'Pirates' a pearl overseas, rules in 6th week

“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” has demolished the notion that the skull-and-crossbones is cursed at the B.O., becoming producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s biggest hit with a worldwide haul of $563 million. There’s no shortage of theories on why this swashbuckler broke through. Noting it’s the first U.S. pirate pic since the 1995 fizzer “Cutthroat Island,” one Disney exec said, “There’s a whole generation that had never seen a pirate movie, and their interest in period adventures has been stoked in the past five years by ‘The Mummy,’ ‘Gladiator’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings.’ “

Don’t underestimate Bruckheimer’s Midas touch in assembling B.O.-friendly elements including proven helmer Gore Verbinski, thesps Johnny Depp (a big star in France), Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley (both especially popular in their native U.K.), as well as myriad f/x.

One U.K. exhib said the pic was “a fresh oasis in a desert of sequels” and also attributed its success to the scarcity of competition, the Bloom/Knightley factor and its intrinsic appeal. He hailed it as “the film of the year: downright funny and appealing to all ages and all sexes.”

“Pirates” reigned for the sixth consecutive weekend overseas, pillaging $20 million from 4,249 screens in 46 countries, hoisting cume to $270.5 million. It’s tracking strongly enough to reach $325 million.

No. 1 in Germany

Pic posted yet another BVI live-action preem, this time in South Africa, ringing up $290,000 on 80 screens. It was No. 1 in Germany, capturing $3.6 million in its third voyage for $25.9 million to date; and in Australia, taking $2.3 million in its soph session (off 33%), tallying $6.9 million. Other standouts include Japan’s $53 million, the U.K.’s $39.5 million, Spain’s $22.2 million, and, through its third laps, Italy’s $15.5 million and South Korea’s $8.7 million.

Entering its last major market, “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” triumphed in Italy with a solid but not startling $2.6 million on 601 screens; cume stands at $267.5 million.

“The Italian Job” ruled the U.K. with $3.6 million on 427, including sneaks, and snared a decent $1.5 million on 349 in France, trailing local pic “Jeux d’enfants.” Mark Wahlberg/Charlize Theron starrer stole a neat $446,000 in Belgium and $285,000 in Singapore but a mediocre $384,000 in Taiwan and a dismal $105,000 in Sweden. Cume is $28.2 million in 24 markets, including a measly $4.4 million in Japan, where it was handled by an indie.

Local comedy “Calendar Girls” fetched $3 million in the U.K. (up 5%), lifting the market total to a dandy $10.2 million in 10 days. Launched day-and-date with domestic, “Underworld” surfaced in Blighty with a handy $2.4 million on 349.

‘Lara’ fever in Japan

“Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life” reigned in Japan, notching $4.4 million, 30% below the original’s bow. Angelina Jolie starrer has rustled up a respectable $66.1 million in 39 markets, with Italy and Australia ahead. Healthiest results to date are the U.K.’s $8.3 million, France’s $8.2 million, Germany’s $6.1 million and Korea’s $5.2 million.

“Bad Boys II” revved up a nifty $2 million on 273 in Oz (behind “Pirates”) and a top-ranked $578,000 on 327 in Brazil. Actioner has taken a so-so $25.6 million in 24 markets, hurt in Mexico, Singapore and Malaysia by high age ratings.

“American Wedding” was toasted in Holland, ringing up $759,000 on 91, and in Norway, with $461,000 on 39. It’s minted a juicy $71.1 million in only 13 countries.

The omens aren’t great for “Matchstick Men” judging by the Nicolas Cage starrer’s first foreign forays in France ($905,000 on 406), Germany ($473,000 on 408) and its London platform ($85,000 on 10).

“Identity” scared up a fair $1.2 million on 471 in heatwave-hit Germany, upping cume to $18.1 million in 39 markets, led by the U.K.’s $5.1 million. Sony says the modestly budgeted horror pic will be profitable theatrically, and it expects it’ll have a lucrative life on DVD/video.

“Ready, Steady, Charlie!,” a raunchy comedy set in the Swiss Army, picked up by BVI, smashed the opening record for a local film in German-speaking Switzerland, drawing $797,000 on 49.

(Archie Thomas in London contributed to this report.)

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