Aardman's latest film, the fantastic The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists, has just been released state-side, where it's branded as The Pirates! Band of Misfits. Despite critical praise and a strong box-office showing here in the UK, Aardman's home territory, how it'll fare in America is far less certain.
The pirate theme to the film may broaden the film's appeal to US audience, who have never quite got Aardman's trademark British wit, but if opening sales are any indication, that may not be enough. The Pirates! clocks in Aadramn's weakest US opening to date, taking an estimated $11.4 million, compared to $12.1 million for last year's Arthur Christmas. The fact that the film is being released in accordance with Sony Pictures Animation, who are much better known in America, and the film's fairly strong advertising campaign - focusing on Aardman's Oscar success and the film's comedy - may also work some way to help boost sales - although by how much will remain to be seen.
Aardman can probably expect a decent, if unexciting, box-office report for The Pirates! - although hopefully good word of mouth will drive the masses in. Large box-office receipts are going to be pretty necessary if the talk of a sequel is going to go anywhere - I'd certainly love to see a sequel.
Director Peter Lord said the following to BBC News on the subject:
"My attitude is one of hope. We do what we do and we hope the rest of the world will come to the party. I shall now be going around North America and beating a drum and wearing a sandwich board to get them to come to the cinema.
We'd be interested in doing a sequel for this film because I'd love to re-explore this bunch of characters but it entirely depends upon box office business.
This is a really rash thing to say, but most of the rest of the world I am quite confident about. We always do really well in places like France and Germany, but America is the tricky one, and that's because I think our brand of comedy is less familiar to them."
Here's hoping the film does well - it deserves too. A note to any American readers: go see it! You won't be disappointed.