Sequels surpass originals

'9/11' grosses $2.4 mil in U.K. opening weekend

Foreign markets embraced a diverse trio of American successes during the past weekend, with the Spider-Man and Shrek sequels outperforming their predecessors and Michael Moore’s “Farenheit 9/11” showing serious heat in its international launch.

Sony’s “Spider-Man 2” slung $50.9 million overseas from 6,723 prints in 50 territories over the weekend, lifting its 12-day international cume to $113.9 million – only $305 million from matching the foreign gross of the original even though most key European markets haven’t yet opened including the U.K., Spain and France.

DreamWorks’ “Shrek 2” was close behind with $49.1 million in 32 markets, lifiting the foreign total to $259.7 million — $50 million ahead of the final cume of the original “Shrek.”

“Fahrenheit 9/11” scored fiery debuts in its first foreign rollouts, with $3.7 million in its first five days in France on 220 prints and $2.4 million in its first three days at 131 U.K. sites. Other launches also drew impressively with $575,000 at 31 Benelux screens, $280,000 at 35 venues in French Switzerland and $8,000 at seven screens in Israel.

French audiences are sparking to the Bush-bashing docu, which also won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and StudioCanal subsid Mars Distribution plans to expand the run next weekend by 150 venues. Brit distrib Optimum Releasing will add 50 sites during the upcoming frame and another 50 during the following sesh.

In the U.K., Moore’s docu finished third for the weekend behind “Shrek 2” with $13.1 million at 512 screens and “Around the World in 80 Days” with $3 million at 389 sites. It easily outgrossed fourth place finisher, the sixth frame of “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” with $1.5 million at 437.

As for the blockbuster of the moment, the $50 million-plus weekend for “Spider-Man 2” repped the largest frame ever for a pic released by Columbia TriStar Film Distributors Intl. “I feel confident that we are going to beat the final gross for the original,” said Mark Zucker, senior exec veep of CTFDI.

“Spider-Man 2” led in its openings Japan, Germany, Scandinavia, Switzerland, Greece, South Africa, Jamaica and Kenya. Its $10 million take in Japan was the distrib’s biggest ever; the $250,000 debut in Jamaica was the largest opener ever for that market.

Holdover business for the web-slinger stayed solid, with Argentine receipts off 13%, Brazil biz down 17%, Indonesia off 25%, and New Zealand and Venezuela both down 27%. “Spider-Man 2” has eclipsed the total cume of “Spider-Man” in five territories — Russia, where it needed six days to top the original; the Philippines with seven days; Turkey with 10 days; Thailand with 11 days; and Malaysia with 12 days.

The opening of “Spider-Man 2” won head-to-head over “Shrek 2” in Germany with $8.7 million at 781 screens compared with $6.9 million at 890 sites for the ogre sequel in its soph sesh.

“Shrek 2” is now the seventh biggest film released by UIP/Universal and the biggest ever foreign release for DreamWorks. Its $51.9 million take after two weeks in the U.K. is more than $10 million ahead of the total Blighty take of the original.

Warner’s “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” became the distrib’s fourth biggest overseas film ever behind the two “Harry Potter” predecessors and “The Matrix: Reloaded” with $21.7 million at 6,700 sites to lift the foreign cume to $405.3 million. The U.K. cume for “Azkaban” has hit $79.4 million after six weeks while France is at $46.3 million over the same period and German takings have hit $44.3 million.

Warner also reported $3.2 million from 2,151 screens for “Troy,” lifting its foreign cume to $344.3 million to surpass “The Last Samurai” as the second highest R-rated film overseas after “The Matrix Reloaded.” The Brad Pitt epic’s also the fifth highest foreign grosser for Warner Bros of all time.

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