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O’seas auds on ‘War’ path

Pic brings in $201 mil offshore

The world remains in the grip of “War of the Worlds” as the Tom Cruise/Steven Spielberg tentpole showed impressive foreign appeal and dominated offshore box office with $60.5 million at 6,300 playdates.

“War of the Worlds,” which has now cumed $201 million offshore in a dozen days, racked up its top number in France with a launch of $11 million at 848 playdates. It was UIP’s second-biggest French opening and the best French start for Cruise and for a Paramount film.

U.K. moviegoers appeared mostly undeterred by Thursday’s deadly bombings in London, with second-weekend grosses for “War of the Worlds” dropping a respectable 40% to $8 million at 507 sites. U.K. cume for “War” has hit $32.3 million in 10 days.

Other major markets generated similar results for “War,” with Japan off 37% to $5.2 million despite sturdy competition from the opening of “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith.” Elsewhere for “War,” Germany fell 44% to $3.7 million, Spain was off 49% to $2.9 million, Australia slid 47% to $2.7 million, and Italy declined 46% to $2.3 million.

“War” rang up $8.5 million at 300 sites in its first four days in Korea, marking the biggest openings in that market for UIP, Par, Cruise and Spielberg. Its Belgian launch of $1.5 million at 85 marked the best July opening in that market; in Portugal, “War” opened with $750,000 at 70 playdates for the territory’s best 2005 launch and the biggest for UIP, Par, Cruise and Spielberg.

Overall biz stayed at a respectable level, with Fox’s “Fantastic Four” a distant second with $16 million at 2,654 playdates in 16 markets, edging out UIP’s “Madagascar.”

Though “War of the Worlds,” “Fantastic Four” and “Madagascar” grossed a combined $91 million, current foreign box office continued to lag behind 2004’s supercharged results, with the top three films totaling $121 million during the same frame last year — the second frame of “Spider-Man 2” led with $50.9 million, followed by the fourth weekend of “Shrek 2” with $49.1 million and the sixth frame for “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” with $21.7 million.

“War of the Worlds” has already become the fourth pic to eclipse $200 million in foreign grosses this year, joining “Revenge of the Sith,” “Meet the Fockers” and “Ocean’s Twelve.” By contrast, at this point last year, seven pics had topped $200 million in 2004 offshore takings: “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” “The Last Samurai,” “Troy,” “Shrek 2,” “The Day After Tomorrow,” “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” and “The Passion of the Christ.”

With “War of the Worlds” expected to dominate the weekend, Fox opted for a gradual launch on “Fantastic Four” and managed to see first-place finishes in nearly all markets. The actioner posted its top numbers in Mexico with $5.6 million at 951 playdates, marking Fox’s biggest opening in that market.

“Four” also turned in solid numbers in Australia with $2.7 million at 303 engagements; in Brazil with $1.9 million at 413, Fox’s fifth-highest opening; in Thailand with $1.1 million at 290; and in Taiwan with $1 million at 170. “Four” grossed $327,000 at 54 sites in Indonesia, marking Fox’s second-biggest opening day.

Fox also reported impressive takings from Japan’s opening for “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” with $9.5 million at 756, to go along with $7.5 million from previews on June 28 and July 2. The combined $17 million launch figure for “Sith” represents the third-highest opening in that market.

Japan represented the final market for “Sith,” which has lifted its foreign cume to $391 million and its worldwide total to $782 million — good enough for 17th on the worldwide list, just behind “The Lion King” and “Spider-Man 2.”

“Madagascar” remained a solid offshore player with $15 million, boosting the foreign cume to $103 million with openings coming next weekend in the U.K. and Germany. Toon launched with $1.6 million in Central America, $700,000 at 94 sites in Argentina, $675,000 at 29 in French-speaking Switzerland and $400,000 at 38 in Chile, where it was 30% bigger than “Shrek 2.”

French “Madagascar” grosses declined only 15% to $2.9 million in its third frame, boosting the cume to $13.5 million.

Warner’s fourth weekend of “Batman Begins” showed moderate Batlegs with $8.8 million, pushing the offshore total to $132 million. It’s the third-best foreign Batcume, topping “Batman and Robin” at $130.5 million and “Batman Returns” at $104 million and trailing “Batman” at $160 million and “Batman Forever” at $152 million.

“Batman Begins” posted its best Batgross in the U.K., where it dropped 42% to $1.4 million for a $25.1 million Blighty cume. The fifth Batpic has topped $11 million in Mexico and $10 million in Australia, France and Japan.

Fox saw $4 million from “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” pushing the foreign total to $117 million and $275 million worldwide. Most of the action on “Smith” came from Asia, as the Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie vehicle launched impressively in China with $2.2 million at 450 playdates, its fourth-largest opening in that market. And Korea remained a solid “Smith” supporter with $1.4 million at 210 in its fourth frame, marking Fox’s best fourth weekend in that market and lifting Korean cume to $18 million.

Sony generated decent returns from its first foreign launch of “Bewitched,” which conjured up $2.68 million at 289 Australian screens, Nicole Kidman’s third biggest opening after “Batman Forever” and “Moulin Rouge.”

BVI’s “Herbie: Fully Loaded” drove to $1.8 million, led by its third frame in Australia with $850,000 at 250 playdates, down 27% for a $5.3 million territorial cume. “Herbie” opened in Holland with $590,000 at 140, double the launch of “Haunted Mansion,” and in Argentina with $125,000.

BVI’s counterprogramming entry “A Lot Like Love” launched in Spain with $480,000 and posted a 26% decline in Germany with $286,000 in its third frame. Foreign cume for the romantic comedy has hit $13.5 million. Its “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” hit a $7 million German cume with $455,000 in its fifth frame, pushing the offshore total past $41 million.

Sony launched “The Longest Yard” in fourth in New Zealand with $245,000 at 51 playdates. The Adam Sandler laffer’s taken in $7.81 million after six weeks in Oz.

UIP’s soph sesh of “My Summer of Love” held well with a 23% decline in Australia to $44,000 at 16 playdates. Distrib reported “The Interpreter,” which remains in more than two dozen markets after 13 weeks, has cumed $77.6 million offshore.

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