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‘Harry Potter’ strikes magic overseas

Wiz still wows abroad as Willis, robots ramp up

Harry Potter cast his spell for a second straight weekend at the overseas box office as “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” dominated international moviegoing with $100.8 million from more than 13,000 prints in 58 markets.

Warner Bros.’ fifth Potter pic has garnered $351.3 million offshore in its first dozen days — making it the 32nd highest overseas grosser of all time — as it combined impressive holds in the U.K., Germany and France with stellar launches in Japan and Russia. And with $558 million total, “Phoenix” now ranks 40th on the list of top-grossing films worldwide.

After posting the third-biggest foreign opening frame last weekend, “Phoenix” became only the third pic to top the $100 million mark in its second weekend along with “The Matrix Reloaded,” which landed $113 million in 2003, and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” with $103 million seven weeks ago.

And with solid starts from “Transformers” in Latin America and “Live Free or Die Hard” in South Korea, overall foreign biz stayed in pedal-to-the-metal mode as the top three pics combined for $155 million — dwarfing the same frame from a year ago, when “Pirates of the Caribbean 2,” “Superman Returns” and “Over the Hedge” combined for $88 million. With tentpoles doing socko biz at foreign plexes, international grosses for Hollywood pics this year have run about 13% ahead of last year’s pace.

“Order of the Phoenix” turned in the most magic in Japan with $18.6 million at 951 including $9.5 million in sneaks, beating the record set by “Pirates 2.” “Phoenix” should show solid traction in coming frames, given that the four prior Potter pics grossed a combined $510 million in that market.

Despite the distraction of the Saturday release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” — the final book in the series — Brit biz held well, down 46% to $14.2 million. German takings declined 43% to $9 million, while France slid 48% to $8.6 million.

“Phoenix” launched impressively in the red-hot Russian market with $7 million, marking Warner’s biggest opening day and the top weekend among the Potter pics. Other key markets saw steeper “Phoenix” drops — Australia took a 61% hit to $4.4 million; Mexican takings declined 60% to $3.2 million against the “Transformers” launch, and Korean biz fell 67% to $2.9 million against the “Die Hard” launch.

But Brazil held nicely with a 38% drop to $2.5 million against the “Transformers” debut, and Israel’s $655,000 opening was the fourth-biggest ever.

“Phoenix” has been performing in line with studio forecasts and appears to have enough gas in the tank to match the $540 million final foreign gross for “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” — the lowest grosser of the Potter pics and the only other to open during the summer. It will face significant competition next weekend from Fox’s day-and-date release of “The Simpsons Movie” but should remain a serious draw for the rest of the summer.

Paramount’s “Transformers” continued its strong foreign perf with $34 million at 4,315 in 42 territories as the actioner expanded into Latin America and outperformed previous Michael Bay pics and “War of the Worlds.” Mexico led the way with $5.5 million, followed by Brazil with $2.7 million, edging the second frame of “Phoenix.”

“Transformers” has topped Par’s expectations with $192 million overseas without yet launching in the four biggest markets — Japan, the U.K., Germany and France. Its global gross is a brawny $455 million.

“Live Free or Die Hard” continued to show life outside the United States with $23 million at 5,500 in 51 markets — a 28% hike from the previous frame, thanks to a $10.9 million South Korean six-day launch that included Fox’s biggest opening day in that market. The actioner showed decent traction with third-frame declines of 28% in France and 45% in the U.K.

Known as “Die Hard 4.0” outside the U.S., the Bruce Willis vehicle has managed to take in $155 million offshore without having opened yet in Brazil, Italy or Spain. It has matched Fox forecasts but won’t equal the surprisingly strong $260 million foreign cume for the franchise’s prior installment, “Die Hard With a Vengeance.”

Paramount’s other summer tentpole, “Shrek the Third,” continued to tap into family markets with $10.6 million at 4,544 in 54 markets for a beefy cume of $381.4 million — which is $97 million short of the final foreign cume for “Shrek 2.”

“Hairspray” opened respectably as a counterprogrammer to “Phoenix” in a day-and-date launch in the U.K. with $4.1 million at 350.

The other major summer toon, BVI’s “Ratatouille,” ate up $3.4 million at 1,972 in 14 markets in holdover biz to lift the foreign take to $37.2 million. The well-reviewed pic should become a much bigger player shortly as it expands into Japan and South Korea next frame.

A trio of sequels also contributed another $6 million — “Ocean’s Thirteen” with $2.8 million at 1,100, BVI’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” with $1.8 million at 3,587 and “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” with $1.5 million at 2,200. “Pirates 3” has cumed $639.4 million and should pass “Pirates 2” at $641 million by next weekend to become the fourth-biggest international grosser of all time.

The only other notable biz came from U’s “Knocked Up” with $1.8 million at 270 in Australia and New Zealand. Oz has generated $9 million in three weeks for the raunchy comedy, which opens next weekend in Russia.

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