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‘Batman’ flying high o’seas in 2nd frame

Overall box office remains down from last year's tallies

“Batman Begins” showed staying power in a mostly moderate overseas market as its sophomore session grossed $26.7 million at 8,350 playdates in 85 territories.

Warner’s fifth Batpic saw holdover international grosses decline by a respectable 36%, pushing its foreign cume to $83.4 million. Key markets posted decreases under 40%, including 22% in the U.K., 27% in Spain, 29% in Mexico, 35% in France and Australia, 37% in Brazil and 39% in Japan and Italy.

Veronika Kwan-Rubinek, the studio’s prexy of international distribution, said the second-frame results reflected solid word of mouth among moviegoers despite hot weather in several key European markets. “The movie’s been receiving very good reaction everywhere,” she added.

The Bat’s U.K. performance was the best by far, with $5.1 million at 516 playdates to push the Blighty cume to $16.7 million, 13% better than “I Robot” and 17% above “Van Helsing” at the same point. South Korea opened with $2.1 million at 201 screens, Indonesia launched with $430,000 at 62 and Portugal started with $388,000 at 80.

Australia tied with Korea for the second-highest Batgross with $2.1 million, followed by $1.96 million in France, $1.94 million in Mexico, $1.8 million in Spain, $1.6 million in Japan and $1.3 million in Italy. German B.O. remained disappointing with $1 million, dropping 45% for a cume of $3.4 million.

The traction for “Batman Begins” will be tested starting on Wednesday, the day-and-date opening for “War of the Worlds.” Exhibitors believe the Bat will offer significant appeal in the face of what are expected to be massive grosses from the Tom Cruise-Steven Spielberg sci-fi juggernaut.

UIP’s “Madagascar” continued to mint impressive counter-programming coin among family audiences, with $18.1 million at 3,006 engagements in 23 markets. The CGI toon, which has cumed $54.1 million offshore, launched in first in France, Brazil, Belgium and New Zealand and remained in the top spot in soph seshes in Spain, Australia and Mexico.

“Madagascar” posted its top performance in France with $3.75 million at 735 cinemas for a 24% share, topping local fave “The Russian Dolls” and “Batman Begins.” The animal comedy also took in $3 million at 364 in Spain, off only 16%; another $3 million at 366 in Mexico, down 38%; and $2.75 million at 260 in Oz, off 22%.

Fox’s third weekend of “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” held up decently with $12.7 million at 3,379 playdates in 32 markets, pushing international cume in Fox territories to nearly $91 million for a total foreign gross of about $100 million range. Its top performance came in the U.K. with a decline of just 4% to $2.8 million at 442 for a market cume of $18.3 million; Australia slid 32% to $1.6 million at 338 for an $11.6 million total.

In South Korea, “Smith” remained decent in its second frame, down 40% to $2.7 million at 307 to push the territorial total to $10.7 million.

Biz still blah by comparison

Still, overall business remained lukewarm when compared with 2004’s torrid results. “Batman Begins,” “Madagascar” and “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” combined for $57.5 million, while the top three in the same weekend last year took in a combined $87 million — $40.2 million for the fourth frame of “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” at 9,200 screens, $33.2 million for the soph sesh of “Shrek 2” at 2,600 playdates and $13.7 million for the fifth weekend of “The Day After Tomorrow” at 6,500 sites.

Recent 2005 grosses have been held back partly by the decision by rival studios to let Fox’s “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” go virtually unchallenged during the first three weeks of its run. “Sith,” now in its sixth weekend, took in a mild $2.5 million at 2,452 playdates as the number of screens declined by more than 4,000.

“Sith” has cumed $362.2 million overseas to go along with $358.6 million domestically. Its worldwide cume of $721 million ranks 19th on the all-time list.

BVI saw a respectable launch for “Herbie: Fully Loaded” in Australia in third with $1.3 million at 250 playdates, doubling the recent opening of “The Pacifier.”

UIP’s “The Interpreter” took in $750,000, including $460,000 in its third weekend in France, to lift the foreign cume to $75.5 million.

Fox reported mild launches in France for “The Amityville Horror,” with $219,805 at 244 sites, and in Russia for “Guess Who,” with $240,000 at 72. Foreign cumes are $17.5 for “Amityville” and $16.9 million for “Guess Who.”

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