This year’s international success stories: China’s half-billion-dollar blockbuster, Germany’s refugee comedy and the New Zealand indie that out-grossed ‘Rogue One.’
Hollywood tentpoles weren’t the only films attracting global audiences this past year. Around the world, local-language films enjoyed a comeback, with several home-grown hits in individual territories out-grossing even the biggest studio titles. Here are some of the biggest foreign blockbusters of 2016.
Stephen Chow’s sci-fi fantasy eco-epic, about a beautiful mermaid (Jelly Lin) who falls for a developer (Deng Chao) proved China doesn’t need the rest of the world to produce a blockbuster. The feature grossed a jaw-dropping $527 million in its home territory, making it one of the biggest films of the year, anywhere.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Taika Waititi’s Kiwi comedy ruled the box office in its native New Zealand, grossing $8.4 million to become the top grossing New Zealand film of all time. (To compare, Rouge One: A Star Wars Story has, so far, grossed around $2 million in the territory). Starring veteran Sam Neill alongside breakout star Julian Denison, Wilderpeople was also a hit with near neighbor Australia, bumping out local titles to take the mantle as the top grossing non-Hollywood film Down Under with earnings of $8.35 million.
Welcome to the Hartmanns
The European refugee crisis seems an unlikely topic for a comedy, but this warm-hearted laffer, which manages to show all sides of the debate without getting angry at anyone, unified German audiences, grossing $23 million in the process.
Que Culpa Tiene el Nino
The comedy, starring How to Get Away With Murder actress Karla Souza as a young woman who gets pregnant after a one-night stand, was Mexico’s top local-language film, earning $14.4 million and marking Souza as Mexico’s most bankable actress.
Les Tuche: The American Dream
So much for refined French taste. The number one Gallic film of 2016 (local box office: $32.5 million) is this Beverley Hillbilles-style comedy, the sequel to a 2011 hit, starring Jean-Paul Rouve and Isabelle Nanty as the parents of a clan of yokels having to pretend they’re refined people, this time in the United States.
Comedies tend to be the most successful local-language titles (it’s hard for Hollywood to compete with a country’s in-jokes), but in Iceland, the number-one film was a psychological thriller, directed by, and starring, home-town hero Batasar Kormakur (Everest).
For several years now, Italy has been a the sick-man of Europe when it comes to box office performance but local audiences will still come out for a laugh. Gennaro Nunziante’s latest comedy, made on a $10.5 million budget, smashed all previous Italian records, pulling in $24.3 million in three days, nearly equally the three-week total in Italy for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Quo vado? ended up grossing $72.6 million in Italy, making it one of the most successful films of all time there.
The King’s Choice
Baring a late December upset from Rouge One, this WWII drama, set during the German invasion of Norway in 1940, will end 2016 at the top of Norway’s box office charts, with an $8.8 million gross. Directed by Erik Poppe, The King’s Choice has also made the shortlist for the 2017 foreign-language Oscars.
Train to Busan
South Korea has seen its theatrical business explode in the past few years, driven largely by home-grown genre-titles like this zombies-on-a-train thriller from director Yeon Sang-ho. Local box office: $80.5 million.
Makoto Shinkai’s body-swapping love story is being hailed as a return to the golden era of Japanese anime, epitomized by the films of Hayo Miyazaki. With a box office take of $180 million, Your Name is already the second-most successful Japanese film of all time, behind only Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. Now Shinkai is looking to see if he can repeat Miyazaki’s feat and win the Oscar for best animated film.
A Monster Calls
J. A. Bayona chose his native Spain for the world bow of his latest fantasy feature, an Irish-set story about a boy and the titular monster that lives in the tree outside his home. The film’s impressive $27.5 million take in Spain bodes well as A Monster Calls rolls out world-wide.