, 30 more “superhero” movies, according to BoxOfficeMojo, have been released. I’m going to throw a few out that I don’t feel are actually “superhero” movies – Kick-Ass 2, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Big Hero 6, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Batman: The Killing Joke, The LEGO Batman Movie, and Power Rangers. I think most would agree those seven, for various reasons, don’t quite feel like true “superhero” movies.

Counting The Avengers, that leaves us with 24 movies over the span of a little over five years to look at. Skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to read a long list of 24 movie titles, but here’s the list: The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises, Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, The Wolverine, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, Fantastic Four, Deadpool, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil War, X-Men: Apocalypse, Suicide Squad, Doctor Strange, Logan, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Wonder Woman, and Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Those movies made, on average, $302.7 million dollars domestically. (That’s even including Fantastic Four!) And still, they averaged $498.8 million dollars internationally. So, on average, 62.65% of those movies’ box office earnings came from foreign markets. All but one of those 24 movies made just as much money abroad as it did in America.

But again, this isn’t news. What was news to me was what movie it was: Wonder Woman. Of that bunch of films, Wonder Woman is the fourth-highest grossing domestically, with $410.5 million. It is 18th internationally. 18th! Now, granted, it’s still got some time to climb. It’s only been out for about three months, and it’s sitting at $405.8 million. There’s a good chance it’ll surpass Deadpool ($420M) and Suicide Squad ($420.5). But I’m not sure it can topple Thor: The Dark World ($438.2M). And Spider-Man: Homecoming, which came out a month after Wonder Woman, is already almost $100 million ahead ($495.7M)

But let’s just look at the three most recent superhero movies for comparison’s sake: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Wonder Woman, and Spider-Man: Homecoming. They are all very, very different movies. One is a space opera, one is a war film, and one is a coming-of-age story. They were all objectively good movies for the genres – both the ones I listed and “superhero.”

So I totally understand if you personally liked those in any order. Me? I’m a sucker for space operas. Guardians was the most fun, but Wonder Woman wasn’t far behind. (I also enjoy a good war flick. Especially World War I, which doesn’t get nearly enough attention.) And Spider-Man was enjoyable as well. If I was still in high school and related to teenage Spider-Man a little more, that easily could have been my favorite of the three. (Just be glad we’re not stretching back any farther, because if we get Logan involved, I will start fighting people to the death while sobbing uncontrollably.)

Anyway, the point: I would expect someone who saw one of those movies to see the other two. Right? And they are ranked 2-4 domestically for 2017 right now. (Wonder Woman, Guardians, Spider-Man, in that order.) So, at least in my mind, the theory bears out for now.

This is where we start running into problems with Wonder Woman’s international take. BoxOfficeMojo has numbers for its opening in 43 other countries. Guardians opened in 51 other countries. Spider-Man opened in 74.

Of the 39 countries that had yearly data on BoxOfficeMojo where Wonder Woman opened, it was a top 10 movie in just 13 of them. (Here’s the list with where it placed, just for fun: #2 – Philippines, Taiwan; #3 – Australia, Colombia; #4 – Brazil; #5 – New Zealand; #7 – Mexico, Thailand; #8 – Bolivia; #9 – Iceland; #10 – Greece, Norway, Romania.) By comparison, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 was a top 10 film in 20 of those countries. Spider-Man: Homecoming was a top 10 film in 22 of those countries.

The countries where either Guardians or Spider-Man (or both) were top 10 and Wonder Woman was not: Argentina, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Russia, Spain, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay. Every country that had Wonder Woman in the top 10 had at least one of the other two in the top ten.

(Note: Some of these aren’t as straightforward as they seem. For example, BoxOfficeMojo groups France, Algeria, Morocco, and Monaco all together under “France”. It also groups Portugal and Angola together under “Portugal”. I’m not going to list all of those oddities out, there really aren’t a lot, but just bear that in mind.)

Overall, in those 39 countries, Spider-Man: Homecoming ranked 10th in box office numbers, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ranked 11th, and Wonder Woman ranked 17th.

I tried to find some movies that did roughly the same internationally, but BoxOfficeMojo doesn’t let you sort the data that way.

The next movies on the list that came out in 2017 and hit less than 50% foreign box office are something called Monster Trucks, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, and How to be a Latin Lover. Probably not movies you would put in the same class as Wonder Woman. The only other movies released this year that have earned more than $250 million and hit less than 50% internationally are The LEGO Batman Movie and Get Out – both of which were probably considered box office surprises.

So, what am I trying to say with all of this meandering about box office numbers and foreign markets? I guess maybe that the rest of the world isn’t ready to pay to see movies about female superheroes (and toy superheroes, and horror films about interracial relationships.)

Anyway, take away from this what you will. These are just a lot of facts I dug up this weekend and I’m not sure I’m giving them proper context. (Although I do still think they say a lot.) Maybe the biggest surprise to me was that Wonder Woman wasn’t in the top ten in the United Kingdom. Kind of puts all that fuss about a female doctor in Doctor Who into a bit more context.


***All numbers through 9/11/17***

About the Author

Luke Miller