Every so often a local movie becomes a runaway local hit. But that doesn’t mean it will work in North America.
With an opening day gross of just short of US $5 million in the United Kingdom, "The Inbetweeners 2" yesterday broke the record for comedies in that territory and beat out "Guardians of the Galaxy" for the day (that film was #1 last weekend in the U.K. with $10.7 million).
Some context. With a population of about 20% of the U.S (U.K. box office totals include Ireland) this would likely yield a projected total around $30 million stateside for a Wednesday start. That’s a total exceeded by only four non-Friday opening days since 2010. The most recent, "Despicable Me 2," did $35 million last year, and that was the pre-holiday July 3. So this is by any standard a very big opener.
Yet it is quite likely, despite the common language, that this hit won’t ever be seen theatrically in the U.S. The film is based on a hit British comedy TV series about a group of misfit suburban teens that aired there originally between 2008-10. (MTV’s American version lasted only one season.)
The original "Inbetweeners" movie was a massive local success, #3 for 2011, behind only "Harry Potter and the Deadly Gallows Part 2" and "The King’s Speech" with a $71 million gross. That would project to close to $400 million adjusting for population differences, more than any film released that year did in the U.S. Yet though it was acquired for American release by the small U.S. indie Wrekin’ Hill, it only grossed $36,000 in 10 dates in September 2012. That will almost certainly that will eliminate interest for the sequel except for home video (both the original series and the first movie are available from Netflix streaming and also DVD).
It actually isn’t that unusual for locally-based films to challenge the dominance of internationally-targeted Hollywood films, or to show little appeal outside their native country, even if they are in English. In the case of "Inbetweeners," despite the popularity of many youthful British actors, the stars — Simon Bird, Joe Thomas, James Buckley, Blake Harrison — are virtually unknown here.
This is the second British TV comedy-turned-movie hit this year in the U.K. Earlier, "Mrs. Brown’s Boys D’Movie" took in $24 million in local release — again, equating to $150 million for relative population. That filmed starred Irish comedian and writer Brendan O’Carroll as Agnes Brown, from the character he created in a novel– later played by Angelica Huston in the 1999 film release she also directed (released by October Films in the U.S.). Unlike that film, this version, based on the more recent TV series, was played for farce a la Benny Hill, another British icon that never gained traction abroad. Universal controls international rights for this film, but there is no indication that it will be released here, other than some form of future streaming access.
And France’s biggest hit (from any source) since "Intouchables" — Que’st-ce qu’on a fait au Bon Dieu" — a comedy about a father dealing with his daughters all marrying non-Catholics – has grossed nearly $100 million with slightly smaller population than the U.K. That film at this point shows no sign of any U.S. exposure (including remake) from any venue.