‘Batman’ flexes o’seas muscle

Foreign auds go batty for quartet of titles

This article was updated at 7:14 p.m.

“Batman Begins” flew to first with a respectable $41.7 million overseas opening at 8,000 plus playdates in 73 countries in its first five days.

Strong as it was, the debut fell significantly short of other recent tentpoles.

The fifth version of the Batman saga took in less than a third of the $144.7 million opening of “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” at over 10,500 screens and came in well behind the $56 million launch for “Kingdom of Heaven” at 6,500 engagements. And it lost in head-to-head competition with UIP’s “Madagascar” in a quartet of major markets — Australia, Holland, Mexico and Spain.

Warner’s execs said Sunday that “Batman Begins” should have solid legs in the wake of the day-and-date launch, which followed a massive worldwide promo campaign. And rival distribs said the Batpic should dominate foreign biz until the June 29 day-and-date opening of “War of the Worlds.”

“We’re really pleased with this result,” said Veronika Kwan-Rubinek, Warner’s president of international distribution. “Based on the international critical and audience response for ‘Batman Begins,’ we look forward to a steadily building run for the movie that will result in a tremendous summer for Warner Bros. Pictures.”

The previous four Batfilms grossed a combined $540 million offshore, led by $160 million from 1989’s “Batman.”

Hot weather hampered the Bat launch as overall moviegoing in key European markets was off by as much as 30% from the usual numbers for a mid-June weekend. But “Batman Begins” still managed an impressive $7.8 million at 514 playdates in the U.K. for that market’s third biggest 2005 launch after “Sith” and “Meet the Fockers.”

The heat clearly hindered “Batman Begins” in other major Euro markets as it took in $3 million at 681 engagments in France, $2.53 million at 455 in Spain, $2.2 million at 580 in Italy and $1.8 million at 674 in Germany.

“Batman Begins” delivered decent numbers in Mexico with $4.2 million at 643 sites, representing Warner’s fourth biggest opening in that territory after the second and third “Harry Potter” films and “The Matrix: Reloaded.” Still, that was not enough to beat UIP’s opening of “Madagascar,” which launched with $5 million at 381 for a 50% share of the market.

“Batman Begins” opened in first place in Japan, site of the worldwide premiere three weeks ago, with $2.9 million at 581 playdates.

“Madagascar” beat The Bat badly in Australia with $5.74 million at 255 for a 30% share, nearly double “Batman Begins” with $3.14 million at 360. The toon led in Spain with $3.3 million at 556, $800,000 ahead of “Batman Begins;” Holland saw $850,000 at 134 for “Madagascar,” 22% ahead of “The Incredibles.”

Overall business continued to receive a significant boost from “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” with $22.1 million at 3,900 playdates, led by a $5.2 million opening at 348 in South Korea for the biggest Fox launch in that market and the seventh-biggest of all time. “Smith” also saw beefy launches in South Africa with $637,000 at 71; in Denmark with $565,000 at 66; in Portugal with $447,00 at 65; and in Israel with $364,000 at 34 for the biggest opening of 2005 in that market.

But holdover biz for “Smith” saw fairly significant declines, most likely reflecting the considerable competition from “Batman.”

Soph sesh takings for “Smith” were led by the U.K., with a 49% decline to $3.3 million at 445 sites for a $14.2 million cume; Australia saw a 53% decline to $2.3 million at 357 for a $9.2 million total; Mexico slid 56% to $1.5 million at 674 for a $7.1 million cume.

Offshore cume for the Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie vehicle has hit $68 million.

“Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” began running out of gas in its fifth frame with a 52% decline to $8.8 million at 7,200 playdates for a foreign cume of $357.9 million. Combined worldwide “Sith” grosses have hit $705 million, making it the 19th film to cross the $700 million mark and the third highest worldwide grosser of the “Star Wars” films, trailing only “The Phantom Menace” at $922 million and the original “Star Wars” at $798 million.

Nearly half of the “Sith” foreign grosses came from three European markets — $1.6 million at 851 playdates in France to boost its cume to $49.4 million; $1.3 million in the U.K. at 432 for a $68.5 million territorial total; and $1.2 million in  Germany at 1,029 for a $44.3 million cume.

Overall international biz for the frame was solid if not spectacular with “Batman Begins,” “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” “Madagascar” and “Sith” combining for about $90 million. Still, the weekend fell short of the same 2004 frame when the top four pics — “Shrek 2,” “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” “The Day After Tomorrow” and “Troy” — combined for $109 million. 

BVI’s long-running “The Pacifier” took in $2 million at 2,234 playdates with $950,000 in its soph sesh in France to lift foreign cume to $76.5 million. Distrib’s “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” grossed $1.7 million at 1,370 sites with most coming from Germany with $1.1 million in its second frame to push the offshore cume to $36.6 million.

UIP’s “The Interpreter,” which has mirrored the foreign performance of “The Pacifier,” grossed $1.3 million at 1,000 playdates to lift the international total to $74.3 million.

Sony’s third weekend of “The Longest Yard” totaled $1 million in Australia and Mexico — the only foreign territories so far for the football comedy — and lifted the offshore take to $8.4 million.

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