By now, you've surely heard about how Robert Downey Jr. a.k.a. Iron Man himself convinced Marvel Studios to release the highly-anticipated 'Avengers: Infinity War' one week earlier for us common, non-superhero folk
Originally scheduled for a May 4th release in the US, Marvel pushed the movie's release date up to 27 April after Tony Stark casually called in a favour on Twitter.
Safe to say, the level of anticipation for the superhero epic has been amped up to infinity PLUS ONE.
While moviegoers in the US lost their minds over the surprise announcement, it's business as usual in Malaysia. After all, 'Avengers: Infinity War' was meant to open on 26 April here anyway (yep, one day early too!). :p
In fact, some of you might've noticed that Malaysia is one of the select few countries who almost always got to watch Marvel blockbusters one week ahead of the rest of the world. Take, for example, last year's 'Thor: Ragnarok'.
Of course, there were also a few exceptions, such as 'Black Panther' (released just a few days earlier, possibly to pull ahead of the CNY-heavy roster), 'Captain America: The First Avenger' and 'Captain America: Civil War', as well as 'Spider-Man: Homecoming' (distributed by Sony Pictures).
Historically, Hollywood movies are released overseas almost simultaneously with the US, sometimes up to a few weeks or months later. Then Marvel decided to shake things up with 'Iron Man 2' in 2010.
The studio brought forward the release of the 'Iron Man' sequel in a number of European and Asian countries, including the UK, France, South Korea, and of course, Malaysia. Since then, most movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) have been released at least one week ahead of the US in those select countries.
While we're definitely not complaining, we're curious - why do blockbusters open in certain countries (Malaysia included) way ahead of the US? Here's what we found out:
1. To curb piracy
According to Paul Dargarbedian, a box office analyst for Hollywood.com, releasing a movie early "decreases the piracy market".
Apparently, as soon as a movie opens in the US, it's almost guaranteed to be pirated and distributed abroad. These bootlegs can spread pretty quickly, especially with some "help" from social media and fast Internet connection, hence hampering the film's worldwide earnings.
By releasing it early overseas, especially in countries where enforcement against piracy is not that strict, studios can optimise the film's potential in the box office before pirated versions start popping up.
In short - the sooner movies are released overseas, the less interested audiences are in getting pirated versions when they can see it in the theatre.
2. To build up hype and excitement among US audiences ahead of its domestic release
Moviegoers no longer rely solely on film critics to help them decide whether or not they should spend money on a movie ticket. In the age of social media, Rotten Tomatoes ratings and 'word on the street' matters as much (sometimes, even more).
Franchises tend to do well worldwide, especially superhero ones, so film studios often bank on positive buzz generated from international audiences to intensify hype and excitement back in the ol' US of A.
More hype = more butts in cinema seats = mo' money.
3. Early releases enable studios to reveal more impressive numbers by the time it reaches the US
In a Q&A session after a special screening of 'Avengers: Age of Ultron', Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige mentioned that a film's impending release can gain momentum it would not have otherwise enjoyed by projecting impressive foreign numbers.
Even releasing a movie a few days in advance could mean bigger numbers by the time opening weekend rolls around, allowing for a lot of "worldwide #1" headlines on its first weekend.
In addition, international markets are emerging as the largest portion of a film's box office in recent years, with some blockbusters making as much as 80 percent of its overall box office gross outside of the US.
Hence, movie studios are paying a lot more attention to making sure films have appeal outside of the US. As Disney Vice President of Distribution for Motion Pictures, Dave Hollis puts it, "Blockbusters are adapting to a worldwide release pattern instead of one that is US-centric."
Basically, it all boils down to two words - marketing strategy. Not like it's stopping us from throwing our money at this epic spectacle. :p
Seriously. Just take my money.