Hat trick: BVI boosts o’seas B.O. past $1 bil

Buena Vista Intl. — boasting boffo grosses from “Ransom,” “101 Dalmatians,” “Con Air,” “Face/Off” and “Air Force One” — announced Monday that the company has crossed the elusive $1 billion overseas box office threshold for an unprecedented third year in a row.

BVI has logged $1.01 billion as of Saturday, with eight weeks left in the calendar year. It will mark the first time that an international distribution team has earned more than $1 billion three years in a row.

BVI prexy Mark Zoradi said the strong perf should easily propel the company to a record year, surpassing the $1.09 billion mark set last year.

Nearly 40 pics released by BVI grossed more than $1 million, three of which were $100 million-plus grossers. Several other pics were expected to hit the $100 million plateau by the end of the year.

“Ransom” was top performer with $146.3 million for 1997 (and $172.4 million since its Christmas 1996 opening). “101 Dalmatians” posted $144.5 million for the year (and $180.2 million including the tail end of 1996).

“Con Air” to date has earned $114 million, and three other pics are expected to hit $100 million by year’s end: “Face/Off,” which has collected $92.6 million so far and has not opened in Great Britain yet; “Air Force One,” which has grossed $76.2 million without Australia or Japan figures; and “Hercules,” which is at $55.7 million and begins its pan-European roll-out in mid-November.

Additionally, Eddie Murphy starrer “Metro” tallied $42.4 million, “The English Patient” paid $41.1 million and last year’s animation hit “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” earned $34.4 million extra in 1997. “Hunchback” closed out with $223.7 million in international B.O.

BVI has Paul Verhoeven’s “Starship Troopers” and the Robin Williams starrer “Flubber” due out this year, which BVI execs said are sure to augment the box office coffers.

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