Toon 'Hedge' draws $20 mil in soph sesh

Even the Man of Steel himself couldn’t ward off a horde of invading pirates at the international wickets last week, while a pair of CG-animated pics raced under the radar to pick up big bucks in turf where the newest “Superman” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” projects hadn’t landed.

With the month-long World Cup no longer a distraction, Hollywood made a strong push for overseas auds’ eyeballs again as Buena Vista Intl.’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” pillaged just seven territories but wound up No. 1 with $46.6 million in booty.

Pic took in its haul from 1,552 screens and easily bested runner up UIP’s “Over the Hedge,” which took in just below $20 million in its soph sesh to bring its int’l cume to $63.4 million.

Warner Bros.’ “Superman Returns,” meanwhile, finished in fifth place — behind No. 3 “Cars” and No. 4 “Mission: Impossible 3″ — taking in $35.8 million from 16 markets. But the real test for the Man of Steel should come when the pic opens in France, the U.K. and Spain. It doesn’t land in Germany until August and flies into Italy in September.

But while “Pirates” ruled the roost by launching boffo bows on English-lingo turf, such as the U.K. ($25.2 million), Australia ($8.4 million) and New Zealand ($1.1 million), the newest “M:I3″ pic flew past “Superman” thanks to its Japanese perf.

In Japan, Tom Cruise pic raked in $12.5 million from 800 screens, including previews. Those preview numbers were heady, too: Playing on about 685 screens June 24 and 25, and July 1 and 2, the pic recorded a total of Y836,925,050 ($7,277,609) from 638,976 admissions.

UIP says it’s now targeting Y8 billion ($69.6 million) for the pic in Japan, which compares with Y9.7 billion ($84.3 million) from the last pic in the series.

Only playing in 24% of the territories available to BVI, “Pirates” is sure to be plundering more cash as it expands.

In Blighty, the pic is picking up exhibs’ spirits after it preemed at Cinema Expo in Amsterdam last month.

The pic powered U.K. B.O. biz up a whopping 162% from last weekend, and 163% from the same frame last year.

And the televised Wimbledon and World Cup final double-header on July 9 did not hit hard.

Blighty bookers credit BVI’s campaign — a glitzy July 3 London preem didn’t hurt — as well as the huge popularity of the first “Pirates” in homevid.

“Pirates” biz during the week has been equally impressive: Pic piled on $3.1 million on Tuesday, and $3.5 million on Monday. Bookers are calling it their “genuine four-quadrant movie.”

“It is appealing to all audience profiles and playing well all through the day and night,” said one bizzer.

Final cume projections have been upgraded to the $75 million range, especially since mixed reviews were largely ignored by “Pirates ” fans.

CG-animated “Over the Hedge” dipped just 4% in its second frame in the U.K., which satisfied exhibs. Bookers report word of mouth on that pic is strong. But while a final cume of $25 million is projected, that number would be well below “Madagascar” ($41.6 million) or “Shark Tale” ($42.3 million.

“Superman Returns” opens July 14, and U.K. bookers are predicting a £5 million ($9.2 million) three-day opening and a £20 million ($37 million) final score, which wouldn’t compete with “Pirates”‘ appeal.

Down Under, “Pirates” marked BVI’s biggest ever opening frame, thanks in large part to a national, schoolwide winter vacation.

That also gives the pic the best opening weekend of the year in Oz, at $8.4 million from 489 screens.

Biz in Oz was pumped by the bow — and B.O. topped $14 million for only the second time this year. Pic’s per-screen average will also compete for highest of the year, at a robust $17,245.

“Superman,” meanwhile, was pushed out in Australia by the invading “Pirates” gang. In 11 days, the new superhero pic has taken in $6.8 million from 409 screens. Its per screen average dropped to $3,608, the lowest in the top four pics on the charts.

“Hedge” is holding well Down Under, and took third place.

In turf where “Superman” and “Pirates” weren’t dueling it out, CG was largely king of the hill.

In Germany, “Hedge” grew to No. 1 in its bow, with $4.3 million from 816 prints. But biz beyond the UIP release was a bit soggy.

No. 2 finisher was Warners’ “The Lake House,” with less than $1 million from 307 screens and a per-screen average of $3,183. Sony’s holdover “The Da Vinci Code” took third.

“Hedge” also was a force to be reckoned with in France, where the pic beat out BVI’s “Cars” by taking in $2.5 million in five days.

But without “Hedge” as a roadblock, “Cars” ruled Spain in its debut, taking in $3.6 million.

(Mark Schilling in Japan, Michaela Boland in Australia, Esther de Prado in Spain and Archie Thomas in the U.K. contributed to this report.)

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