Auds lionize 'Narnia' at int'l box office

The monster met his match at the foreign box office as “King Kong” narrowly lost during the Christmas weekend to family favorite “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” which grossed $35.2 million at 3,908 playdates in 25 markets.

BVI’s “Narnia” topped UIP’s “Kong” by less than a million dollars as the gorilla pic grossed a respectable but hardly spectacular $34.3 million at 5,680 engagements in 55 countries during the frame through Sunday, pushing foreign cume to $153.6 million after 12 days. “Kong” claimed first in half a dozen markets — Australia, Germany, Indonesia, New Zealand, Mexico and Spain.

With many theaters in Europe and Latin America shuttered on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, overall business fell significantly from normal weekend levels but picked up Monday. Distribs expect biz to stay solid through the rest of this week.

BVI issued a single-day estimate of an impressive $13.8 million for “Narnia” on Monday, driving the fantasy’s foreign cume to $138 million and worldwide total past $300 million. UIP didn’t issue a Monday estimate for “King Kong,” which has cumed $272 million worldwide, while Warner Bros. noted its estimates were “very rough” due to holiday closures.

BVI prexy Mark Zoradi told Daily Variety that “Narnia” should be able to top the $300 million mark at the foreign box office thanks in large part to performance that’s exceeded expectations in non-English-speaking markets. Exec cited a trailer campaign that launched in 2004, a major push to popularize the C.S. Lewis “Narnia” books in foreign countries and a marketing campaign that didn’t need major changes from the U.S. original.

“Narnia” conjured up its best perf in France, with $11.9 million at 908 playdates in its first six days through Monday, and in the U.K., as $6.5 million in its third weekend lifted the Blighty cume to $45 million through Monday. It finished third in Italy to a pair of local holiday comedies with $3.3 million at 607 through Sunday, and it led in the booming Russian market with $3 million at 303 as the top BVI weekend launch ever, then added another $1 million Monday.

“Narnia” launched on Boxing Day with a socko $2.1 million at 407 engagements in Australia, representing the second-best opening day ever after that of “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.” Norway also opened impressively Monday with $550,000.

“Narnia” topped seven figures through Sunday in its third frames in Germany with $2.3 million at 1,058 playdates, in Spain with $1.4 million at 440 and in Mexico with $1.4 million. BVI reported its biggest opening weekends in Sweden with $1.5 million at 176 and in Singapore with $1 million at 60 and its third biggest in Holland with $725,000 at 153.

“King Kong” grabbed its biggest gross in South Korea with $4.3 million at 422 playdates, up 22% over its opening frame. Korean cume has hit $11.4 million, representing the fifth-largest for a Universal pic in that market.

France generated the second-best “Kong” take with $3.8 million at 762, followed by the U.K. with $3.3 million at 458, Germany with $2.3 million at 697, Mexico with $1.8 million, Japan with $1.7 million at 317, Spain with $1.6 million at 363 and Australia with $1.3 million at 246. U.K. cume’s the highest at $23.3 million, followed by France with $13.9 million.

“Kong” opened with a boffo $573,000 at 59 in Indonesia, marking the third-biggest launch in that market behind “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” and “Spider-Man 2.”

Warner’s “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” remained a potent presence over Christmas with $23 million from more than 7,400 prints in 59 markets, including a Hong Kong launch representing the distrib’s top opening in that market. Overseas cume for “Goblet of Fire” has hit $497 million, ensuring that the fourth “Potter” pic will join its three predecessors plus seven other titles to become the 11th film to gross more than half a billion dollars overseas.

With “Narnia,” “Kong” and “Goblet” dominating, distribs have mostly shied away from launching other pics in recent weeks. But BVI scored a solid opening in Japan with “Chicken Little” as the toon finished second to the fifth frame of “Goblet” with $4.8 million at 384 including Friday previews, representing the fourth-best launch for a U.S. animated film in the territory.

Fox’s “Cheaper by the Dozen 2″ launched decently in Australia with $909,000 at 222 sites and in Spain with $784,000 at 302. Distrib also opened “The Family Stone” in third in Mexico with a moderate $496,000 at 253.

Sony saw a respectable $700,000 at 250 in Australia from its Boxing Day launch of “Fun With Dick and Jane” plus $500,000 at 140 during its Saturday-Sunday opening in Japan. Distrib’s “Zathura” debuted modestly in Mexico with $300,000 at 350.

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