“The Expendables 3,” “Sex Tape” and “Into the Storm” have risen to the top of the worldwide box office following anemic openings in the United States. Each of those three films took in less than $17 million on their domestic opening weekends, but their overseas box-office receipts have brightened an initially dismal picture.
“The Expendables 3” has made only $36.7 million domestically since its mid-August opening. But it made almost that much during its first week in China, where it earned $35.9 million, according to the Los Angeles Times. Its total foreign box-office receipts thus far have hit $140 million, according to a Rentrak report.
Buoyed by a strong opening in Russia, “Lucy,” the revenge thriller starring Scarlett Johansson, topped the international box office with $25 million this past weekend. As for "Into the Storm," the film about tornado storm-trackers that doesn't feature any big-name stars, it got a second-place spot with $7.6 million in receipts thanks to Chinese audiences.
"Sex Tape," starring Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel as a married couple who discover that their sex tape has gone missing, earned slightly more than $14 million on its domestic opening weekend, a disappointment for a movie that doesn't fit the standard formula for overseas success. But it's had a successful foreign run so far, taking in more than $61 million compared to its domestic gross of only $38 million.
Hollywood is increasingly relying on foreign ticket sales for profits. China is now the largest source of international box-office earnings, and it’s believed that by 2018, it will be the No. 1 source for box-office income, according to Business Insider. “Iron Man 3” even included alternate scenes created exclusively for Chinese audiences.
“Transformers: Age of Extinction,” which is currently the highest-grossing movie in China’s history and made more than $200 million in its second box-office weekend, directly appealed to its Chinese audiences by relying heavily on Chinese product placement and promoting the inclusion of Chinese actors in the marketing. It also portrayed the Chinese Communist Party in a positive light. By August, “Age of Extinction” earned $763 million internationally, while pulling in only $241 million domestically, “a franchise low,” said the Hollywood Reporter.