‘Pirates’ rides high seas abroad

Disney pic proves int'l kryptonite

It’s definitely the pirates’ world, as “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” easily topped “Superman Returns” at the foreign box office with $58 million at 3,336 playdates in 24 markets.

Disney’s blockbuster sequel launched in 17 new markets and finished first everywhere, lifting its foreign cume to $125 million with openings still to come in 65% of international markets. “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” has a worldwide total of $383.2 million.

“Pirates” came in 52% ahead of “Superman Returns,” which grossed a respectable $38 million from 6,000 prints in 36 markets as Warner Bros. more than tripled the print count.

“Pirates” easily beat the Man of Steel in head-to-head competition with its second frame in the U.K., winning by 54% with $12 million at 514 engagements over “Superman Returns,” with $7.8 million at 479 — the top-grossing territory for both pics. “Pirates” declined 43% from its launch weekend, pushing the Brit cume to $50 million.

“Pirates” openings totaled $29.4 million, 40% above the record set by “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” for launches in the same 17 markets and more than double the openings for “Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl” in those markets in 2003.

“Pirates” plundered the red-hot Russian market with a record launch of $10 million at 530, more than $2 million better than the previous mark set by “Ice Age: The Meltdown.” It also set opening records in Singapore with $1.8 million at 65, in Malaysia with $1.1 million at 70 and in the Ukraine with $1 million at 125.

“Pirates” posted the second-best launches of all time in half a dozen other markets — Sweden with $3.4 million at 125, Denmark with $2.6 million at 80, Holland with $2.3 million at 114, Norway with $2 million at 100, Turkey with $1.5 million at 150 and Finland with $1.4 million at 69, which may tie for best opening.

Holdover “Pirates” biz stayed strong in Australia with a 35% decline to $5.5 million at 280; it saw five times the biz of the third frame of “Superman Returns.” Despite its reputation as a fast-burn market, South Korean grosses fell just 38% to $4.4 million at 420, or six times better than the third weekend of “Superman Returns.”

“These results show that ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ is clearly a worldwide idea that works in every market,” said BVI prez Mark Zoradi. “And it really expands in the public mind what a Disney movie is.”

BVI held off on going day-and-date with the sequel in all but seven markets, due to competition from the World Cup. It’s launching next weekend in Japan and Latin America, followed by a July 27 opening in Germany.

Except for the U.K., Warner aimed its “Superman Returns” launches at markets untouched by “Pirates” and posted its second-biggest bow in Mexico, with a first-place, $5.2 million from 758 prints, good for 59% of the market and the distrib’s third-best opening after the last two “Harry Potter” pics. Spain followed with $5.1 million at 560, on par with “Mission: Impossible III.”

“Superman Returns” led in France, with $4.1 million at 645, 41% ahead of “Batman Returns”; in Brazil, with $2.8 million at 460 in the fourth-biggest Warners launch; in Hong Kong, with $1.4 million at 62; in Colombia, with $809,000 at 96; in Chile, with $397,000 at 68 and in Belgium, with $373,000.

The frame lifted “Superman Returns’ ” foreign cume to $77 million and its worldwide total to $240 million. Key remaining openings for the pricey tentpole include Scandinavia on July 28, Germany and Japan in mid-August and Italy in September.

With “Pirates” and “Superman” battling it out, overall international biz bounced back smartly from the monthlong World Cup chill. The frame easily outperformed the same weekend of 2005, when “Madagascar” led with $31 million, edging the third frame of “War of the Worlds” with $30 million.

And the performance of “Pirates” portends a continued rebound from last year, with offshore biz on track to eclipse 2004’s record of $8.5 billion cume for the Hollywood majors. “Pirates” also became the seventh pic of 2006 to cross the $100 million mark in foreign grosses, joining “The Da Vinci Code,” “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” “Ice Age: The Meltdown,” “X-Men: The Last Stand” and “MI3.”

A pair of family-friendly CGI toons — UIP’s “Over the Hedge” and BVI’s “Cars” — stayed solid contributors. “Hedge” grossed $14.1 million at 4,457 locations in 44 markets, mostly from soph seshes, led by Germany with $2.5 million at 720, down 41%; Mexico, with $1.8 million at 387, down 37%; the U.K., with $1.7 million, down 58%; and France, with $1.5 million at 740, off 40%.

“Cars” followed with $10 million at 4,841 in 31 markets, led by its second Spanish frame with $2.2 million at 550, down 33%, and its third Japanese weekend with $1.4 million, down 44%. “Hedge” and “Cars” both have hit $82 million in overseas grosses.

UIP’s “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” showed respectable traction with $7.3 million at 1,400 playdates in 28 markets — half of that coming from its first-place launch in Germany with $3.6 million at 409 for 40% market share. It also opened in first in Italy with $900,000 at 161 and in Austria with $600,000 at 64.

“Drift” has cumed $42 million overseas and $112 million worldwide, with launches next weekend in France, Korea and Spain.

Japan’s soph sesh of “Mission: Impossible III” declined 24% to $3.9 million at 752, lifting the foreign cume to $228.9 million and the worldwide total to $362 million. Pic is expected to open in its final market, China, later this month.

“Poseidon,” Warner’s other summer tentpole, stayed lukewarm with $3 million from 3,100 prints in 51 markets for a foreign cume of $107.2 million and worldwide total of $167 million.

Sony’s ninth weekend of “The Da Vinci Code” still showed moderate drawing power with $2.6 million at 2,270 in 58 markets, pushing foreign cume to $520.8 million and worldwide total to $736 million.

UIP’s “United 93” continued its modest foreign performance with $1.5 million at 638, including a third-place French opening with $800,000 at 225 and an Italian soph sesh of $325,000 at 180.

U’s “The Break-Up” took in $1.4 million at 1,000 in 18 markets to raise its foreign take to $24.5 million; it opens this coming weekend in the U.K.

Sony’s day-and-date launch of “Little Man” in Australia came in second with $1.18 million at 165.

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