Pic seeing conservative dropoffs in int'l market

“Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” showed impressive staying power in its third weekend with $38.5 million at 10,586 playdates in 105 offshore markets during the Friday-Sunday frame — representing a decline of 37% and bringing foreign cume to $308.4 million, about $400,000 short of the domestic total.

“We’re still seeing very conservative dropoffs,” said Fox Intl. exec VP Joe Ortiz.

“Sith” now has cumed $617 million worldwide — well above “Return of the Jedi” and “The Empire Strikes Back” and within striking distance of 2002′s “Attack of the Clones” at $648 million. With little serious foreign competition until “Batman Begins” opens June 17, “Sith” has a shot at surpassing the $798 million for “Star Wars” but won’t equal 1999′s “The Phantom Menace” at $922 million.

The final “Star Wars” saga led in nearly all markets as rivals held back on head-to-head battles with “Sith” except in a few targeted territories, where “Madagascar” and “Sin City” managed to finish first. Despite the solid “Sith” numbers, overall business was sharply down from the same weekend a year ago, when “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” opened with $113.5 million and the soph sesh of “The Day After Tomorrow” grossed $54.1 million.

“Sith” performed best in France with $6.1 million at 938 playdates, raising that cume to $42.3 million as weekend-to-weekend biz fell just 32%. At this point of its run, “Episode III” is slightly behind “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” and has outperformed every other U.S. release.

“Sith” biz in the U.K. fell 40% to $5.96 million at 486 engagements, pushing the Blighty cume to $60.7 million, 23% behind “Return of the King” at the same point. And in Germany, where a heat wave cut sharply into attendance during the previous frame, “Sith” fell only 24% to $5 million at 1,184, pushing the Teutonic cume to $37.1 million.

Australia posted the fourth-highest “Sith” gross with a 45% decline to $2.7 million at 535 playdates, lifting the Oz cume to $21.3 million. Spain followed with $2.2 million at 497 for a $19.2 million market total. Other territories above $1 million: South Korea with $1.8 million at 295, down 30% in its soph sesh; Mexico with $1.4 million at 724, down 44%; and China with $1 million at 450, down 32%.

Fox’s “Kingdom of Heaven,” which has been the only other major offshore pic for the past month, took in $3.5 million to boost its cume to $151.4 million — well over triple its domestic performance.

UIP reported it had won in Russia. as “Madagascar” drew $3 million at 290 playdates, 30% higher than “Shrek 2.” and in Turkey, with $275,00 at 112. Toon also led in two soph sessions — Malaysia with $260,000 at 39 locations, down 17%, and in Singapore with $375,000 at 26, down 39%.

BVI reported Robert Rodriguez’s “Sin City” topped the chart in Italy, one of the only markets where “Sith” has disappointed exhibitors, with $1.8 million at 450, 10% ahead of “Kill Bill Vol. 1.” “Sin City” debuted solidly in second in the U.K. with $4 million at 400 and in France with 325,000 admissions.

BVI’s sturdy “The Pacifier” posted a 27% gain to $1.7 million at 354 in its second U.K. frame and crossed the $10 million mark in Mexico in its seventh weekend. Offshore cume for the Vin Diesel vehicle has hit $67 million.

Sony’s “The Longest Yard” posted respectable opening numbers in Australia with a second-place finish at $2.48 million at 258 playdates, matching “The Waterboy” for best launch of an Adam Sandler pic and marking the third-largest Oz opening this year after “Sith” and “Hitch.”

“The Longest Yard” opened decently in Mexico with $700,000 at 260, representing the top launch for an American football pic. “Yard” won’t launch in another foreign market until it hits Russia on July 21.

Sony’s durable “Hitch” generated lukewarm results in Japan, a tough market for romantic comedies, with $800,000 at 216 engagements. “Hitch” has cumed $183.6 million offshore, $6 million better than its domestic total.

BVI’s “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” opened with $225,000 in Brazil, $230,000 in Singapore and $220,000 in Hong Kong. U.K. cume topped $20 million to push foreign cume to $29 million; domestic cume for “Guide” is nearing $50 million.

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