Hollywood is shaking with confusion today thanks to a bombshell no one saw coming. Pacific Rim, a massive tribute to a genre niche that's never quite taken off with mainstream America but has been insanely popular throughout Asia for decades, is very popular in Asia. It's so popular, in fact, that now the numbers-obsessed bean counters who determine the fate of everything in the studio system have decided to give a pass to the film's soft domestic performance and use the international market as a gauge of its true merit as a
Apologies for the snark, but this is one of those bellwether moments where the business of Hollywood and the inherent instincts of film geeks collide and the latter gets to say "Toldja!"
Yesterday was the turning point in the war between original content and box office dollars. That's when the numbers from the film's opening in China were beamed in from overseas, revealing Pacific Rim raked in a cool $9 million. That may not instantly seem like a lot when you're accustomed to U.S. opening days in the double digits, but it is kind of a big deal. It set a new record for Warner Bros. in the country, taking the highest grossing crown from the final Harry Potter film. And that's just the opening day; the film is expected to continue to make movie theater cash registers ring around the country.
And while China is becoming the most important box office marketplace in the world (it's expected to overtake the U.S. in five years), Guillermo del Toro's film was already number one internationally before it even expanded to the Communist nation (its total take is now over $225 worldwide and it hasn't even opened in Japan yet). So it would appear that if you hire a director with international appeal to make a summer visual-effects-extravaganza tribute to a beloved genre and cast it with international players instead of one really expensive movie star (here's looking at you, The Lone Ranger), a lot of people around the world - especially those living in an area on the coastal edge of the Pacific Ocean - will not only want to see your movie, but show signs that they'll want to see even more sequels just like it.
It's a phenomenon no one can explain.