Asia's iconic skylines are being seen more often in Hollywood films. Hong Kong was featured in 2008's "The Dark Knight." Image: Alex Forster.

Hollywood Continues to Turn to Asia and Is Seeing Big Rewards

China Korea

Marvel Studios’ The Avengers: Age of Ultron, the sequel to 2012’s blockbuster hit, is filming in Seoul, South Korea this month. Shooting locations include Gangnam District, made famous globally by Korean singer Psy’s viral video, and the iconic bridges over Seoul’s Han River. The first Avengers movie was a huge success, both in the US and abroad, earning over $1.5 billion globally, 19% of which came from Asian markets. China, South Korea and Japan alone represented 12% of those earnings, and all ranked within the top 7 overseas markets for the film. Given that previous Hollywood films that included elements of Korean pop culture had heightened box office returns both in Korea and across Asia, Marvel’s decision to shoot in Seoul is likely to guarantee an even stronger splash in the Asian market this time around.

Other films have seen the market potential that Asia represents as well. Iron Man 3’s Chinese release had footage not in other versions, which included an extra scene shot in China and a small role given to a popular Chinese actress. Looper, a 2013 film, also filmed partly in China, and by relying on Chinese investment for its production, it was able to get around China’s foreign film quota regulations. The next installment of the Kung Fu Panda franchise will also be partly produced in China, giving it the same exemption from the quota restrictions and access to release windows that are normally set aside for domestic films. The last movie in that series, Kung Fu Panda 2, enjoyed record success for an animated film in China, giving every indication that with the added benefits of being considered a domestic film, the next edition will do extremely well.

China and South Korea were the biggest overseas markets by a substantial margin for Iron Man 3, which was 2013’s highest grossing film of the year. The Motion Picture Association of America just published figures on the top international markets for American films in 2013, and countries in the Asia-Pacific occupied five of the top 10 spots. China became the first foreign country to generate over $3 billion in box office revenues for American films, single-handedly representing 10% of global revenues for American films last year. The combined $10 billion from China, Japan, India, South Korea and Australia was just shy of equaling the $10.9 billion earned in the US and Canada. Continuing to emphasize growing Asian markets clearly looks to be a strong strategy for box office success as Hollywood plans for the future.