How soccer is changing summer movies -- The World Cup means no big premieres in June

By Joshua Rich
June 09, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

The kickoff of soccer’s World Cup in Germany reminds us of the sport’s many different names. In England they call it football. Mexicans say fútbol. And in Hollywood it’s known as trouble.

You don’t need to speak a certain Central European language to know why. For the next month, while we’re riding along with Cars and flipping on Adam Sandler’s Click, everyone else on the planet will be focused on die Weltmeisterschaft. (It’s expected to draw a cumulative 32.5 billion TV viewers. Picture a Super Bowl almost every day for four weeks — and then multiply that by a gazillion.) ”The World Cup has a great impact on box office,” says Fox International’s Joe Ortiz. ”People tend to stay away [from theaters] in droves to watch these games.”

Are film execs crazy to be worrying about a sport that matters to few Americans over the age of 12? No way. More than ever, movies are a global business. Major films like X-Men: The Last Stand are commonly released ”day-and-date,” meaning they get a simultaneous worldwide rollout. Studios greenlight movies like Miami Vice with an eye on the overseas windfall they promise. And international receipts can save flicks like Mission: Impossible III (which has earned a disappointing $122.7 million here, but $192.9 million elsewhere) and juice smashes like The Da Vinci Code (70 percent of its $582.7 million global take has come from foreign markets). ”Given the costs of making a film today, very few event pictures could be made for the domestic box office alone,” says Jeff Blake of Sony Pictures. ”You have to have a worldwide plan.”

Sure enough, Hollywood readied itself for a business slowdown long ago, flooding May with big releases to avoid the World Cup juggernaut. ”Certainly it’s something that we have backed off of,” says Universal Pictures’ David Kosse. That’s why June is relatively free of tentpole pictures: Comedies like Nacho Libre and American-centric stories like The Devil Wears Prada — which have less blockbuster potential offshore — pack the slate. And the next big shows with global ambitions, Superman Returns and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, will score most of their euros and yen and pesos only when la Coppa del Mondo is done. At least, that’s their gooooooaaaallll!