Let your media travel

There is no better time to accentuate this than now: domestic box-office is not as integral as it used to be. Hollywood relied on most of its gross coming from its own shores, but there are a few reasons for the sudden decline in influence. The first being piracy, no matter what people say it is detrimental to box office and becoming increasingly so in America and the UK to some degree; the second being that there is a realisation of the power of overseas market and the sheer potential by numbers; and thirdly, foreign markets now want to see these huge-scale blockbusters that only Hollywood has the resources to make. Hollywood is a global commodity. How does Hollywood reach these audiences? They use subtitle services and dubbing services according to each nation’s preference.
Media: Three Jurassic World posters

Below is largely based on estimations from websites like Box Office Mojo, IMDb and other media statistic outlets. It is to show the potential of translating your media for other marketplaces. With VOD and ebooks, figures are scarce as companies like Netflix like to keep them under wraps . We shall soon  see if it changes and becomes bragging material like the Box Office has become in the next few years. Studios often use the box office as a measure of success, barometer of quality, guide for future investment. It would be interesting to see if online sales and VOD becomes a similar guiding measurement.

The reason there is no better time to point this out is because Jurassic World has crossed the billion dollar mark in just 14 days. That is a world-record. That did not all come from America. In fact, 39.7% came from America with a $638.0m gross currently. That may seem like America is a primary influencer, but it had a delayed release in other countries – one notable exception is Japan, which – for some reason – did not receive the film until the 5th of August. Jurassic World has continued to grow and is currently sitting fifth in the all-time box office with plenty left in the tank. It is sitting with $1.6bn, $968.7m of which was overseas.

If we look at two other films released this year, the number is significantly weighted. Overseas box-office gross for Furious 7 and Avengers: Age of Ultron, respectively, were 76.8% and 67.3%.

Media: Furious 7 poster

That’s not to diminish America’s market, it still is vibrant considering the amount of money it brings in per attendee next to the potential population, but it is to highlight the value of subtitling, dubbing and whatever else necessary to transport your film into additional markets.

China is becoming one of the biggest box office successes, as proven with their mad love for Furious 7 this year. By just looking at China’s entire 2014 box office gross how much money goes to films that aren’t Chinese themselves.

The market is not a one-way system for Western countries. Films from other countries often garner a lot of attention at prestigious film festivals like Cannes, Venice, Berlin and Toronto, to name but a few. Their Palme d’Ors, Golden Lions and Golden Bears are used as certificates of quality, badges of honour that adorn their promotional material. They vary in success, but those films always make a profit – if not from box office, from streaming services and home entertainment sales.

That does not mean the box office cannot be lucrative for them. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon made $213m internationally. That may sound like a small amount compared to the billions that the Hollywood franchises are dragging in, but the budget was a minimal $17m. That is over 12.5-times more than its production budget.

La vita è bella (Life is Beautiful) is an Italian film about The Second World War that won three Oscars. The biggest surprise of its success was its worldwide gross: $229m, 74.9% came from foreign markets. Sadly, there are no official statistics online about where exactly, but it is not hyperbolic to estimate that at least 30% of that gross came from America due to the prestige of the Academy Awards.

The profitability goes even further with films like small comedy-drama Amelie, which was created for a minor $10m and grossed $174m. In case you are numerically challenged, that is 17.4 times its budget.

Of course, these are the success stories, the crème-de-la-crème. Why cannot that be you, though? The only restriction is that you may not have approached these markets before or have not localised accordingly. By that, some cultures prefer subtitles and others dubbing. For example, in the UK, subtitles are highly preferable as dubbing is usually made fun of. However, in Spain, dubbing is the norm in the cinema screens and subtitles would likely deter the audience.

Let’s look at the United Kingdom as a case study of market potential. The United Kingdom is small compared to America and other nations, yet it still equates to 11% of the global box office. There were an estimated 165.5m admissions last year, equalling a mind-boggling total of £1.1bn ($1.71bn). That means the global box office is worth over $15.5bn annually.

Do not forget that the box office is not the only place for films to make money. They make money in advertising (Inside Out’s recent Sky and Subway adverts; Minions’s complete merchandising collection is staggering, extending to sweets by Haribo), DVD/Blu-ray sales, ancillary material and now video-on-demand. The problem with VOD that there are no concrete figures, but let us make several assumptions.

Media: Statista's infographic on Netflix's subscription revenue

Netflix reported an annual revenue of $5.5bn in 2014. Their foray into original programming has seen programmes like House of Cards receive a staggering $100m production budget. As previously stated, Netflix do not release their viewing figures – keeping tight-lipped despite being able to use it as bragging material against normal television. Luth Research however has recently shed some light on the figures through gathering 2500 random Netflix subscribers then extrapolating to the current amount of subscribers. These ratings are of course estimations and only of the first 30-day availabilities – nothing accumulative. Luth Research report that 4.38m watched Daredevil, 2.99m for The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, 2.66m for season 3 of House of Cards and 0.98m of Bloodline.

Media: Estimated Netflix viewing figures

Netflix is considered new-wave television, the new consumption model, the behemoth that is ready to destroy all in its path. Those viewing figures – although 30-day estimates – do not compete with regular television just yet. The Big Bang Theory averaged 23.1m viewers per episode. Per episode. The lowest rated TV programme in the top 50 was a tie between Law and Order: SVU and Undercover Boss with 9.1m viewers per episode which is still twice as much as the estimated Netflix numbers. We discussed American TV recently in more depth, if you’re curious.

Video-on-demand goes further than streaming services with rental systems in place from iTunes and, uh, Domino’s. Still, even the most comprehensive article on the matter by Scott Tobias of The Dissolve still discusses vague figures and ensures the reader understands it is all speculative. All that is agreed upon is it is the future, the potential, the way to maximise profits.

All these figures may be the success stories, but those who try succeed. Those who failed perhaps did not market their films correctly. Each culture has several audience demographics which may not overlap and one marketing strategy will not get everyone. That is why it is import to not only translate your work with voiceovers, dubbing and subtitling, but to transcreate your marketing material to ensure advertising success.

Media: Netflix becoming more international with its number of subscribers becoming increasingly global

To hammer it home, there are roughly 7.3bn people in the world so why limit yourselves to the population of one country? Globalise by localising your media to each nation. Look at its potential. What more convincing do you need?

Literature is also lucrative. Take a look at the other part of this ultimate guide on translating literature on Wolfestone