Foreign exhibs seeing new 'Worlds' at B.O.

“War of the Worlds” began taking over the world Wednesday, launching internationally with an impressive $13.4 million at 4,958 theaters in 46 territories.

The day-and-date opening established numerous milestones for UIP, which is handling the Tom Cruise/Steven Spielberg tentpole. Initial results also backed up recent optimism that “War” will have enough clout to direct the offshore B.O. back toward last year’s lofty heights.

“It’s an excellent start, particularly for a nonholiday Wednesday,” said UIP prexy Andrew Cripps, noting the U.K. won’t open until today and that Belgium, France and South Korea won’t open until next weekend.

Japan saw the best results, with $2.8 million at 830 playdates, the fourth-best UIP launch in that market and topping Cruise’s “The Last Samurai” and the Spielberg/Cruise pic “Minority Report” by 37%.

Italy, which has been beset by disappointing perfs from tentpoles, checked in with a solid $1.33 million at 282 sites, a figure that’s UIP’s biggest Italian opening day and the fourth biggest ever in the Italo market.

Mexico followed with $1.26 million at 359 engagements, marking the second-best Wednesday launch after “Shrek 2.”

Spain, which has been slumping in recent months, saw $1.2 million at 345 locations, repping the best opening for a Cruise pic.

“War” grossed $925,000 at 220 Australian sites, the best opening for Cruise and Spielberg pics in that market.

In Taiwan, the opening took in $712,000 at 65 locations in the best Wednesday ever in that market.

German cold front

The only nonboffo numbers came from Germany, with $760,000 at 846 playdates. Business was held down due to Wednesday’s combo of torrential rains and the final in Frankfurt between Brazil and Argentina for soccer’s Confederations Cup.

“War of the Worlds” will dominate the foreign box office this weekend with Warner’s third frame of “Batman Begins” and UIP’s “Madagascar” battling for the second spot. The fifth Batpic had grossed nearly $93 million as of Wednesday. “Madagascar,” which is being rolled out gradually, has hit $63 million in 18 territories.

The foreign opening for “War” comes after a massive worldwide promo campaign that featured Cruise and Spielberg winging around the globe to premieres in Tokyo, Berlin, London, Madrid and Marseilles in addition to New York.

With only “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” putting up blockbuster numbers, with more than $370 million, foreign box office for the first half of 2005 has lagged the 2004 period. Offshore biz boomed in the first half of last year with “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the Kings,” “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” “Shrek 2,” “Spider-Man 2,” “The Last Samurai,” “The Day After Tomorrow” and “Troy” all topping the $300 million milestone.

In the previous Cruise/Spielberg teaming of “Minority Report,” foreign box office totaled $226 million along with $132 million domestically. Cruise’s best overseas perf came from “The Last Samurai,” which grossed $345 million along with $111 million domestic.

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