Unexpectedly Intriguing!
25 February 2011
2009 Oscar Night - Source: film.ri.gov

With massive popular uprisings sweeping many of the most politically-repressed nations of the world, Americans are looking toward the upcoming weekend with a mixture of both fear and dread because it's time, once again, for the annual Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Awards ceremony to be televised.

The primary reason for that is because the Academy Awards ceremony has increasingly become an unbearably abysmal viewing experience over the past decades, as Hollywood feels compelled to produce a spectacle that, well, is doomed to flop, even by our much lower critical standards for award shows.

But another reason why is because of the anti-American political bias of many of the movie stars, producers and directors whose achievements in 2010 will be celebrated this Sunday evening, 27 February 2011, beginning live at 5:00 PM Eastern Time on the ABC television network with hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway. Because nothing makes for more a more dreadful viewing experience than some highly talented movie stars seeking to exploit the worldwide platform they've been given to show off how much they care about the ongoing tragedy of "fill-in-the-blank," which could be fixed if only Americans cared as much as the movie stars did and demonstrate by their willingness to go far over the allotted time they've been given for accepting their award. Assuming they get through thanking the laundry list of people who worked on their movie that pretty much only they know....

Academy Award - Source: Michigan.gov

But then we wondered whether Hollywood has a financial motive for being so apparently anti-American? We've previously found that anti-U.S. movies tend to flop badly at the U.S. box office, but what about overseas film markets? How do those anti-U.S. movies do in those foreign box offices?

We decided to find out! We went back and identified the most anti-U.S. movies that Hollywood has produced in recent years to see how they did in both their domestic U.S. market and in foreign theaters. We then narrowed our selection to consider only movies set in contemporary times, the issues related to which foreign audiences would most closely recognize and to which they would presumably be most receptive to sitting through a 90 minute long anti-U.S. screed.

The obvious candidates then turned out to be the anti-"War on Terror" movies that have been produced since 2006. The chart below shows how these movies performed and the domestic U.S. and foreign box office, which we then compared with each movie's estimated production costs.

U.S. Domestic vs Foreign Box Office for Contemporary Anti-U.S. Films

What we find is that in all but one case, the 2009 Best Picture-winning Hurt Locker, none of the films presented in our chart above earned back their production costs from their U.S. box office receipts. Meanwhile, only two films earned more in the U.S. than they did overseas: Stop Loss, a critically-praised but audience-hated movie that was only released in a dozen countries, limiting its foreign earning potential and The Kingdom, the most politically-neutral of all the films we identified, which perhaps explains its success at the U.S. box office.

Overall, the combined box office take from domestic and foreign box offices was enough for four of the nine films to make back their production costs and for another two films to nearly do so.

Anti-U.S. Film Domestic U.S. and Foreign Box Office Take
Movie Release Date Total Box Office U.S. Box Office Percentage Foreign Box Office Percentage Comments
Stop Loss 28 March 2008 $11,207,130 97.4% 2.6% Released in over 12 nations. Largest foreign box office in Australia ($135,000).
In the Valley of Elah 14 September 2007 $29,541,790 22.9% 77.1% Released in over 47 countries. Largest box office take in Spain ($3.046 million) but near tie in France and French-speaking Northern African nations ($3.014 million). Combined total accounts for one fifth of total box office.
Redacted 16 November 2007 $782,102 8.4% 91.6% Released in over 13 countries. Most popular in France and French-speaking Northern African nations ($363,766, or 47% of total box office.)
The Kingdom* 28 September 2007 $86,658,558 54.9% 45.1% Politically neutral. Released in over 60 nations. Largest box office in United Kingdom ($5.8 million).
Rendition 19 October 2007 $27,038,732 36.0% 64.0% Released in over 50 countries, largest box office in United Kingdom ($5.3 million, or nearly one-fifth of total box office.)
Lions for Lambs 9 November 2007 $63,215,872 23.7% 76.3% Released in over 92 countries. Largest box office take in Italy ($8,321,849, or over one-eighth of total box office).
Home of the Brave 15 December 2006 $499,620 10.3% 89.7% Released in 4 countries. Largest box office in Spain ($203,079, or over 40% of total box office).
Green Zone 12 March 2010 $94,875,650 36.9% 63.1% Released in over 53 countries, largest foreign box office in United Kingdom ($8.2 million).
Hurt Locker 26 June 2009 $49,230,726 34.6% 65.4% Best Picture Winner for 82nd Academy Awards. Released in over 48 countries, biggest foreign box office in Japan ($7.8 million).
Total N/A $276,391,622 34.2% 65.8% * Total Omits The Kingdom's Box Office Results

Omitting The Kingdom as a control sample, given its political neutrality, we find that the remaining eight anti-U.S. films earned a combined U.S. and foreign total of $276,391,622, with $94,620,951 (34.2%) coming from the U.S. box office and the remaining $181,770,671 (65.8%) from outside the U.S. In simple terms, Hollywood earns roughly two dollars overseas for every one it makes in the U.S. for these anti-U.S. movies.

The combined total of the estimated production costs for these eight films is $243,292,000. With the total box office take of these movies being $276,391,622, we find that Hollywood did indeed make a profit on these films, earning $33,099,622, or just shy of a 12% profit margin when compared to their estimated production costs.

It seems that Hollywood does indeed has a pretty large financial incentive for being so anti-American. Who knew that good old-fashioned greed could help explain Hollywood's political posturing?


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