‘Simpsons’ takes on the world

Homer banks overseas d'oh

The Simpsons aren’t just America’s first family.

Homer and his clan ruled the world as “The Simpsons Movie” dominated foreign box office with $96 million at 5,426 playdates in 71 markets.

Pic showed socko traction in international multiplexes with a stunning $18,356 per-location average. The toon topped Fox foreign forecasts, snagging more than the combined offshore grosses of a pair of formidable rivals — Warner’s third weekend of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” and Par’s expanded run of “Transformers.”

Fox’s extensive worldwide campaign for “The Simpsons Movie” paid off with massive biz in every market — including opening day records in Australia, Argentina, Chile and Colombia, and opening weekend records in Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay.

The boffo launch raises expectations for the pic’s long-term performance in many major markets where the pic has not yet opened, including Italy, Japan, Mexico and South Korea. “The Simpsons Movie” could be headed toward the same stellar range Fox achieved last year with “Ice Age 2” topping $450 million.

Fox Intl. co-topper Paul Hanneman stressed the key efforts in scaling box office heights had been to tailor campaigns to each market in order to transform “The Simpsons Movie” into an event rather than an extension of the TV series.

The surprising foreign success of “The Simpsons Movie” underlines the powerful performance this summer by Hollywood’s franchise pics in international markets. Offshore moviegoers have been streaming into high-profile films, with foreign grosses for major studios 15% ahead of last year’s record-setting pace; overall biz for the frame dwarfed the same weekend a year ago when “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” led with $55 million.

The weekend saw “Transformers” approach the quarter-billion-dollar mark overseas, while the fifth Potter pic hit $450 million overseas — 20th all-time on that list.

In the U.K., for example, overall biz turned boffo as “The Simpsons” won easily with $27.8 million, representing the third-biggest animated opening in Britain. “Transformers” was no slouch, though, grabbing $16.6 million — 6% ahead of “War of the Worlds” — while the third frame of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” conjured up $5.7 million.

“The Simpsons” dominated in Germany with $14.2 million, leaving “Phoenix” far behind with $5 million in its third frame. It was a similar story in Australia, with a $10.7 million launch — five times the weekend for “Phoenix” — and in Spain, with $9.7 million compared with $1.25 million for “Phoenix.

Homer and Optimus Prime also faced off in France, with “The Simpsons” winning with $9.3 million while “Transformers” launched solidly with $6.3 million and the third frame of “Phoenix” grossed $4.5 million. In Argentina, “The Simpsons Movie” grabbed $2.3 million, smashing the opening weekend record set by “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” by 30%.

“World’s End” has now grossed $2 million in its 10th weekend, lifting its international cume to $644.5 million.

The “Simpsons” performance compared favorably with such stalwarts as “Shrek the Third,” which spent the weekend padding its gross by $6.2 million at 4,196 to lift the foreign cume to $397.5 million. “Simpsons” represented the second-biggest animated openings in Spain and Belgium, and the third-biggest in Germany and Sweden.

As for Harry Potter, “Phoenix” lost about half the biz from its socko second frame as it grossed a still-respectable $50 million at 12,000 prints. The $450 million foreign cume is now only $90 million short of “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” the only other Potter pic released in the summer; the quintet of “Potter” pics has combined for almost $3 billion overseas.

Harry took a hit in the U.K. with a 58% decline to $5.7 million, but that was still enough to lift the Brit cume to $76.4 million. “Phoenix” scored its top number in Japan with $7 million in its second frame, edging down only 4%; “Transformers” opens next weekend in Japan, while “The Simpsons” won’t show up until March.

Par’s “Transformers” continued its impressive foreign perf, with $42 million at 5,362 in 49 territories, generating 60% of that from its launches in the U.K., France, Hong Kong and Belgium. The Michael Bay pic padded its record as the top foreign pic of all time in South Korea with another $1.6 million to lift that cume to $48 million.

Disney/Pixar’s “Ratatouille” led the rest of the pack with $10 million at 1,560 in 18 markets, mostly with a Japanese launch of $4.2 million and a Korean opening of $2 million. The toon, with $52 million so far amid a gradual foreign release pattern, is meeting Disney expectations; it expands next weekend into France, Spain, Hong Kong and Benelux.

Fox’s “Live Free or Die Hard” remained a solid player, with $8.5 million at 4,000 to lift the fourth “Die Hard” to $175 million overseas, matching Fox forecasts, with several major markets yet to launch.

Warner’s “Ocean’s Thirteen” added $1.7 million to push its international take to $159.3 million — 19% behind “Ocean’s Twelve.”

Universal began expanding its comedy slate during the frame, led by “Knocked Up” with $3.1 million for a cume of $13 million from four markets, including a $1.9 million launch in Russia. U saw $1.2 million at 300 for “Evan Almighty,” most of that from a modest $916,000 at 185 in South Korea; it also took $1 million at 107 from its first foreign openings of “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” in Greece, Holland and Taiwan.

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