As the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles move ‘Out of the Shadows’ and into theaters, fans and critics alike are giving mixed reviews of TMNT 2. Some are saying that the film fails to capture the essence of the Ninja Turtles, while others have referred to it as total nostalgia overload. I’ll reserve my criticism for Friday, when the film finally releases in theaters all over the United States – but I want to take a moment to discuss something that most critics and film buffs fail to acknowledge: the ever changing face of the global box office.Throughout the history of Hollywood, studios have had a difficult time selling and distributing their films all over the world. Certain markets have been reliable, but others have proven rather difficult to enter until recently. In the late 90’s, worldwide distribution began to expand heavily into markets like China. As you can imagine, this expansion introduced millions of audiences to films they had previously been unaccustomed to seeing.
Even before this moment in film history, we were already seeing the world market opening up to Hollywood distribution quite a bit, which resulted in foreign numbers that sometimes outpaced domestic numbers in the United States. Even so, throughout the 90’s the studios still held a firm belief that the domestic market was the most important consideration. However, once markets like China began to contribute heavily to overall box office numbers, everything began to change. Suddenly, Hollywood blockbusters were making two or three times as much money in foreign markets as they did in domestic markets.
At this point, the studios began to shift their attention away from domestic box office numbers and toward foreign box office numbers. For evidence of this, one needs only look at the box office numbers for the Transformers franchise. Although the domestic and foreign numbers were somewhat evenly split for the first and second film, the performance of Dark of the Moon and Age of Extinction prove where things are headed. The third film made $771 million in foreign markets, while the fourth film made $858 million foreign. To put that into perspective, only 22.2% of the money earned from Transformers: Age of Extinction came from audiences in North America. As a direct result of this foreign success, we are now going to see three more Transformers films – despite the fact that the last film barely managed to earn back its production budget in the domestic market.Before you ask what this has to do with TMNT 2, allow me to explain. In a world where studios can rely on foreign markets – not only to pick up the slack for domestic markets, but to outsell the domestic market entirely – the game has completely changed. If you live in North America, the studios probably aren’t overly concerned with whether or not you will like one of their films. Their biggest concern at this point is making the worldwide audience happy, so you shouldn’t expect the studios to take note of any fan outrage over any particular movie when they are more than likely going to make their money back regardless.
With that said, I fully expect a lot of North American audiences to reject TMNT 2, but I don’t think it will matter. We’re already seeing quite a few negative reviews for Out of the Shadows, but somehow I doubt those negative reviews will have much of an impact on ticket sales. Although critics might have had a voice with the power to effect change in the industry many decades ago, that simply isn’t the case any longer. Whether you’re a proper film critic or an audience member that is representative of millions of dissatisfied audiences, chances are that the number of satisfied audiences throughout the world will still manage to speak louder than any criticisms you might have of the film.
This won’t stop me from being critical of Out of the Shadows when and if it is necessary, but it’s important to recognize that there may be no stopping this gravy train. With the amount that Paramount has spent on marketing this film, chances are that every parent in the world with a young shellhead will be taking their kids to see this movie very soon. Even if the movie only made $65 million during its opening weekend in North American markets, chances are that the foreign gross would be at least double that number – if not triple. For those who are curious, that’s the number that 2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles managed to pull in during its first weekend.
Considering all of the marketing attached to this film, something tells me that number is going to be much higher. I would not be surprised to see a $300 million worldwide opening weekend for TMNT 2, but even if it didn’t fare that well, it’s likely that the movie will earn back its production budget during that first weekend. As is tradition in Hollywood, if the film manages to make back its budget within a few days, chances are that the studios will immediately greenlight the sequel.
Even though some critics have already said a lot of negative things about Out of the Shadows, I think the words of one particular critic from ScifiNow are fairly prophetic in regards to the potential success of this movie:
Dave Green’s sequel will keep youngsters and nostalgic fans more than entertained, for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is a prime example of undemanding popcorn cinema.
It won’t change the face of comic-book movies forever – but then it was clearly never intended to do so. A Saturday-morning cartoon created for the big screen, it’s virtually critic-proof.
Whether you like it or not, this is the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film universe and it doesn’t appear that any amount of complaints from critics or fans will stop them from continuing the franchise. As long as it continues to make money all over the world, Paramount will continue to fund sequels and we will continue to see more Ninja Turtles action on the big screen. Although I find it distressing to consider that the voices of critics and audiences in the North American market may be largely ignored, I’m also a little excited to see what comes next.