‘Lion’ is king of ‘Kong’

'Narnia' dominates o'seas B.O.

“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” easily out-roared “King Kong” at the international box office, with $41.5 million at 6,584 playdates in 31 markets during the Friday-Sunday New Year’s weekend.

With “Narnia” tapping the potent family market and expanding its base, UIP’s “King Kong” trailed by 40% for the top slot on the foreign front. The big gorilla still gathered a respectable $29 million at 6,713 playdates in 49 markets, down 19% from Christmas weekend, and its 19-day offshore cume hit $222.5 million as of Sunday; worldwide cume for “Kong” crossed $400 million Monday.

Many markets closed early Saturday for New Year’s Eve, then rebounded sharply Sunday.

BVI estimated “Narnia” pulled in another $12 million on Monday — a holiday in most territories — to push its foreign total to $225.5 million and its worldwide cume to $450.3 million. The Friday-Monday offshore total of $53.5 million for “Narnia” represented an impressive 17% hike from the four-day Christmas frame, when it edged “Kong.”

BVI prexy Mark Zoradi noted “Narnia” still hasn’t opened in 20% of markets (including Japan and much of Eastern Europe and Latin America) and predicted the fantasy has enough gas in the tank to become BVI’s top live-action performer by topping the $355 million foreign cume for “Armageddon.”

“It’s beyond our expectations in every region and playing into all four quadrants,” Zoradi told Daily Variety. “We were the underdog to ‘King Kong’ six months ago, but this has all the earmarks of playing well into March.”

“Narnia” opened strongly in a trio of Asian markets where the C.S. Lewis books aren’t well known — South Korea with $5 million at 125 playdates, Taiwan with $1.3 million at 60 and Thailand with $1 million at 95. The Korea and Taiwan launches rep the top BVI debuts in those markets.

In Australia, “Narnia” dominated with $4.8 million at 265, outgrossing the combined totals of the next three pics — “Fun With Dick and Jane,” “King Kong” and “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.” First-week “Narnia” total following its Boxing Day launch is a beefy $11.2 million.

Holdover “Narnia” biz stayed solid, led by a French soph sesh of $8.4 million at 854 — matching the launch weekend — and a fourth U.K. frame that rose 4% to $5.1 million. French cume has hit $21 million in a dozen days, while Blighty biz has reached $57.7 million.

“Narnia” also topped seven figures in Italy with $2.4 million, Russia and Germany with $2.2 million each, Spain with $1.4 million and Mexico with $1.1 million. German grosses rose 4% to win that market after two second-place finishes, while Spain saw “Narnia” climb from third to first in its fourth frame.

“King Kong” turned in its top perfs in the U.K., rising 39% to finish second to “Narnia” with $4.6 million; France, with $3.9 million at 776 playdates, Korea, with $2.9 million at 264; and Germany, with $2 million at 767. Its U.K. cume hit $36.6 million, and “Kong” ranked as eighth highest grosser in the market for 2005.

Other markets with seven-figure “Kong” grosses were Australia with $1.6 million at 247 sites, up 24%; Japan, with $1.4 million at 316; Spain, with $1.2 million at 388; and Mexico, with $1.2 million at 376. In Japan, where significantly higher results were forecast, cume has touched $10.1 million, making “Kong” the 25th highest grosser of 2005 for that market.

“Kong” has been stalwart in director Peter Jackson’s New Zealand home turf, with $582,000 at 74, up 10% and 40% ahead of “Narnia.” “Kong” has cumed $3.8 million in that market, making it the second-largest 2005 film after “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith.”

Family pics took the next three slots overseas during the New Year’s frame, led by Warner’s sturdy “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” with $17 million from more than 7,100 prints in 60 markets. “Goblet,” the No. 1 offshore performer of 2005, has cumed $535 million internationally and $812 million worldwide; the four Potter pics have grossed $3.43 billion worldwide.

BVI’s “Chicken Little” continued to connect with kids, attracting $7.5 million at 3,688 playdates in 38 markets, including $1.3 million at 225 in its Australian launch. Toon showed strength in its soph sesh in Japan, jumping 31% to $3.4 million at 448 sites. “Chicken Little’s” foreign cume Monday topped $91 million, with 40% of markets still to come.

Fox’s “Cheaper by the Dozen 2” took in $5.5 million at 1,596 engagements, topping “King Kong” in a Mexican launch with $1.5 million at 485. Sequel has cumed $12.3 million overseas.

Distribs opted for a few counterprogramming launches of adult comedies such as Sony’s “Fun With Dick and Jane,” which finished second in Australia with $1.85 million on 247 screens. Oz cume for “Fun” is $3.5 million since Boxing Day.

Fox’s “The Family Stone” took in a moderate $3 million at 1,274 playdates, including $1.1 million at 197 in a French opening and $198,000 at 95 in an Australian debut. Sony’s “The Producers” came in sixth in the U.K., with $850,000 on 350 for a seven-day cume of $2.3 million; its Brazilian launch grossed a mild $105,000 at 70 for an eighth-place finish.

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