Fox's epic reaps $56 million abroad

Fox’s “Kingdom of Heaven” conquered the world’s offshore markets in an impressive launch: Its estimated $56 million at 6,500 playdates in 100 territories during the Friday-Sunday frame was nearly triple the domestic opening.

The results underline the ever-increasing importance of foreign markets, particularly for big-budget tentpoles, and the strategy of day-and-date openings worldwide. Japan and China were the only major markets where Ridley Scott’s Crusades epic didn’t launch.

The international opening for “Kingdom” mirrors a pair of May 2004 launches — UIP’s “Van Helsing,” with $53 million at 5,245 playdates during the same frame last year, and Warner’s “Troy,” with $54.8 million at 6,722 sites a week later.

Paul Hanneman, Fox Intl.’s exec VP of sales and strategic planning, said the distrib had attempted to take advantage of the star power of Orlando Bloom, helmer Scott’s reputation and a worldwide market that appeared primed for an epic with resonance in the current world.

“It fits the bill of balancing spectacle with story with a message of peace,” he added. “And we think it was well-timed to kick off the summer season.”

In key European markets, “Kingdom” benefited from cooler weather following the warmer temps during the previous frame, when “XXX: State of the Union” posted relatively moderate numbers in its launch. “Kingdom” delivered its top number in Germany with $7.1 million at 842 engagements, including previews, to finish 20% behind “Troy.”

Spain saw solid biz with $5.2 million at 435 playdates, $1.1 million behind “Troy” but about equal to Scott’s “Gladiator.”

U.K. biz for “Kingdom” generated a beefy $4.8 million at 443 engagements, double the takings for “Alexander” and “Braveheart.” France checked in with an estimated $4.5 million, 13% short of “Troy,” while South Korea grossed $4 million at 333 screens and Italy grossed $3.9 million. (Fox Intl. is not handling distribution of the epic in France and Italy.)

“Kingdom” saw three other territories above $2 million — Mexico with $2.8 million at 540, Russia with $2.2 million at 363 and Australia with $2 million at 361. Belgium, Brazil, Greece, Holland, Switzerland and Taiwan all topped $1 million.

Rival distribs shied away from “Kingdom” and holdover biz appeared lukewarm for Sony’s soph sesh of “XXX: State of the Union.” The sequel declined 46% to $8.1 million at 4,615 playdates for an offshore cume of $30.2 million.

“XXX 2,” which is in 64 markets, posted its best number in Blighty with $1.25 million at 482 engagements, declining 28%. German biz dropped 13% to $1 million at 595; France was off 33% to $900,000 at 435; South Korea slid 61% to $530,000 at 173; and Spain fell 56% to $475,000 at 243.

BVI continued to generate solid results from its contrasting strategy of opening in three markets for “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” taking in $5 million at 737 playdates in a soph sesh that raised the cume to $18.1 million.

U.K. “Guide” grosses were off 32% to $3.6 million at 464, matching results for “Ransom” and “Pearl Harbor for a $12.8 million cume. Oz biz declined 42% to $1.1 million at 206; New Zealand took in $200,000 at 67.

UIP’s “The Interpreter” remained a significant player with $5.4 million at 2,177 sites in 31 countries, off 23% from the previous frame for a foreign cume of $48.2 million. Best performances came in Germany with $1.7 million at 385, up 48% over last weekend’s weather-depressed results, and in the U.K. with $1 million at 360, lifting the four-week Blighty total to $11.4 million, 10% ahead of “The Bourne Identity.”

BVI’s “The Pacifier” remained respectable with $3.7 million at 2,593 engagements in 33 territories, lifting the overseas total to $47.5 million. The family comedy performed best in Mexico with $1 million to push that market’s total to $6.8 million.

Warner opened “House of Wax” in Taiwan with $879,000 at 74 sites for the market’s best horror opening of 2005 and best launch for a Dark Castle film, with results 59% higher than “Ghost Ship.” Singapore saw solid results for “Wax” with $400,000 from 28 prints.

Warner’s “Constantine,” near the end of its run, grossed $1.48 million at 322 screens in 34 territories for an international total of $148.6 million.

“Kingdom of Heaven” will likely dominate again next weekend with no major launches set. Exhibitors are expecting huge takings when Fox launches “Star Wars — Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” worldwide on May 19.

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