WB hits $2 bil overseas

Studio hits a benchmark with grosses

It wasn’t just Harry Potter. Epics like “Troy” and “The Last Samurai” — which arguably underperformed at the domestic box office — helped power Warner Bros. to a $2 billion overseas gross as of this week.

The studio is the first to hit that benchmark, breaking industry records for any single year.

The achievement will be officially unveiled today in New York by Warner Bros chairman Barry Meyer speaking at an analysts’ conference.

“We see this as the result of a series of successful strategies and meticulous positioning of our films as well as tremendous teamwork and cooperation from everyone involved in our organization,” Warner Bros. Pictures Intl. prexy of distribution Veronika Kwan-Rubinek and marketing prexy Sue Kroll said in a joint statement to be made public today.

Warner was also the first studio to hit the $1 billion threshold at overseas wickets, back in 1993; its closest international rival, Disney, performed the same feat in 1995.

The current year has been marked by a series of strong showings abroad, beginning with Tom Cruise starrer “Samurai,” which opened in late 2003 in Japan and went on to vacuum up $344 million in the international market, three times its domestic gross.

To be sure, the soaring euro, pound and yen have contributed to the record takes the studios have been enjoying from foreign cinemas.

UIP, which reps Paramount, Universal and DreamWorks overseas, also recently trumpeted the likelihood it will hit $2 billion by year’s end. “Shrek 2,” “Shark’s Tale” and “Collateral” were the big guns for that umbrella distrib.

“Samurai” became the sixth-highest international grosser for Warner Bros. Pictures and the third-highest-grossing R-rated film. It was followed by “Something’s Gotta Give,” which earned a foreign gross of $142 million, an exceptional number for an American romantic comedy.

Less surprising, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” which opened during the summer, rang up $540 million (as well as $250 million domestically), becoming the eighth-highest-grossing picture in the industry, as well as Warner Bros. Pictures’ third-highest grosser ever.

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