Especially when it comes to summer tent-pole movies.

Emphasis on the importance of the international marketplace, when it comes to Hollywood’s distribution of its films, should be old news by now. We’ve heard it all before – including the “black films don’t sell overseas” nonsense that seems to have become a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

Veteran Hollywood producer and author, Lynda Obst discusses the current state of affairs, in which tent-pole movies rule the industry, with overseas markets really being the primary target, not USA audiences. As she notes, currently, a whopping 80% of box office comes from outside the USA. That’s hefty. And as she suggests, the USA has quickly become somewhat irrelevant in measuring a movie’s success, because a film could be a box office failure in the USA, but dominate box offices in the international marketplace, and be very profitable. We’ve seen that happen a few times.

A recent movie like Pacific Rim, which cost $190 million to make, hasn’t cracked $100 million yet in domestic box office (it just wasn’t a good movie); but it’s made $300 million overseas, for about a 25%/75% ratio. 

The figures for The Lone Ranger, another summer tentpole movie that really underperformed in the USA, has a similar split between Stateside box office and foreign.

But is this a bubble that might be soon to burst? 

Obst discusses that and more, including how major international markets like China only allow Hollywood’s bloated action movie extravaganzas to show on their screens, while dramas and romantic comedies are of no interest because, as Obst says, it’s partly to protect smaller-scale films made locally in China, and partly to prevent “the infiltration of our ideas.

Interesting because I’d say that these Hollywood tentpole movies aren’t completely empty and free of the “ideas” that the Chinese government may be worried about.

Obst’s new book, Sleepless in Hollywood: Tales from the New Abnormal in the Movie Business, recently hit book-stands, for those interested in checking it out.

Listen to her short conversation on Public Radio International: