Prestige, popcorn pics dominate wickets

A slew of Oscar contenders and several unadulterated crowdpleasers is underpinning the buoyant B.O. overseas. Among the impressive freshmen last weekend were “8 Mile,” “The Bourne Identity,” “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” “Gangs of New York,” “Catch Me if You Can” and “Chicago.”

Also, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” sped past “Jurassic Park” to rank as the third-highest grosser abroad, amassing $568.2 million. The Hogwarts saga minted $7 million from holdovers in 52 markets and launched in China at roughly the same level as the first edition (although WB could not verify the figure Monday).

“The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” vaulted to $423.1 million after banking an estimated $19 million from more than 8,000 engagements in 52 territories. Peter Jackson’s blockbuster conjured up a stunning $2.8 million on 133 screens in Russia (eclipsing the original’s bow by 82%) and $6 million in its second lap in Italy, advancing to a stellar $18 million.

Going distance

Eminem starrer “8 Mile” wrapped up $11.6 million from 2,012 locations in 25 markets, upping cume to $46.8 million. Rap-themed drama pocketed a uniformly strong $606,000 on 46 in Norway, $519,000 on 43 in Sweden, $299,000 on 25 in New Zealand and $292,000 on 45 in Portugal. Singapore’s $198,000 entry on 22 and the Philippines’ $165,000 on 48 were slightly less impressive but both were No. 1. It’s still the market leader in Australia, earning a socko $5.7 million in 11 days (down 50%) and the U.K., where it has picked up $13.6 million in 10 days (off just 36%).

Benefiting from topliner Matt Damon’s cachet in Japan, “Bourne” trapped $2.5 million on 240, ending the astonishing 10-week reign of “Chamber of Secrets.” Thriller’s cume hit $80 million but is unlikely to reach $100 million as Japan is its final stop.

“Greek Wedding” wooed $2.1 million on 260 in Germany, besting “Two Towers” in its sixth lap. Indie phenom’s estimated cume topped $80 million.

Leonardo DiCaprio/Tom Hanks vehicle “Catch Me” ran away from the pack in Spain, stealing $2 million on 289, and nabbed a terrif $1.7 million on 139 in South Korea.

DiCaprio/Daniel Day-Lewis headliner “Gangs of New York” took a nifty $3.2 million on 498 in Italy, $503,000 on 108 in Holland and $359,000 in Greece, according to IEG. Martin Scorsese drama’s estimated cume is a handy $52.7 million in 14 countries, including Japan’s $21.5 million and the U.K.’s $12.3 million.

Big shoulders bears B.O.

“Chicago” rang up a dandy $1.1 million from a fairly limited 157 engagements Down Under, the highest screen average in the top 10, and No. 2 overall behind “8 Mile.” Musical drama expanded wide in its second weekend in the U.K. after its London platform, whistling up a classy $9.9 million.

“Die Another Day” seized $910,000 on 86 in Denmark, a Fox/MGM/James Bond record locally and the industry’s fourth-highest preem. The 007 caper levitated to $216 million, with Japan and Italy ahead.

Venturing to the U.K. after making a fair $476,000 in Holland, New Line’s “About Schmidt” fetched a promising $1.2 million on 222.

Zhang Yimou’s epic “Hero” conquered Thailand (notching $479,000 on 107, a record for a Chinese-lingo pic) and Malaysia ($192,000 on 48) and has racked up a superb $3 million in Taiwan and $982,000 in Singapore, both in 10 days.

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