No luster of ‘Rings’

O'seas holiday B.O. lacks big blockbuster

This article was updated at 6:34 p.m.

The overseas box office is missing Frodo.

For the first time since 2000, there’s no “Lord of the Rings” film to dominate the offshore holiday season film business. Instead, the Christmas break saw respectable performances from limited debuts of “Meet the Fockers,” “Kung Fu Hustle,” “The Aviator” and “Alexander” plus decent holdover biz from “Ocean’s Twelve,” “The Incredibles,” “Polar Express,” “Shrek 2,” “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “National Treasure.”

But the numbers are dwarfed by the takings during the past three seasons from the “Rings” trilogy, which opened each year on the Wednesday of the week before Christmas and instantly became the must-see pic everywhere. In its first dozen days last year, “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” had cumed $270 million in 38 territories; in 2002; “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” took in $203 million in 28 nations during that period.

By contrast, the biggest comparable holiday entry of 2004 is “Ocean’s Twelve,” which opened Dec. 17 and has cumed $67.8 million offshore. Despite some markets seeing closings on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, “Twelve” totaled $22.6 million from 5,183 prints in 46 territories over the most recent frame, down only 22% from the previous Friday-Sunday.

The top total for “Ocean’s” came in France with $4.2 million, off 44% with a $14.1 million cume. The sequel led the market ahead of the opening of BVI’s “National Treasure” with $2.8 million at 614 engagements.

In Italy, “Ocean’s” increased its soph sesh take by 33% to $2.9 million as it bumped up playdates from 289 to 400.

Family-friendly toon “The Incredibles” finished a close second for the Christmas frame with $21.1 million at 6,273 screens in 49 territories, pushing its foreign cume to $228.3 million. The CGI toon is the 12th Disney animated pic to cross the $200 million mark and will easily clear the $300 million mark in a few more weeks.

After U.K. theaters were closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, “The Incredibles” received strong support on Boxing Day on Sunday with $1.1 million, lifting the six-week cume to $46 million. In Australia, its Boxing Day opening grossed $1.4 million at 286 playdates, setting a single-day record for an animated pic.

Sony’s opening of “Kung Fu Hustle” turned out to be a tonic for a quintet of Asian markets, none of which were affected by disastrous tsunamis that struck Sunday. The action-comedy set records in China with $7.8 million at 492 sites, besting the mark previously held by “House of Flying Daggers”; in Hong Kong with $3.2 million at 92, topping the mark set by “Lost World: Jurassic Park 2”; and in Taiwan with $1.9 million at 45, eclipsing the record by “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.”

“Kung Fu Hustle” posted the fifth-largest debut of all time in Singapore with $1.15 million at 46 screens while its Malaysian opening of $952,000 at 52 was second only to “Spider-Man 2.”

“Polar Express,” the other major family entry besides “The Incredibles,” grossed a moderate $10.5 million from 6,000 prints in 59 countries during the Christmas frame, down 7% from the prior sesh, and lifted its foreign cume to $83.8 million. “Kung Fu Hustle” easily beat the “Polar” Hong Kong opening, which grossed $381,900 at 31.

A pair of high-profile pics opened impressively on Boxing Day in their first foreign forays with “Meet the Fockers” taking in $1.8 million at 236 screens in Australia while the “The Aviator” soared with $90,000 at a single London location.

BVI’s “National Treasure” remained reliable with $7.9 million at 2,295 playdates in 20 territories, lifting the actioner’s foreign coin to $52 million. Its U.K. debut on Boxing Day took in $620,000 at 340 sites and its Turkish opening weekend of $515,000 set a mark for the biggest debut of a Disney action pic.

UIP reported solid Italian biz for “Shrek 2,” where the CGI toon led in its soph sesh with $5 million at 440 sites, pushing its Italo cume to $13 million in 10 days.

Japanese animated hit “Howl’s Moving Castle” remained a durable performer in that market with $5.6 million in its sixth weekend, pushing its Japanese cume to $108.8 million. It also opened solidly in South Korea with $3.8 million at 243 playdates.

“Alexander” continued showing generally stronger international pull for audiences than Stateside, where its domestic cume is $33.8 million, compared with foreign takings of $32.7 million from 25 territories. The Oliver Stone epic opened in second place in Germany, its first major foreign foreign market, with $1.96 million at 499 engagements for the Thursday-Sunday period.

“Alexander” finished third in Austria as it opened with $311,582 at 76 screens while its Grecian cume has hit $2.28 million after four weeks, including $198,000 at 70 sites over the Christmas weekend. Five-week Danish total has reached $1.47 million while Swedish cume totals $1.38 million.

“Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason” remained a player after seven weeks with $4 million at 2,260 playdates in 21 territories, pushing foreign cume to $162.4 million. It’s grossed $7.3 million in Korea in 17 days, making it Universal’s eighth largest pic in that market.

“The Phantom of the Opera” posted solid opening day biz on Sunday with $363,015 at 196 playdates in Oz, New Zealand and Latin America in territories handled by UIP. But figures weren’t available for “Phantom” holdovers or “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.”

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