Fox’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” has become an unlikely box office champion — showing surprising legs both in English-language territories and overseas.
In its first 12 weeks of release, the biopic of the British rock band Queen and frontman Freddie Mercury has grossed more than $772 million worldwide, with $574 million coming from overseas — even without a release in China.
Fresh off its Golden Globes wins for Best Motion Picture – Drama and lead actor Rami Malek, “Rhapsody” earned another $2.2 million domestically this weekend.
Moreover, the Fox release has been one of the studio’s most profitable hits: With a production budget of $52 million, it’s the only film in the top 15 of 2018 worldwide box office with a budget of less than $100 million.
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Surprisingly, the Far East has been the biggest source of the film’s international success. In Japan, the film just added $3.3 million in its 10th weekend for a total of $81 million. On IMAX, the film is now the highest grossing film in Japanese box office history, surpassing the premium format totals for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “Avatar.”
South Korea is second on the list with $75 million. (The film has also scored in more expected territories: The U.K. has contributed just under $65 million, while the film earned $33.8 million in Australia.)
“When I went to the Japanese premiere, I learned that Japan was one of Queen’s first foreign visits ever in their career, and they performed there over 40 times. So there is a very big Queen fanbase in that country,” Fox International Distribution President Andrew Cripps told TheWrap.
“And in Korea, we are approaching 10 million admissions, which is roughly a fifth of their national population,” he said. “We’ve been amazed at how well moviegoers around the world have responded to this film, even younger generations, who we were wondering if they were going to show up even though they might not have known as much about Queen.”
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Boxoffice.com analyst Daniel Loria credits the success to Fox’s decision to release the film in early November, allowing it to leg out all through the holiday season. He also notes that “Bohemian Rhapsody” could afford to come out early and still perform well against later blockbuster releases because of its unique qualities as a film.
“It’s a musically-driven film, and the music is these iconic songs that are accompanied by concert scenes that build up to the big Live Aid finale,” Loria said. “Structurally, it’s a film that’s well positioned for global release, telling the story of a famous singer with a lot of crowd-pleasing performances that transcend cultural boundaries.”
The success of “Rhapsody” will likely be a measuring stick for a similar musical biopic coming out later this year: “Rocketman,” Paramount’s upcoming film on the life and career of Elton John.
The film will star Taron Egerton as the famous pop star and will be directed by Dexter Fletcher, who replaced Bryan Singer as the director for “Bohemian Rhapsody” during production.
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In the meantime, “Bohemian Rhapsody” has served as a last hurrah for Fox before its film division is absorbed by Disney, as the film is close to passing “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” for the No. 7 spot on the 2018 global charts, and has already topped the global totals for franchise films like “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” and fellow Fox release “Deadpool 2.”
Cripps said credited the studio’s global marketing team, led by Pam Levine, Kevin Campbell and Tony Sella. But the highest praise went to Rami Malek for his Globe-winning performance as Mercury.
“Beyond the popularity of Freddie and Queen, I think Rami is the biggest factor in the film’s success,” he said. “It’s not just the music that transcends barriers, it’s his iconic performance that was so deserving of a Golden Globe.”