'Potter' leaving 'Titanic' in its wake

How high is up for “Harry Potter” overseas? Late last week, the blockbuster’s foreign cume rocketed to $174.3 million after the pic banked $82.5 million from more than 7,000 screens in 31 countries, leaving numerous shattered industry records in its wake.

Expect the boy wizard to soar well past $200 million by Sunday. Beyond that, “Potter” has a lock on $300 million — and $400 million seems attainable depending on how well it maintains momentum.

In the Nov. 30-Dec. 2 frame, the Chris Columbus-helmed fantasy sold an estimated 12.4 million tickets, amassing $60.9 million. That stands as the highest-grossing weekend in history overseas, eclipsing the previous benchmark set by “Titanic,” which racked up $50.7 million in the Jan. 23-25 weekend in 1998 in 32 territories. To be fair, “Titanic” shipped out on a mere 4,776 screens.

No ‘Stone’ unturned

Known as “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” in Asia and “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” in most other markets, pic smashed industry opening records in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Greece, Israel, Portugal and Iceland.

In Japan, “Harry’s” $12.5 million opener on an unprecedented 650 screens bettered the two-day bow of previous champ “Spirited Away” by 44% (excluding the latter’s sneaks). In five days, the little sorcerer conjured up $19.8 million, and WB predicts “Harry’s” gross will comfortably surpass the $78 million “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” uploaded in Japan.

“Potter” debuts in Oz, New Zealand and Portugal outshone “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace,” Spain’s entry dethroned “Planet of the Apes,” Greece’s beat “What Women Want,” and Israel’s toppled “Scary Movie.”

The distrib hailed Mexico’s $4.8 million in six days on 739 screens as the market’s second-highest preem behind “Dinosaur” (which was uncaged during holidays), Argentina’s $1.4 million on 173 as the third best, and Thailand’s $1.7 million in six days on 152 as the second biggest.

The film saw record soph sessions in Germany, Holland, Austria, Denmark, German-speaking Switzerland, Norway and South Africa, while it already ranks as the U.K.’s seventh-highest earner of all time in just its third lap.

In Germany, one booker marveled, “Despite a 30% drop, ‘Harry Potter’ remains a huge success. Moviegoers of all ages are coming to see the film, and it’s getting a lot of good word of mouth. Even viewers who wouldn’t normally go to big special effects-laden movies are coming to see it.”

The exhib also was cheered by repeat visits from younger, die-hard “Harry” fans.

Elsewhere, biz was fairly languid. French auds turned out for “Atlantis: The Lost Empire,” which clocked the market’s fourth-biggest toon bow behind “Tarzan,” “Dinosaur” and “The Lion King.”

Toon splash

“Atlantis” collected a buoyant $480,000 on 90 in Belgium, on par with “Pocahontas” and slightly below “Mulan,” and had a fair hold in Spain despite the wiz’s invasion.

Cume stood at $46.5 million before weekend launches in Germany and Japan.

Jet Li vehicle “The One” didn’t thrill the Gauls, who also displayed minimal interest in “Don’t Say a Word.”

In Spain, much hoopla and healthy interest greeted Penelope Cruz’s return to Spanish cinema in Agustin Diaz-Yanes’ “No News From God,” while the Peter Hyams-helmed “The Musketeer” (a bust in Japan and France) had a surprisingly robust entry.

In its first offshore engagement, “Monsters, Inc.” saw $460,000 in three days on 38 in Singapore, including previews, for an animated industry record, outrunning “Dinosaur.”

“American Pie 2″ climbed to $107.6 million, spurred by South Korea’s lusty $712,000 in six days on 60 — six times more than the first “Pie’s” entire take there.

‘Guys,’ ‘Man’ limp

In Italy, New Line’s contempo Brooklyn gangster pic “Knockaround Guys” had a forgettable world preem, inhibited by the lack of an obvious marketing hook or major-name stars, while the Coen brothers’ “The Man Who Wasn’t There” was just fair.

Otherwise, Italo distribs unloaded “Lucky Numbers,” “Kiss of the Dragon,” “Rock Star” and “Glitter” before the sorcerer materialized Friday.

Romantic comedy “Serendipity” did OK biz in Germany, despite lousy reviews, but exhibs say its overly sentimental plot portends a short stay. The Germans’ noted distaste for patriotic U.S. military subjects meant “The Last Castle” was ignored.

The British press gave Bruce Willis a rough time for canceling his trip to Blighty for the London fest screening of “Bandits,” which didn’t help the caper’s prospects there.

(John Hopewell in Madrid, Ed Meza in Berlin and David Rooney in Rome contributed to this report.)

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