Shakespeare once pondered “What’s in a name?” Clearly, the bard might have had trouble fitting into modern day Hollywood. Studios in Tinseltown spend great deals of time, money, and effort figuring out the “right” title for their movies – ones designed not only to pique audience interest, but to also avoid offending potential viewers in foreign markets. As Hollywood product has gone global, film earnings in other countries have come to provide a significant chunk of a title’s box office revenue – and trying not to turn off those audiences with titles is more important than ever.
That’s why Marvel and Paramount Studios were set to release Captain America: The First Avenger as just The First Avenger in foreign markets. With anti-America sentiment high in certain corners of the globe, the studios reasoned it would be in their best interest to play down the whole Captain America angle in the title. Not so fast, though – Paramount’s foreign film division objected, saying Captain America has broad name recognition around the globe. Removing that part of the title, they argued, would potentially hurt the film’s foreign bottom line more than any lost sales because of how America is perceived on the world stage. Plus, one has to wonder if it really matters – were they going to remove every Captain America reference in the film? Digitally alter Cap’s costume? Seems likely most would have picked up on the patriotic overtones regardless of the title.
Paramount’s foreign division has won out – and Captain America: The First Avenger will swoop into theaters around the globe with that very title. The only exceptions are South Korea, Russia, and the Ukraine. In those places, it appears the film will simply be The First Avenger.
Changing titles for foreign markets isn’t a new thing – language issues often lead to hilarious name changes in other countries – but we are seeing a new trend where studios are unwilling to promote American ideals in far away lands, even if those ideals are a huge part of what the movie is about. Take, for instance, 2009’s G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. That film dropped the “Real American Hero” tagline for fear of turning off foreign audiences. At one point, a character from the British Action Man toyline was even added to the script to make the film more broadly appealing. Fortunately, that was scrapped.
Captain America is about as pro-America as a film can get – and while that may turn off foreign audiences to a certain degree, Paramount and Marvel are hoping that the core ideas of the character will have broad-based appeal to people of all cultures. We’ll find out if that gamble pays off when the film opens later this summer.
[via The New York Times]