'Wars' strikes again in soph sesh

The sixth time really is the charm for George Lucas’ “Star Wars” franchise overseas.

Maintaining near-total dominance offshore, “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” grossed $61.5 million at 10,586 screens Friday-Sunday, pushing its foreign cume to $246.2 million. The figure represented a 54% decline from the record-setting opening Friday-Sunday as very warm temperatures in Western Europe held down moviegoing.

“We’re very pleased with the results and expect to continue setting more records,” Joe Ortiz, exec director of sales administration at Fox Intl.

Fox Intl. execs did not issue an estimate for Monday business, but “Sith” probably tacked on another $5 million to push its 12-day foreign gross to somewhere around $251 million. The only recent pic to perform as well during a similar period has been “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” which cumed $270 million offshore during its first dozen days in the 2003 holiday season.

“Sith” is already among the top 50 foreign grossers of all time and has already surpassed the foreign cumes for “The Empire Strikes Back” at $248 million and “Return of the Jedi” at $166 million. It will soon be within striking distance of the original “Star Wars” at $314 million and “Attack of the Clones” at $339 million, and it is more than halfway to “The Phantom Menace” at $493 million.

With domestic gross of $271.2 million, the 12-day worldwide gross for “Sith” has eclipsed $520 million.

‘Day’ break

Overall offshore business during the frame was down from the high-powered levels of a year ago when “The Day After Tomorrow” launched with $85 million and the soph sesh of “Troy” grossed $40 million. With “Sith” forcing rivals to hold back new entries, the only other significant business in recent weeks has come from “Kingdom of Heaven,” which grossed $8 million at about 6,000 playdates, lifting its four-week international total to $145 million.

The warm weather cooled down U.K. takings, though “Sith” posted its top soph session performance with $9.9 million at 485 playdates. The Friday-Sunday frame was down 49% from the pic’s opening weekend launch but was enough to lift the Blighty cume to $46 million.

France followed with $8.9 million at 938 sites, down 59%, to push the French cume to $34.8 million. Germany saw the third-best take with a 54% decline to $6.6 million at 1,182 engagements for an 11-day cume of $29.9 million, trailed by Australia with $4.9 million at 537 and Spain with $4.2 million at 497.

South Korea came in with the sixth-best “Sith” performance in its launch weekend with $3.8 million at 306 playdates, representing Fox’s second biggest opening in that market after “The Day After Tomorrow.” Japan is the only market without “Sith,” which will open July 9 in that territory.

Mexico generated $2.4 million at 914 screens for a $9.6 million cume, while Russia delivered $1.8 million at 362 for a $7.5 million total. “Sith” continued to disappoint in Italy, where the combo of sunshine and recession has stymied moviegoing, with a 58% decline to $1.6 million at 683 for a cume of $7.1 million.

Other territories topping seven figures were China with $1.6 million at 500 playdates, Brazil with $1.3 million at 504 and Sweden with $1.1 million at 129.

‘House’ calls

After “Sith” and “Kingdom of Heaven,” Warner’s “House of Wax” rang up the best numbers, with $4.57 million at 1,200 playdates in 22 countries. Best was the U.K.’s $1.38 million at 305 (14% of the “Sith” B.O.). Other “Wax” openings included $794,753 at 260 in France, $410,294 at 41 in Hong Kong and $284,000 at 51 in Thailand. “Wax” has grossed $9 million overseas to go along with a $29 million domestic cume.

UIP reported solid “Madagascar” launches as it topped “Sith” in Singapore with $612,000 at 26 locations, Malaysia with $305,000 at 39 and the Philippines with $285,000 at 66. The Singapore and Malaysian openings were the highest ever for animated films in those markets.

A pair of holdovers — BVI’s “The Pacifier” and UIP’s “The Interpreter” — continued to post decent numbers, with the former taking in $3 million at 2,006 engagements in 30 territories, including a launch of $1.5 million at 354 playdates in the U.K., or 15% of “Sith.” “The Pacifier” has cumed $61.2 million overseas, highest for a Vin Diesel pic after “XXX.”

“The Interpreter” grossed $2 million at 1,580 playdates in 28 nations for a $64 million cume, led by a Japanese soph sesh of $515,000 at 197. Nicole Kidman drama  has nearly matched the domestic cume of $68 million.

BVI’s foreign launch of “Sin City,” which grossed $73 million domestically, began in Taiwan with $231,000 at 18 playdates, equal to that of helmer Robert Rodriguez’s “From Dusk Till Dawn” and 60% higher than “Kill Bill Vol. 2.”

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