Heading to a record

UIP could gross unprecedented $2 billion

LONDON — United Intl. Pictures, the foreign joint venture between Universal and Paramount, is on track to become the first theatrical distribution company to gross $2 billion in a calendar year.

UIP will reach the tough target it set at the beginning of the year a week or two before Christmas, thanks to the fast weakening dollar.

The precise timing depends on box office results for U’s “Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason” and DreamWorks/Par’s “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.” As of Monday, UIP’s annual total stood at $1.92 billion.

“We’re delighted to be the first distributor, foreign or domestic, to break the magic $2 billion barrier,” said UIP chairman Stewart Till. “It was obviously one thing to set the target, and quite another thing to achieve it. I’d like to thank all our studios for providing the films that enabled us to do it.”

The charge has been led by “Shrek 2” and “Shark Tale” from DreamWorks, the second “Bridget Jones” and “Van Helsing” from U, and the Par/DreamWorks co-production “Collateral.”

In the next two weeks, UIP will open the “Bridget” sequel in South Korea, “Lemony Snicket” in the U.K. and Australia, and “Shrek 2” in Italy.

The “Bridget” sequel is set to top its predecessor in foreign, with a gross to date of $193 million excluding France (where it will be released by Studio Canal, not UIP), compared with $210 million outside North America for the first movie. By contrast, “Edge of Reason” is unlikely to beat $50 million domestically, against $72 million for the first installment.

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