Sony sails past $1 bil in o’seas B.O.

When it rains, it pours: Sony Pictures Entertainment announced Tuesday that its international arm, Columbia TriStar Film Distributors Intl., surpassed $1 billion in overseas B.O. for the first time in the studio’s history.

The charge to the ninth digit was led by the world-beating performance in Japan of “Men in Black,” The pic opened to $5.2 million in Japanese theaters over the weekend — which was another record for CTFDI.

Four titles — “MIB,” “Jerry Maguire,” “My Best Friend’s Wedding” and “The Devil’s Own” — delivered the bulk of the overseas B.O. muscle, with each film generating grosses in excess of $100 million. (“MIB,” far and away SPE’s best-performing title of the year, is closing in on $300 million internationally alone.)

Duncan Clark, president of CTFDI, hailed the overseas results as “coinciding with the rising interna-tional market, as well as the changing exhibition structure in many countries.”

He also paid tribute to the films, saying, “We had a great lineup from the filmmakers.”

He acknowledged that the grosses would have been higher if not for partnership arrangements on “Air Force One,” (with Beacon), “Starship Troopers” (with Buena Vista Intl.), and “The Fifth Element” (with Gaumont).

Following closely on the heels of SPE’s Stateside B.O. triumph (Daily Variety, Nov. 14), the overseas bonanza underlines the studio’s corporate strategy to globalize its operations and thereby assign high importance to its titles’ international performance.

“Our international success is partiucularly important in view of the rapid growth of the world marketplace and the increasingly global perspective we have placed on our motion picture business,” said SPE prexy-chief operating officer John Calley.

The new record also highlights how one megahit title — “MIB,” for example — can render a number of misses moot. Not only is the film nearing $600 million in worldwide B.O., it has already sold nearly 17 million units in video sell-through for an approximate ancillary stream gross of nearly $300 million. Additionally, NBC has already coughed up more than $50 million for the exclusive U.S. network broadcast rights to the title. All told, one title is generating nearly $1 billion in revenue all by itself.

(Rex Weiner contributed to this report.)

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