International Versus Domestic Gross

People tend to make assumptions about how well films will perform abroad. Needless to say, everyone wants to make a movie that will perform well both domestically and internationally. As international revenues are now accounting for more than half of total dollars, especially for big studio films, and as pre-sales of international territories become a major part of the financing process, it’s important to consider which films travel well.

So I wanted to take a look at which genres did well internationally relative to their domestic grosses. I looked at the ratio of international revenue to domestic revenue.

I looked at a few major genres over a few different budget thresholds. I started with anything over $1 million budget. (Spreads are 5th, 25th, median, 75th, and 95th. Blue is the middle 50%.)


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31 Days of Feminist Horror Films: EYES WITHOUT A FACE


This gruesome French fairy tale about a disfigured young woman who’s surgeon father resorts to atrocious acts in order restore her beauty is a meditation on paternal control of unmarried women, standards of beauty, and the way personal autonomy can be stripped from women when they’re kept under the thumb of powerful men. Dr. Génessier (Pierre Brasseur) identifies the body of who we think is his daughter, Christiane (Edith Scob) and attends her funeral with his devoted secretary, Louise (Alida Valli) as well as Christiane’s fiance, but as it turns out, Christiane isn’t dead at all. Instead, Génessier has identified a young woman he and Louise have killed and dumped in order to serve their greater overall plan: they’ve been attempting face transplants on Christiane based on Génessier’s research on skin grafts, and they need fresh guinea pigs for the raw material.


Christiane is far from a willing participant in these grotesque experiments — she exists as a spectre in her own home, floating around in a white robe, unable to let anyone besides Génessier or Louise know that she’s alive despite thwarted phone calls to her fiance. Further underlining Christiane’s misery is the fact that her father insists that she wears a pleasantly-featured mask so that she doesn’t offend them. Christiane’s one comfort is the time she spends with her father’s dogs (also test subjects for his work on skin grafts) who accept her just as she is, no mask necessary. Her entire existence has been reduced whatever her father decides, and while she might be alive against the odds, it’s no kind of living — she begs Louise for death on a number of occasions. Génessier attempts a second transplant which seems initially successful and holds the host, Edna, hostage in their home while Christiane heals. Edna eventually escapes but falls to her death in the process, and Christiane’s body begins rejecting the skin from her face quickly, and it must be removed, forcing her back to the mask. A sequence of still photographs shows this transition, as Christiane’s expression falls deeper into misery as the transplant shows more signs of rejection.

The film doesn’t shy away from gore, which is especially jarring considering that it was released in 1962, but the gore is necessary as we see the full horror of Génessier’s experiments. Louise also gets to occupy a special position as a sort of female Igor to Génessier’s Frankenstein, and her eternal devotion to him stems from the fact that Génessier once saved Louise’s face, leaving her only with a scar on her neck — one can only guess that she might be having a romantic relationship with Génessier, but leaving this element oblique only adds to its strange power. Her relationship with Christiane is equally complicated, as she serves as a surrogate mother figure, a prison warden, and confidante, but Christiane feels no affection in return for Louise, who is totally willing to be a pawn for Génessier, and will do whatever that entails.


With some help from the Christiane’s fiance and a young female pickpocket, the police are able to close in on Génessier while he attempts a third transplant on the bait, the pickpocket. Christiane finally decides to rebel, freeing the woman, stabbing Louise in the neck with a scapel, and releasing the chained up dogs to attack her father — like Christiane, they’ve been driven mad by captivity and the removal of their own autonomy. The film’s final image finds Christiane floating through the forest like a ghost while surrounded by her father’s doves (also used by him for experimentation), walking towards an uncertain, but free, future. Equal parts ghost story, slasher film, and fairy tale, Eyes Without a Face is a devastating look at what happens to a promising young woman when she’s been stripped of her own free will, kept in captivity by her father, and reduced to little more than a scientific experiment for his professional work so that she can once again become beautiful. Fifty years after its release, it’s a powerful, tragic film bolstered by a haunting, jaunty score from Jarre that feels like a cruel joke on Christiane. Eyes Without a Face dares the audience to question just what is beautiful, and to explore how ugly the pursuit of beauty can become when personal autonomy is neglected in the process.

31 Days of Feminist Horror Films: DEATH BECOMES HER


Perhaps the only outright comedy on this list, Death Becomes Her is a great comedic companion to What Ever Happened to Baby Jane’s critique of the star-making machine for actresses, aging in Hollywood, and venomous jealousy in female friendships. Madeline (Meryl Streep) and Helen (Goldie Hawn) are old rivals, but still friendly until Madeline, a Broadway actress, steals novelist Helen’s doctor husband Ernest (Bruce Willis, who should’ve played the schmuck more often) away from her. We flash forward first to a fat Helen who cannot let go of Madeline’s success when she herself has failed, then later to a miserable Madeline whose marriage to Ernest (now doing reconstructive work on corpses) has fallen apart due to her vanity and his drinking. The two rivals reunite at a party for Helen’s book release, where Madeline is shocked to find Helen looking impossibly young, thin, and full of vitality — she’s just ignored her own facialist’s suggestion to go see a woman named Lisle (Isabella Rossellini) for a true cure for aging.

Furious about Helen’s success and rejected by her young lover, Madeline goes to see Lisle, and and finds out about the secret to eternal youth: a magic potion that will make her beautiful forever, but she’ll have to retreat from the public eye (the horror!) after ten years so no one grows suspicious. Madeline accepts the terms and the cost of the potion, but like the monkey’s paw, every bargain in horror has a price — while she’s been away, Helen has seduced Ernest once again, and they’ve decided to kill Madeline. When an argument between she and Ernest turns violent, Madeline falls down some stairs and breaks her neck, but of course, she doesn’t die — in one of the film’s funniest sequences, Ernest takes her to the ER, where no doctor (even an uncredited Sydney Pollack) can figure out how she’s still alive, but Ernest sees this as miraculous, and steals Madeline back from the morgue to take her home for repairs. Helen arrives then too, and an enraged Madeline shoots her in the stomach with a shotgun…only to find out that she too has been given the secret to eternal youth and beauty from Lisle, and cannot be killed either. From there, the two bitter rivals must learn to work together to survive the horrors of eternal life, bickering each step of the way.


Robert Zemeckis’s film takes concerns about female beauty and youth to a surreal degree — the Oscar-winning visual effects are an extreme take on the lengths some women go to to stay young, but in an age of anal bleaching, blood facials, eyelash implants, and tongue splitting, Death Becomes Her’s satire of plastic surgery culture feels all the more relevant. Likewise, by grounding the story in a long-standing rivalry between two formerly good friends, we see just how the pursuit of aesthetic perfection and jealousy over romantic relationships can drive two women apart. It certainly helps that this film, like Baby Jane, features two powerhouse, older female leads in Streep and Hawn and while there’s no notorious rivalry to speak of in their past, it does seem like each actress has quite a bit of fun jabbing at the other. Madeline and Helen’s feuding over Ernest is especially hilarious given Bruce Willis’ schlubby appearance in the film, which seems to be a comment on female territoriality when it comes to men — Ernest may be a schlemiel, but he’s also the most decent character of the film’s central trio, and that’s enough to engage Madeline and Helen.


I wanted to include this film on the list because it so deftly uses black comedy to explore very real concerns about vanity, aging, professional and romantic rivalries for women approaching middle-age. There’s always a sense of competition among professional women to be the best at “having it all,” and Madeline and Helen’s bodily destruction of one another takes that competition to a surreal degree. It’s a true treat to watch Streep and Hawn passively, then violently, snipe at one another, and the film’s EC comics ending — which finds a feuding Madeline and Helen, their immortality held together by spray paint and bondo, falling down steps at Ernest’s funeral 40 years in the future, and still unable to stop pestering each other even when reduced to severed heads — is a perfect thematic conclusion to their rivalry. In an era where social media dominates so much of our daily lives, where everyone is constantly comparing themselves to others and feeling inadequate as a result, the ultimate message of the film becomes more resonant. When well-executed, horror and comedy make a fantastic pair, and Death Becomes Her, like What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? before it understands that the black comedy that comes from combining those genres can be used to explore some complex issues about life for aging women. 

31 Days of Feminist Horror Films: CAT PEOPLE


Perpetually lauded for its use of shadow and suggestion to create scares, Cat People still feels incredibly modern and spooky 70 years after its release. Serbian fashion designer Irena (Simone Simon) meets Oliver at the Central Park Zoo while sketching a panther, and the two strike up a flirtation, which leads back to Irena’s apartment. Noticing a strange statue of King John of Serbia fighting a large cat, Oliver asks for more details from Irena, who tells him about how her village turned to Satan worshipping and witchcraft after being enslaved by Mameluks, but some of her fellow villagers fled into the mountains to escape, thus eventually becoming Cat People, including Irena’s mother — this conversation all happens through suggestion, and throughout the film, director Jacques Tourneau allows the audience to fill in the narrative blanks with their imaginations of some of the more taboo elements of being a cat person.


Irena fears her feline bloodline — which turns her into a panther when angry, or more pressingly for Oliver, aroused — will ruin her relationship with Oliver (especially after his thwarted attempt to buy her a kitten) but Oliver is persistent, and they quickly marry. But of course, Irena will not consummate the marriage because she’s afraid of killing her husband during sex, and a frustrated Oliver turns to his assistant, Alice (Jane Randolph) for comfort. He eventually decides that Irena see a psychologist to deal with her issues about their marriage, Dr. Judd, but Dr. Judd has a far more lascivious interest in Irena than just a doctor/patient relationship. Angry about her husband’s betrayal by going to Alice and frustrated by the process of therapy, Irena grows more violent: killing sheep at the zoo, stalking Alice through Central Park as a male predator would, and following her to a swimming pool in the film’s scariest sequence, which is done all via shadow. Oliver too realizes that he cannot make it work with Irena, telling her he wants a divorce so that he can be with Alice, and Irena reacts poorly, menacing her husband and Alice at work. She then tries one final time to find peace with some help from Dr. Judd, but when he tries to seduce her instead, Irena turns into a panther and kills him before fleeing to the Central Park Zoo once again, closely followed by Oliver and Alice. At the zoo, Irena takes responsibility for her actions, and allows herself to be killed by the panther she was drawing when she first met Oliver — it’s an ultimately tragic ending for her character.


Released during the Hays Code era in Hollywood, it’s kind of amazing that a 1942 film deals so matter of factly with a sexually confident lead who is so concerned with the raw power of her desires becoming dangerous that she denies herself love, passion, and companionship. The idea that Irena has descended from a long line of sexually aggressive female feline predators who lead a matriarchal society is really radical, as is the idea of a Serbian community relying on witchcraft and black magic to survive after their Christian beliefs have been stripped away. Likewise, the frankness with which the film deals with divorce feels incredibly progressive, and it’s a relief to see Oliver and Alice portrayed as normal, flawed folks who’ve found themselves in a romantic bind, just as it is refreshing to see Irena defined by more than her marital status. Dr. Judd is another totally progressive character, and his lack of morality in dealing with Irena, his patient, ultimately leads to his death. Irena is a fascinating horror protagonist, one who’s outsider experience as a Serbian immigrant with “wild” ways makes her infinitely relatable to anyone who has felt alienated as an American, and her final act of self-sacrifice is incredibly moving. By now, the idea of female sexual desire as deadly is well-trod territory in horror, but Cat People is  an incredibly important film in the genre for introducing the concept of female sexual autonomy, the power of female desire, and for dealing with adult relationships in a frank, nuanced manner in order to better serve the horror narrative.