Pic's int'l gross doesn't live up to par

Judging by its roll-outs in 41 markets, “Robots” may turn out to be one of the few CGI animated pics of recent years to gross less internationally than at home.

The spanner in the works for the ‘bots, say rival distribs, is that the mechanical characters lack the charm of talking fish, toys, animals and superheroes, and the emotional core that sustained those juggernauts.

Chris Wedge-helmed kidpic rang up an estimated $16.7 million from debuts in 12 markets and holdovers in 29 last weekend, playing on nearly 6,000 screens.

Its cume hit $45.3 million, and although it’s yet to open in Japan, France, South Korea, Taiwan and China, it may be a stretch to catch domestic, which looks headed for around $120 million. The Fox/Blue Sky Studios production is tracking significantly below “Ice Age,” which wound up with $206.7 million abroad (vs. domestic’s $176 million).

Pic, voiced by Robin Williams, Ewan McGregor and Halle Berry, bowed at No. 1 in Argentina and Australia (4% below “Ice Age”) but came in third in Italy, fetching $1.4 million on 506 screens.

In its soph sessions, “Robots” retained the lead in Spain, snaring $2.2 million (up by 20%), spurring the local total to $5.8 million. But the Easter break didn’t goose the pic as exhibs had hoped, as it fell by 21% in Germany (pocketing $4.8 million so far), by 6% in the U.K. (banking $9.2 million) and 15% in Brazil ($1.9 million).

‘Castle’ admirers

Traditional cel animation still has its admirers overseas, typified by Japan’s “Howl’s Moving Castle,” which minted $1.1 million on 35 in Hong Kong, a clear No. 1 on par with the debut of “Toy Story 2″ and just 12% below “Finding Nemo.”

Saga of a magician and an 18-year-old girl in an old woman’s body has amassed around $210 million, including $185 million in Japan; it bows June 10 in the U.S. via Disney.

“Valiant,” a Brit-produced animated pic about a heroic homing pigeon in WWII, had its world preem in Blighty, ranked fifth. It captured an estimated $1.8 million on 400 locations, evidently not getting much of a boost from the voice cast of McGregor, Ricky Gervais (“The Office”), Tim Curry and John Cleese.

‘Heffalump’ bump

Easter gave some bumps to “Pooh’s Heffalump Movie” in the U.K., Spain, Mexico and Russia after its tame debuts. The Disney toon has earned $14.4 million and this weekend will overtake domestic’s $17 million.

The champ overseas for the fourth frame in a row, “Hitch” garnered $16.9 million from 5,000 prints in 55 markets. The cume reached $125.3 million and, with Japan to come, is heading for north of $150 million.

Will Smith/Eva Mendes wooed $430,000 in New Zealand, $400,000 in Greece and $292,000 in Venezuela, and was No. 1 again in its third weekend wide in the U.K. and in its fourth in Germany.

Romantic comedy whistled up $2.8 million in its second sojourn in France (falling by 34%), hoisting the local cume to $8.5 million, trailing rookie “Million Dollar Baby,” which, as an guesstimate, made around $3 million. Hilary Swank starrer, which took a respectable $680,000 on 120 in Germany, has racked up around $60 million.

“Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous” grossed a projected $10.5 million from 2,100 screens in 13 territories, mostly ranked second or third, mirroring its domestic preem.

Sandra Bullock starrer’s best efforts were the U.K.’s $2.45 million, Oz’s $1.87 million and Germany’s $1.76 million; Spain delivered a soft $1.16 million. Sequel grabbed a moderate $620,000 in Taiwan (No. 1 in capital Taipei), $422,000 in Holland, $353,000 in Switzerland and $340,000 in Belgium.

“National Treasure” was the victor again in Japan, digging up $1.9 million (easing by 35%) to bag a nifty $9.2 million in nine days. Pic scored $2.5 million in 10 days in China. Its cume reached $160.7 million.

“The Aviator” clocked a disappointing $1.6 million in Japan, its final major market, and its cume surpassed $102 million.

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