Clark lights sparks o’seas

'Superman' No. 1 in all 11 overseas markets

“Superman Returns” opened solidly rather than spectacularly in Australia and Asia, leading a moderate foreign box office with $20 million from 1,750 prints in 11 markets in its launch weekend.

The Man of Steel finished first in all 11 markets, topping “Batman Begins” in 10 and “X-Men: The Last Stand” in seven.

With Europe and Latin America still obsessed with the World Cup, Warner held off on “Superman Returns” in many key foreign markets. The next major round of launches starts July 12 in Brazil, France, Mexico, Spain and the U.K.

“Superman Returns” more than doubled the bow of “Batman Begins” in Korea and matched the “Spider-Man 2” opening with $5.2 million from 350 screens, marking the ninth consecutive weekend a Hollywood film has won. Solid perf came even though local telecom companies eliminated longstanding ticket discounts.

In Australia, “Superman Returns” topped “Batman Begins” by 26% with $3.8 million from 409 prints, with continued strong biz seen as school holidays are in full swing. The most impressive performance came in the Philippines, with $2.53 million from 81 prints — the widest launch ever — for the territory’s second biggest opening after “Spider-Man 2.”

In India, “Superman Returns” beat the third frame of local hit “Krrish” — which also stars a superhero — with $1.5 million at 274 for the second-best opening by an MPA pic. Three other markets hit seven figures — Taiwan with $1.58 million at 151, Thailand with $1.47 million at 204 and Singapore with $1.2 million at 73.

Malaysia opened with $830,000 at 75, followed by Indonesia with $692,000 at 55, Puerto Rico with $657,000 at 73 and New Zealand with $377,000 at 81.

Imax international grosses for “Superman Returns” totaled a socko $560,000 from 11 screens in seven markets; in the Philippines, for example, the country’s first Imax theater is sold out until late July.

Still, the weekend paled by comparison with the same frame of 2005, when “War of the Worlds” dominated internationally with a $102.5 million opening. Foreign exhibitors are counting on “Superman Returns” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” — launching this weekend in the U.K., Oz and Korea — to revive biz during the rest of the month.

Despite the chill from the World Cup, foreign box office prospects for the majors (BVI, Fox, Sony, UIP, Warner) look solid at the halfway point. Total international grosses are still on track to finish 2006 at about $8.7 billion, well ahead of last year’s $7.9 billion total and topping 2004’s record of $8.5 billion.

The frame also saw a pair of counterprogrammers — “Cars” and “Over the Hedge” — show enough foreign traction to hit eight figures. Both family-friendly pics are in the early stages of their international release, with cumes of $43 million for “Cars” and $38.6 million for “Hedge.”

“Cars” took in $15.2 million at 4,301 playdates in 30 markets, led by a Mexican launch with $4.4 million at 760 — topping the combined grosses of the next 10 pics — and a Japanese opening of $3.3 million at 644, well behind “Finding Nemo” ($9.8 million) and “The Incredibles” ($6.6 million). The toon hit seven figures in its third French frame with $1.4 million at 730, its Brazilian launch with $1.2 million at 380 and its fourth Australian frame with $1 million at 280.

“Over the Hedge” grossed $10.5 million at 1,839 locations, mostly from an impressive U.K. launch of $6.6 million at 504 playdates — six times more than No. 2 pic “Just My Luck,” which opened second with $1 million at 325.

UIP’s “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” drove to a respectable $6.2 million at 1,674 locations in 20 markets, led by a Russian launch of $2 million at 350 and a Mexican opening of $1.2 million at 308.

Warner’s “Poseidon” remained an adequate draw with $5.8 million from 3,700 prints in 50 markets, pushing foreign cume for the pricey pic to $96 million and the worldwide total to $153 million; openings are still ahead in Germany and Spain. Best “Poseidon” perf came in its Russian soph sesh, down 47% to $1 million at 371; it finished first in launches in Norway, Finland and Denmark.

Sony’s seventh frame of “The Da Vinci Code” stayed solid with a 38% decline to $5.6 million at 4,400 screens in 84 markets, lifting the foreign cume to $507.7 million and worldwide total to $719 million. Japan remained the top draw, with $1.7 million at 625 for a $71.7 million cume, $6 million ahead of “Spider-Man,” Sony’s previous record-holder.

In Germany, where overall moviegoing touched the lowest level of 2006 with only 360,000 tickets sold, “Code” won for the seventh sesh in a row with $469,000 at 812 to top the launch of “RV” with $246,00 at 195 and lift the Teutonic total to $45 million.

UIP’s “The Break-Up” continued its moderate overseas perf with $3.2 million at 1,026 playdates in 14 markets, with the French second frame down 40% to $665,000 on 300 and a Brazilian launch of $450,000 at 131.

Fox’s sixth frame of “X-Men: The Last Stand” pulled in $3.1 million at 2,954 to become the 101st film of all time and fourth of 2006 (joining “The Da Vinci Code,” “Ice Age: The Meltdown” and “Mission: Impossible III”) to top $200 million in foreign grosses.

Five other films topped $2 million overseas: BVI’s “Scary Movie 4” with $2.9 million for a $81 million cume; Warner’s “The Lake House” with $2.6 million at 1,000 prints, including a first-place $919,000 launch in Spain; Fox’s “Just My Luck” with $2.6 million at 1,225; Sony’s “Click” with $2.3 million at 335 in Oz, New Zealand and Iceland; and Fox’s “The Omen” with $2 million at 2,396 for a $60.6 million foreign cume and a $114 million worldwide total.

Palme d’Or winner “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” has hit $2.15 million at 105 in 10 days in the U.K. and Ireland, the best perf by a Ken Loach film in the territory. A massive 68% was reaped in Ireland, which usually accounts for 15% of total box office in the territory.

(Archie Thomas in London; Mark Schilling in Tokyo; Christian Koehl in Cologne, Germany; Darcy Paquet in Seoul; and Tessa Jazmines in Manila contributed to this report.)

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