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International Box Office Sales, or Another U.S. Export? How Do Hollywood Movies Stack Up?

Published: 20 May 2015 01:05:40 PST

At PIERS we talk a lot about exports in terms of TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units), and rightfully so, we are the only source for waterborne export data in which TEUs is the standard unit of measure. So this got us thinking, what about other forms of exports that aren’t containerized waterborne shipments? 

What if we took the term “export” and looked at it in the broadest term we could outside of how we at PIERS commonly think of exports?  Exports that aren’t measured in TEUs…  Exports not even measured in shipments, and in industries that don’t even need to ship their product overseas to profit abroad.   Hmmmm.  How would those industries compare to our TEU figures?


One major and very prominent American industry stood out as a great point of comparison that is normally not on our radar (at least while we’re working) – Hollywood movies.   Through November 30th of this year, the “big six” studios which collectively share roughly 81% of worldwide box office revenue amassed combined international box office sales of $12.5B, just $16M shy of 2010’s record $12.7B, according to studio figures.

Just for fun we decided to look at some of the top grossing films in 2011 and see what it would take to ship these movies abroad assuming they were physical goods.  To make this comparison we took PIERS Estimated Value for all containerized U.S. exports through Q3 2011, and divided this number by total TEUs exported, to come up with an average value per TEU shipped in 2011 ($77,543/TEU).

Using these assumptions we’ve found that this year’s blockbusters (if they were physical goods) would have generated some pretty impressive container volumes.  Leading the pack would be Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollow Part 2 with an estimated volume of 12,214 TEUs!  That’s enough container volume to fill the fourth largest ship in the world the CMA CGM Thalassa. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides would place in second with 10,353 TEUs, followed by Transformers 3 and Kung Fu Panda 2 with 9,940 TEUs and 6,419 TEUs respectively, with Disney’s The Smurfs rounding out the top 5 is with 5,406 TEUs.

International Box Office Sales in TEUs

The numbers get even more impressive when we start looking to total box office sales for entire studios.  Through November 30th Paramount International alone generated $2.8B in international box office sales, which following our assumptions would translate to 37,025 TEUs or two and a half fully loaded Emma Maersks, which is the largest container ship in the world.  Warner Brothers would take a close second with 33,530 TEUs, followed by Disney with 27,959, 20th Century Fox with 26,076, Sony with 21,627, and finally Universal 15,488.  Totals for the entire industry would top 161,704 TEUs, which is comparable to the amount of total imports the Port of Los Angeles receives from China each quarter.

Top Studios International Box Office Sales in TEUs

Even with container rates at an all time low, Hollywood Execs should be counting their blessings they generate their money from ticket sales rather than a physical product.  To learn more about PIERS export data, visit

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