'Van Helsing' takes big bite of o'seas biz

Folks overseas are more eager to take a trip to Transylvania than those in the U.S., judging by “Van Helsing’s” opening weekend.

The monster pic devoured $55.3 million from 5,254 playdates in 41 countries, beating domestic’s $51.7 million. That may suggest director-writer Stephen Sommers’ extravaganza under-performed at home while living up to, or exceeding, industry expectations abroad.

Hugh Jackman starrer rang up $51.7 million in UIP’s markets, a company record, dethroning “Mission: Impossible 2,” which harvested $43.8 million when it launched on nearly 4,500 locations in 31 territories in 2000.

In addition, “Van Helsing” earned an estimated $3 million on 300 screens in Russia, $500,000 in the Philippines and $85,000 in Iceland, where it’s handled by indies. It marked a company high for Universal, outgunning the bows of “The Mummy” ($46.4 million) and “The Mummy Returns” ($47.2 million), neither of which went out day-and-date.

Action-adventure dominated the biz in just about every market, commanding around half of the weekend B.O.

Its stellar preems were led by the U.K.’s $9.9 million on 458 prints, Universal’s second biggest opener locally behind “Love Actually.” Germany stumped up $7.3 million on 742 (23% bigger than “The Mummy Returns” but 5% below “The Mummy”).

Spain delivered $4.9 million on 404, smashing records for Universal and UIP. France generated $4.9 million on 638, 6% ahead of the first “Mummy” and 49% up on the sequel. Australia chipped in with $3.6 million on 338 (including Wednesday sneaks). Italy’s $3.8 million on 262 was an all-time high for UIP, sinking “Castaway.” Mexico’s $2.9 million on 349 was U’s fifth best.

Other impressive scores included Taiwan’s $1.5 million, Scandinavia’s combined $1.45 million, Austria’s $1.1 million, Brazil’s $1 million, Switzerland’s $916,000, Holland’s $881,000, Singapore’s $725,000 and Malaysia’s $456,000.

The monsters mashed “Kill Bill Vol. 2,” which fell heavily in its third weekends, racking up a nifty $13.2 million so far in the U.K., a so-so $7.6 million in Japan, $5.9 million in Germany, $4.9 million in Oz and $4.8 million in Italy. Miramax’s splatterfest captured $5.4 million in 30 territories, its cume topping $49 million and unlikely to catch the original’s $110.2 million.

Japan ‘Haunted’

In Japan, where “Van Helsing” is slated for September, “The Haunted Mansion” fetched $2.2 million in its third sojourn (tumbling by 45%), spurring the territory total to $24.6 million. Family pic hit $100 million, becoming the third BVI title to reach that peak this year after “Finding Nemo” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.” “Mansion” surrendered the lead in Japan to local rookie “Crying Out for Love.”

Elsewhere, “50 First Dates” drew femmes fleeing from the creature feature. The Adam Sandler-Drew Barrymore starrer wooed $4.8 million from holdovers in 33 markets, elevating cume to $53.4 million. Romantic comedy’s running totals include the U.K.’s lucrative $12.9 million through its fifth frame, Germany’s $7 million after its third (easing by 24%), Australia’s $10.5 million and Spain’s underwhelming $2.8 million in its third.

“The Passion of the Christ” levitated to $222.6 million, boosted by Japan’s solid $5.8 million through its second weekend. A rep for distrib Nippon Herald said the religious drama is exceeding its original estimates in a country where about 1% of the population is Christian, and he forecasts an eventual gross of about $13 million.

“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” proved an appealing alternative to “Van Helsing” in the U.K., romancing $1.7 million in its soph session (slipping 22%), raising the market total to $4.8 million.

Gallic films continued to excel on home turf, led by “Les Choristes,” which has banked $34.3 million, the English-lingo “Two Brothers” ($20.5 million) and “Mariages!” ($9.5 million in 19 days, down 22%).

The first U.S. studio pic to unspool exclusively on China’s digital circuit, “Looney Tunes: Back in Action” whistled up an estimated $423,000 in eight days on 54 screens, already ranking as the top-grossing digital-only release in China, trumping “K-19: The Widowmaker’s” modest $242,000. China was the last port of call for Warners’ family pic, whose cume is $47.7 million.

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