'Madagascar' mounts int'l takeover

Opting for opening in a few markets at a time rather than massive day-and-date launches, “Madagascar” led a moderate foreign box office with $31 million at 5,100 locations while “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” scored $4 million in a trio of French-speaking markets.

UIP’s talking animal comedy managed to lead a weekend offshore for the first time, thanks to impressive openings in the U.K. and Germany, which contributed a combined 59% of the weekend total despite hot temps in both markets. Blighty grosses (including previews) hit $9.7 million at 506 engagements, 50% better than “Shrek”; German takings totaled $8.5 million at 800, 7% behind “Shrek 2.”

“Madagascar” also opened solidly in Hong Kong with $1 million at 49 sites and in Taiwan with $1.35 million at 80, outperforming “Shrek 2″ by 32% and 16%, respectively. Austrian launch of $1.1 million at 114 prints matched “Shrek 2.”

The offshore cume for the CGI toon has hit $143 million, while the worldwide total is at $327 million.

After dominating the previous two frames, UIP’s “War of the Worlds” saw its third frame sliced in half from the soph sesh to $30 million at 6,030 playdates. Best performances came from France with $4.8 million, down 53% from its launch frame; the U.K. with $4.25 million, off 45%; and Japan with $3.5 million, off 35%.

“War” has now cumed $256.5 million overseas, led by $41 million in the U.K. and $34 million in Japan. Worldwide grosses have hit $448 million.

Fox Intl.’s “Fantastic Four” generated respectable offshore showings with $20.1 million at 4,228 playdates via a combo of solid launches and decent holdovers. Offshore “Four” cume is at $44.7 million.

“Fantastic Four” performed best in Spain by opening with $4.3 million at 427, followed by a Mexican soph sesh of $3.5 million at 929, off 40%, for a $13 million cume. “Four” held respectably in Australia with $1.6 million at 303 sites, off 43%, and in Brazil with $1.1 million at 382, down 34%.

“Four” also opened with $1.1 million at 306 engagements in Russia and $1 million at 57 in Hong Kong, the latter representing Fox’s ninth best launch in that market. It also grossed $511,000 at 82 in Sweden, $415,000 at 90 in Holland and $368,000 at 70 in Venezuela — the second biggest Venezuelan opening ever after “War of the Worlds.”

Despite decent performance by the top three pics, overall biz again fell short of 2004’s socko totals. “Madagascar,” “War of the Worlds” and “Fantastic Four” combined for $81million — $24 million behind the top trio of the same frame last year, with the third sesh of “Spider-Man 2″ at $62.2 million, followed by “Shrek 2″ with $24.8 million in its fifth weekend and “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” with $19 million in its seventh weekend.

“Charlie” took in most of its coin in France — where temps soared — with $3.62 million at 670 screens; it beat “War of the Worlds” in Paris with 134,907 admissions at 52, 15% ahead of “101 Dalmatians.” The Johnny Depp-Tim Burton fantasy will open this weekend in Brazil, Chile, Holland and South Africa.

Fox’s “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” turned in a solid soph sesh in Japan with a 26% decline to $7 million at 726 playdates, lifting the Japanese cume to $31.1 million. Offshore total for “Sith” has hit $407.8 million; worldwide cume has topped $781 million.

Sony’s “Bewitched” fell 46% in its soph sesh in Australia, its one offshore market, with $1.45 million at 286 sites for a cume of $5.3 million.

BVI’s “Herbie: Fully Loaded” drove to $1.9 million, led by a $605,000 fourth frame in Australia and an opening of $465,000 at 150 in Brazil, 26% better than “The Pacifier.” “Herbie” has cumed $9.5 million offshore, including $6.5 million in Oz.

Warner’s “Batman Begins” opened in first in a pair of Scandinavian markets with $600,700 at 70 screens in Norway and $236,900 in Finland. The fifth Batpic has cumed $142.8 million offshore and $325 million worldwide.

Fox’s “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” saw Chinese grosses decline 44% in its soph sesh to $1.1 million at 450 engagements. “Smith” has cumed $125.4 million in Fox’s foreign markets.

BVI’s “Sin City” opened moderately in Oz in fourth with $1.4 million at 240 sites, on par with “Kill Bill Vol. 2.” UIP’s “Land of the Dead” launched in second in Italy with $400,000 at 65 and in sixth in Mexico with $140,000 at 75.

Sony launched “The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D” with a moderate $700,000 at 340 playdates in Mexico, equaling 2001’s opening of “Spy Kids.”

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