For the sake of the argument I am writing this from the perspective of an Australian film fan even though I acknowledge that this is a problem worldwide.
As a movie fan this is one thing that really annoys me, the fact that movie release dates differ around the world from the release dates of that of North America and in some cases the dates can differ dramatically. There are plenty of wide release movies that come out in the US but get limited or no release in Australia. In an age of digital media, the Internet and first world problems, this is something that can and should change. Why should we have to wait days, weeks or even months for a movie?
The release of John Wick: Chapter 2 is what prompted me to write this piece; given the fact it is released on May 18th in Australia but was released in North America on the 10th of February. That’s a 3-month difference. John Wick is also being released on Digital Download in the US on the 23rd of May that means it’s not even out a week in Australian Cinemas before it will be able to be accessed online. The same thing has happened with Get Out, which was released at the star of May in Australia but has just been released for Digital Download in North America. I understand that Get Out was an unknown property and considered a risk but given its success in the US market surely someone would have thought to bring it forward. The same thing is occurring with The Circle, the latest Tom Hanks movie, it got a wide release in America early May and wont come out until July in Australia. These movies are available online at the same time they are in Australian Cinemas and with the rising prices of movie tickets it may come as no surprise that Australia is the pirate nation when a cheap or free option is available.
Another recent example is in Australia, Alien: Covenant was released on the 11th of May whilst America got King Arthur Legend of the Sword on the 11th. The week later Australia got King Arthur and America got Alien: Covenant. This seems extremely weird to me. Why not release them on the same weekend allowing for a bigger international opening. People in Australia hear that King Arthur bombed might influence their decision to go see it. Whilst it is frustrating to have movies come out so far apart it is equally surprising that they would come out on alternate weekends. I am unsure of what the studio and distributers reasons for this are but I can’t imagine it helps with the Box Office.
This is where the story gets really bizarre. Australia gets Disney Marvel movies a week earlier than America. In fact this year we had Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 in Australian Cinemas before the North American Critics embargo had lifted. I am not complaining about that. It is nice to get something first considering how long we wait for movies but this is something I do not understand. Why do we get big blockbusters like Marvel films early yet have to wait several months for other movies? We get Star Wars on the same day, which I think is awesome but why can’t this happen for all major releases.
The interesting one that always has different dates is the Oscar nominated movies. I remember after I wrote my best on 2016 list I decided to check out what a lot of other critics thought and I was shocked that I had not seen many of the movies on their list due to the fact they weren’t released in Australia yet. If I could redo my best of 2016 list after seeing all of these movies my list would have been extremely different. I still get to see these movies in January but when most are released in November and December in US then it can be extremely frustrating as a movie fan.
In an article by Andrew Cripps the former President of Paramount Pictures and the current President for International Distribution for Twentieth Century Fox Film he talks about how and why studios decided to distribute their films. He explains there are three international markets of Europe, Latin America and Far East (Including Australaisa) that studios will target. Distributors will then examine four strategies from a Global, National, Regional, and Local. It is interesting how they break down the parts of the world and then have to break it down into smaller groups again. It appears there is a lot more to distribution than just releasing the movie. He goes on further to talk about the advantages and disadvantages of ‘Day and Date Distribution’ with the advantages being the reduction of Piracy, the reduced cost of marketing as it would roll over with the US marketing campaigns, and allows earlier access to other windows. Though these advantages are not without their disadvantage with Cripps stating:
“On the other hand, day and date releasing requires new prints and means that marketing spend must be committed internationally before the studio knows how the film has played in the US. It also reduces the time that the distributors have for sorting out dubbing, classification and other issues in each territory and makes it less likely that the talent will be available to promote it in as many markets.” – Andrew Cripps
From this is seems that there is additional cost and administration work to have films released Worldwide on the same date. The need for dubbing and subtitles would be costly, whilst dealing with classification boards would also be difficult given the different laws regarding what can and cannot be shown. I think the advantage of a decrease in piracy would be a key factor as well as the roll over of promotional material. You would reduce the cost of International Trailers since every trailer ends up online any way.
I know this is something that really annoys many film fans around the world, getting to see all these movies advertised overseas and hearing them being talked about in the US film media. We have to wait to see these movies and even have our expectations spoiled by comments made by film pundits in America as they talk about the new releases on their blogs, podcast or channels. It is not just the film buffs that lose out too it is the film fans who hear things about a movie that would greatly influence if they go and see a movie. If movies were released at the same time then the average film fan would not be affected by any word of mouth coming out of countries that have had the movie first.