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‘Madagascar’ critters snatch top o’seas B.O.

Few family pics gives toon the top spot

The animated zoo animals of DreamWorks’ “Madagascar” made a monkey out of DreamWorks/Paramount “War of the Worlds” at the international box office last weekend.

CGI pic “Madagascar” pulled in $31 million over the weekend overseas, capitalizing on being one of the few family pics in the marketplace. By midweek, the film had cumed more than $154 million worldwide.

Pic — which has already been in circulation for six weeks in some markets — was particularly buoyed by its U.K. bow, passing the $9.5 million mark there, and hit No. 1 in Hong Kong and Germany.

“War of the Worlds” didn’t trail too far behind in second place, taking in $30 million at No. 1 in France, among other territories. French bow of Warner Bros.’ “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” was close behind.

Tom Cruise starrer “Worlds,” meantime, has taken in $265 million internationally.

Fox’s superhero pic “Fantastic Four” took third place overall overseas last weekend, despite sharp drops in key turf. Pic is playing particularly well in Australia, where it neared the $6 million mark after its second frame in release, and led all biz there over the weekend, edging out “Worlds.”

For Fox, “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” continued to prove itself as one of the few bona fide international blockbusters this season. Final pic in the George Lucas franchise passed the $400 million mark last weekend, moving to $415.6 million by midweek.

Pic is picking up big biz in Japan, the final territory where “Sith” has been unleashed: It has taken in $37.5 million there.

Despite the perky perfs of “Sith,” “Worlds” and newly crowned “Madagascar,” overall box office last weekend was down from the year before, when sequels in the “Spider-Man,” “Harry Potter” and “Shrek” franchises were driving the biz to new heights.

Warner Bros.’ “Batman Begins” continued to hang on to the international top five last weekend, flying to a cume of so far in its run.

Meantime, Warner’s “Chocolate Factory” got off to a good start, stirring up $4 million from French-lingo turf alone. Pic is primed to give “Madagascar” a run for its money in the family film sector.

Also doing biz in the U.K. was New Line’s “Wedding Crashers,” which said “I do” to nearly $4 million on 580 screens.

Along with “Madagascar,” good U.K. perfs helped give the Blighty box office a boost, jumping overall to more than $19.5 million from the previous week’s take of roughly $11.6 million.

Also thanks to “Madagascar’s” bow, Germany’s B.O. climbed 62% from the previous week, giving local exhibs reason to celebrate. Toon enjoyed the second best start of the year after “Sith.”

Pic keyed in on kids being home for the summer holidays, according to one Teutonic exhib. “It’s really the first major film this summer aimed solely at kids,” he said. “And they responded.”

“Madagascar’s” German perf even neared that of “Shrek 2” last year. Ogre pic garnered 1.3 million admissions on its first opening weekend last summer.

Like “Batman Begins,” “Fantastic Four” found Germany to be tough turf to crack as auds there continue to resist comicbook adaptations.

Locally, German exhibs are anticipating a homegrown hit with the upcoming fantasy/comedy “Siegfried,” which opens July 28.

Without “Madagascar,” Italy’s summer box office melted, down a sharp 52% from the week before.

In its third frame there, “Worlds” was still tops, but with a steep 66% drop in biz.

New entries “Land of the Dead” and “Lords of Dogtown” failed to make much noise. Italo exhibs were disgruntled about the lack of product for auds to latch on to this summer.

Spanish box office was up 7%, in part because the country’s soccer leagues are on hiatus until September. Exhibs there also said they felt the product flowing their way from Hollywood has been improving, compared with the year’s first half.

Fox’s “Fantastic Four” brought in $5 million in Spain over the weekend, and exhibs said the pic’s lighter tone than “Worlds” or “Sith” helped its biz.

As for “Worlds,” pic dropped in Spain, where it has cumed $15 million by 50%. One booker said he foresees the pic taking in a total of $18 million or so, far below the $24 million exhibs were hoping for.

Spain was yet another territory where UIP’s “Madagascar” benefited from being booked around school holidays, and exhibs praised its broad appeal to youngsters and their parents.

(Ed Meza in Germany, Sheri Jennings in Italy and Esther de Prado in Spain contributed to this report.)

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