Cruise pic's domination extends overseas

It’s a “War of the Worlds” world as the Tom Cruise-Steven Spielberg tentpole dominated foreign box office with $102.5 million at more than 4,900 playdates in 78 countries.

“War,” which opened in most markets Wednesday, set records as the biggest offshore launch for UIP and Paramount.

With 8,000-plus prints, the sci-fi spectacle gave the foreign box office a massive jolt for the first time since “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” opened in mid-May with $144.7 million in its first five days.

“The performance is right at the top of our expectations,” said UIP prexy Andrew Cripps. He noted “War” overcame competish from Saturday’s Live8 concerts and still has numerous markets in which to open, including France, South Korea, Belgium, Portugal and South Africa.

Boffo in Blighty

“War,” co-financed by Paramount and DreamWorks, posted its top numbers in the U.K., with $15.7 million at 507 engagements following a Friday opening. That figure represented the top launch ever in that market for Par, Cruise and Spielberg and UIP’s third biggest.

Japan, site of the first of six “War of the Worlds” premieres, came in a close second with $15.1 million at 765 locations, surpassing “The Matrix Revolutions” for the biggest weekend launch for a film opening on a Wednesday.

Spain saw $7.8 million at 589 playdates and Mexico made $6.6 million at 480. In both countries, the figures repped UIP’s second biggest opening and the biggest ever in those markets for Par, Cruise and Spielberg.

Germany generated a solid $7.4 million at 837 locations, eight times bigger than second-place finisher “Batman Begins,” which saw $851,800 at 643 in its third frame. Australia’s $6 million “War” launch at 399 represented the second-biggest opening of the year after “Sith.”

Italy, which has seen B.O. lag in recent months, perked up with an impressive $6.5 million at 650 sites for “War,” UIP and Par’s biggest opening weekend and the biggest Italo Wednesday bow. Russia’s $5.2 million at 283 engagements and Taiwan’s $4.1 million at 66 for “War” were the biggest launch for any foreign film in those markets.

Outlook is sunny

Cripps noted long-term legs for “War of the Worlds” look excellent, given the absence of another massive day-and-date tentpole launching worldwide in upcoming frames. Fox will launch “Fantastic Four” in Australia, Brazil, Mexico and several midsize territories this weekend along with “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” in Japan, the final market for “Sith.”

With $113.3 million in domestic grosses, “War of the Worlds” has a combined worldwide cume of $215.5 million and looks likely to easily exceed Cruise-Spielberg’s “Minority Report,” which grossed $358 million worldwide — $132 million domestically and $226 million offshore.

With respectable holdover biz from “Batman Begins” and “Madagascar,” the frame saw overall grosses reach similar levels to the supercharged 2004 period, one of the few seshes to do so in recent months. In the year-ago weekend, “Shrek 2″ led with $78.7 million in 30 markets, followed by “Spider-Man 2″ with $43 million in 28 territories and “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” with $26 million in 50 nations.

Slow rollout

UIP, which has opted for a gradual rollout on “Madagascar,” edged out “Batman Begins” for second with $15.8 million in 27 markets, lifting the toon’s offshore cume to $78.8 million. Best performance came in France, with a soph-sesh decline of only 12% to $3.3 million; the third frame in Australia slid only 28% to $2 million at 373 playdates.

“Madagascar” opened in Poland with $1.22 million at 69 locations, three times better than “Shark Tale,” and in Portugal with $740,000 at 55, 4% below “Shrek 2.” In South Africa, it launched with $655,000 at 104, 40% better than “Shark Tale” and in an advantageous position for upcoming school holidays.

“Batman Begins” grabbed $15.7 million in 86 markets, down 43% from its soph sesh, bringing the foreign Batcume to $114.7 million. Warner launched “Batman Begins” in China with $1.05 million at 296 screens, 11% better than “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”

The fifth Batpic took the biggest hits from “War” in Spain, where grosses fell 63% to $705,500 at 467, and in the U.K., with a 53% slide to $2.47 million at 492 for a $22 million Blighty cume. “Batman Begins” declined just 29% in France to $1.5 million, 47% in Mexico to $1.1 million and 43% in Oz to $1.26 million at 319.

Fox Intl.’s “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” showed off its legs in its fourth frame with $7.5 million at 2969 playdates. “Smith” has topped $108 million in its foreign run. And its seventh weekend, “Revenge of the Sith” grossed $3 million at 3,200 sites, driving foreign cume to $381.8 and the worldwide total to $748 million.

BVI’s second frame of “Herbie: Fully Loaded” saw a 19% hike in Australia to $1.2 million at 250 for a $3.5 million cume, 14% better than “102 Dalmatians.” The Lindsay Lohan vehicle launched in New Zealand with $125,000 at 35, slightly less than “The Pacifier.”

BVI’s “A Lot Like Love” took in $1.3 million to lift its foreign take to $11.4 million, while “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” grossed $1.1 million to push its offshore total to $40 million, including $6.2 million from four frames in Germany. Distrib’s “The Pacifier” checked in with $1 million for an $81 million foreign cume.

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