‘Pirates’ closing in on top 5 worldwide

'Chest' finds treasure of $923.8 million worldwide

“Pirates” and “Snakes” and “Vice” cops, oh my …

As summer slogged into its final weeks, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” continued on its record setting run abroad in the most recent frame, while “Snakes on a Plane” slithered into the No. 1 spot in the U.K. and “Miami Vice” took a No. 2 world finish for the frame, but well behind “Pirates.”

“Pirates” had a number of No. 1 finishes in holdover territories, including France and Germany, where the pic was going head-to-head with new Hollywood product.

In its most recent frame, “Pirates” set its sights on tying the record that the original tallied: seven straight No. 1 finishes in a row at the international wickets.

Pic easily managed the feat and ramped its foreign cume to $923.8 million worldwide.

It now ranks as the sixth- highest worldwide earner ever, surpassing “Shrek 2” to sit behind “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.”

Adding notches to its belt, pic will next look to breeze by the foreign take of “The Da Vinci Code” ($532 million).

In its seventh No. 1 frame, pic raked in $25 million from 51 markets, even with no new openings.

Aside from “Pirates,” there weren’t too many bright spots abroad.

In the U.K., biz fell 18% from the previous frame, and bizzers were gabbing about the underwhelming perfs of Warner Bros.’ “Superman Returns” and Buena Vista Intl.’s “Cars.”

As a result, local unit Entertainment was able to translate frenzied online geek buzz over the B-horror pic “Snakes on a Plane” into extensive press coverage and a No. 1 opening.

But as in the U.S, the pic did not completely live up to the hype. Expect a steep soph drop-off after the pic snaked to just past $2 million.

“Cars” chugged along into the No. 2 spot in Blighty, in its fourth frame. But the Pixar pic has failed to drive home with Brit auds, and exhibs are predicting a $32 million final cume, whereas pre-release expectations were near $50 million.

Animated rival “Monster House,” from Sony, followed up on its reasonable bow with a strong soph hold, sliding just 17%.

Meantime, “Pirates” would not be vanquished in the U.K.: The pic slipped just 31% in its seventh frame, and is closing in fast on the £50 million mark. Bookers attribute the whammo success to the “cross-generational appeal” of the film and report that repeat biz is keeping the “Pirates” boast afloat.

“Pirates” also fared well in Germany.

Pic, in its fourth frame, even beat out new opener “Superman,” which has flown to OK, but not stellar, results, cuming $166 million internationally.

“Comicbook heroes like Batman and Superman remain a hard sell,” says one Teutonic booker. “They are generally viewed as silly and for kids and their films may not be the first choice of many adult cinemagoers. After all, we didn’t grow up with superheroes like Americans did. German kids grew up reading Asterix, Lucky Luke and Donald Duck. But the film will undoubtedly do good DVD business and maybe establish a bigger audience base for a sequel.”

In Gaul, UIP’s “Miami Vice” failed to dethrone “Pirates,” which held on to its No. 1 spot for the third week running.

Overall, Gallic B.O. remained flat as “Miami Vice” picked up the slack from “Pirates.”

The Michael Mann pic, which came in at No. 2, shot up $4.7 million in its debut week, a solid score. Pic opened higher than “Superman Returns,” which had pocketed $4 million on 818 screens. But “Vice” was programmed on fewer screens — 669 — indicating that exhibs and distrib UIP knew what to expect from a series not well known in France.

Still “Vice” did take the No. 1 spot in Oz, and the pic cumed $11.5 million from 28 territories overall.

Behind “Vice” in the No. 3 spot on the international charts was family pic “Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties.”

Pic clawed $10.6 from 34 territories, to bring its cume to $63.2 million overseas.

Russian launch of “Garfield” landed $2.1 million from 350, the highest take in any territory over the frame.

“Superman” flew into the fourth position in the charts abroad, and only has one remaining major market to open, Italy, set for Sept. 1.

After a dismal summer where Italo exhibitors saw every major release pass them by, movie season is slowly opening again with the bow also of “Cars.”

Sony’s “Monster House” scared up $4.7 million at 1,475 playdates in 14 markets to finish out the top five pics.

(Sheri Jennings in Italy, Archie Thomas in the U.K., Liza Klaussmann in France, Esther De Prado in Spain and Ed Meza in Germany contributed to this report.)

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