'Potter's' $62 mil breaks weekend record

Turns out the all-time highest weekend B.O. record overseas posted by “Harry Potter” in the Nov. 30-Dec. 2 frame was short-lived. Last weekend, the blockbuster amassed an estimated $62.3 million from 8,524 prints in 37 countries, topping its prior weekend haul of $60.9 million from 31 territories.

The fantasy/adventure’s foreign cume rocketed past domestic’s $239.7 million to $244.6 million. Now watch the gap widen dramatically as the boy wizard’s international gross races to $300 million next weekend.

Known as “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” in the U.S. and Asia and “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” elsewhere, the Hogwarts saga continues to smash industry opening and second weekend records.

The wiz notched $10.2 million, including previews, on 854 screens in France. It was the market’s widest-ever release, a record bow for a Hollywood film (beating “Star Wars: Episode I –The Phantom Menace”) and the industry’s fourth-highest in history behind local pics “Taxi 2,” “Would I Lie to You? 2″ and “Asterix & Obelix vs. Caesar.”

Bella B.O.

In Italy, the $5.5 million opener in four days on 467 prints eclipsed the country’s previous first-weekend record set by actor-director Leonardo Pieraccioni’s laffer “Fireworks” in 1997. WB Italia chief Paolo Ferrari predicted, “After such a strong start and such a positive response from audiences here, we should reach 40 billion-50 billion lire ($20 million-$25 million).”

French-speaking Switzerland’s $544,000 debut on 27 was an industry best, surpassing “The World Is Not Enough” by 30%, and Venezuela’s $510,000 on 65 also ranked as a new high, outrunning “The Mummy Returns” by 14%. Peru’s $278,000 on 70 stands as the biggest nonholiday preem ever.

Showing formidable holding power, the Chris Columbus-helmed pic dropped by just 2.4% in Japan with a record second-weekend haul of $12.2 million, hoisting the nine-day tally to a phenomenal $36 million. Bill Ireton, Warner’s managing director in Japan, said he is shooting for an eventual gross of $120 million.

Similarly, Spain’s $4 million soph session was unprecedented, off just 10%, for a cume to date of $11.3 million. Coming off a very high peak in Australia, “Harry” plunged by 44% but its $2.7 million frame was an industry record, and its local total hit $9.1 million.

Among other stellar scores are the U.K.’s $63 million through its fourth orbit (where it overtook “Bridget Jones’s Diary” to become the market’s No. 6 all-time earner); Germany’s $38.8 million after its third lap; and Mexico’s $7.5 million in 10 days.

Animated grosses

In its second outing in Argentina, the little sorcerer lost his crown to “Monsters, Inc.,” which captured $713,000 on 179, 25% bigger than “Shrek.”

“Atlantis: The Lost Empire” levitated to $54.6 million from an $8.9 million weekend, and with Italy slated for this weekend and holidays ahead in many countries, it’s destined to cruise past its modest $83 million domestic result.

“Atlantis” swallowed a respectable $2 million on 362 in Japan, the third-highest preem for a U.S. toon trailing “Dinosaur” and “Toy Story 2″ and 5% better than “The Lion King.” Germany’s $1.7 million on 650 was in the lower range of Disney animated bows, but Austria’s $390,000 on 88 was at the upper end.

“American Pie 2″ ascended to $113.6 million, spurred by Australia’s $2.2 million from 214 (81% ahead of the first “Pie”), Spain’s $2.9 million in five days on 288 (84% up on the original on a three-day comparison) and Korea’s $1 million in 10 days.

(David Rooney in Rome contributed to this report.)

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