'Kong' gains strength overseas during weekend

“King Kong” ruled internationally with respectable rather than spectacular response from moviegoers, grossing $63.4 million Friday-Sunday at 8,123 playdates in 55 markets in the ninth-largest foreign launch of all time.

Combined with $16.7 million from Wednesday and Thursday biz in three dozen offshore markets, “Kong” has cleared $80.1 million internationally and $146 million worldwide in its first five days — less than half the record-setting five-day launch for “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith.”

Still, UIP execs took heart from three areas — mostly laudatory reviews worldwide, positive responses from exhibitors and an impressive 60% hike in biz from Friday’s $15.5 million to Saturday’s $24.8 million as signaling strong word of mouth among customers.

“We’re very pleased, given that we opened a three-hour film in a busy environment during the week before Christmas,” said UIP prexy Andrew Cripps. “Now, with most kids out of school, we’ve got two weeks of fantastic playing time for our film.”

“Kong” represented the best opening for UIP in eight markets and the top Universal launch in 22 territories, including Russia, South Korea, Thailand, New Zealand and Denmark. Top performances came from the U.K., with $11.9 million at 478 playdates and a 45% share; France, with $7.3 million at 721 for U’s third best launch; and Germany with $6.1 million at 739 for a 40% share.

The booming Russian market turned in the fourth-best tally with $5.1 million at 311, followed by Korea with $4.3 million at 197, Australia with $4.1 million at 248 for a 51% share, Spain with $3.9 million at 614 for a 35% share and Mexico with $3.8 million at 395 and a 50% share.

Rival distribs got out of the way of “Kong” and it finished first in every market but two — in Japan, where it trailed “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” with $2.6 million at 709 and in Italy, with $2.2 million at 412 behind a local holiday comedy.

Thailand saw impressive “Kong” takings, with $1.6 million at 345 engagements for a 92% share, while Brazil weighed in with $1.4 million and a 44% share.

Despite “Kong,” Warner’s “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” remained a powerful player after more than a month in most territories, with $26.8 million from 9,200-plus prints in 57 markets. Top “Goblet” figure came from France, with $5 million at 950 for a cume of $37.9 million after three weeks.

International cume for the fourth Potter pic has hit $455.4 million and worldwide total is now $707.9 million, making “Goblet” the 20th film to cross the $700 million mark. That club now includes all four Potter pics, which have combined worldwide grosses of $3.33 billion.

BVI’s “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe also provided significant competition to “Kong,” as its soph seshes in 13 markets saw a 50% decline to $20.5 million at 3,801 playdates. “Narnia” grossed between 62% and 80% of “Kong” grosses in each market and goes head-to-head with the gorilla next weekend when the fantasy pic launches in most foreign territories.

“Narnia,” which is clearly connecting with family audiences, has a foreign cume of $75 million. It posted its best biz by far in the U.K. with $8.7 million at 498, off 39% from its opening for a $30.2 million cume. German grosses declined 37% to $3.7 million at 1,059, Mexico fell 52% to $2.5 million at 738 and Spain totaled $2 million.

Though the “Kong” grosses fell short of massively amped-up expectations, overall international biz delivered more than decently, with the top three pics combining for more than $110 million — far above the same weekend of 2004, when “Ocean’s Twelve,” “The Incredibles” and “The Polar Express” brought in a combined $66 million.

The only other significant contribution during the current frame came from BVI’s “Chicken Little” with $7.5 million at 3,863 sites in 33 markets, winging the toon’s offshore cume to $67 million. Top perf came from France, with $3.5 million in its soph sesh.

Fox saw moderate returns from its counterprogramming launch of “The Family Stone” with $2.2 million at 690 engagements in more than a dozen territories. Top results came from Germany, with $857,000 at 252, and the U.K., with $400,000 at 155.

Sony’s “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” scared up $2.2 million on 1,985 screens in 58 markets to push foreign cume to $56 million.

BVI’s “Flightplan” tacked on $1.5 million to lift international to $102.5 million. Distrib, which is partnered with Spyglass on “Memoirs of a Geisha” in Japan, continued to see middling numbers on that pic with $1 million at 242 Japanese sites, declining 35% from its launch weekend.

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