Noms help ‘Blood,’ others o’seas

'Museum' hauls in another $15.2 million

While it was another great “Night at the Museum” during the latest frame overseas, the real story — beyond that pic’s fifth straight No. 1 finish — was that a host of Oscar-nominated films received some needed boosts from their awards buzz back in Hollywood.

Fox’s “Night,” the comedy starring Ben Stiller as a security guard in charge of some supernaturally animated exhibits, hauled in another $15.2 million to draw its cume to nearly $195 million. Pic is playing in 50 territories.

But away from “Night’s” blanketing of the marketplace, a spate of Oscar nominees got good gooses based on their awards appeal.

Warner Bros.’ “Blood Diamond,” which has had a slow run in the U.S., with $52.7 million to date, cut $12.2 million from 41 markets in the latest frame overseas. Political pic — starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou and Jennifer Connolly — had its first major foreign expansion over the frame, and the studio picked a good weekend to go forward, thanks to the Oscar noms for DiCaprio and Hounsou.

“Blood” drew second-place launches in the U.K., with $2.9 million at 371, and in Germany, with $1.6 million at 503.

DiCaprio has a proven track record in Blighty, with past winners there including “Titanic” and “Catch Me if You Can.”

“Blood Diamond” also opened to $1.5 million at 280 in Italy and led in launches in Austria, Israel, Norway and Switzerland.

Also benefiting from a best actor nom was Sony’s “The Pursuit of Happyness.” Inspirational Will Smith drama came in third on the foreign charts, barely trailing “Blood,” with $12.1 million from just 15 markets.

Smith pic was buoyed by its bow in Japan, where it reeled in $3.1 million of 274. Other impressive returns came from a third Brit weekend with $2.4 million at 404, down a slight 28%.

“Pursuit” has hit $48 million overseas to pass $200 million worldwide, and should stay near the top next frame with launches in Brazil, France, Mexico and Spain.

Though “Pursuit” is helmed by an Italo director, Gabriele Muccino, the pic hasn’t been able yet to beat the country’s No. 1 pic, local comedy “Manual of Love 2.” “Manual” once again conquered a crowded weekend on its home turf with $6.5 million on 720, down 20% for a boffo $19 million cume as it easily topped “Happyness,” “Step Up” and “Blood Diamond.”

Paramount Pictures Intl.’ “Babel,” which has chugged along slowly at the domestic B.O. with $27.6 million, has created a bit more heat overseas, where its foreign take is about $55 million.

With seven Oscar noms, “Babel” remained a strong No. 2 in Spain after five weeks in theaters. Pic hit $1.2 million at 213 there, to push its territorial total to $9.4 million.

Overall, the starry political ensembler brought in a respectable $4.8 million, and managed to make the top five charts. Par relaunched “Babel” in Mexico, where part of the film takes place, and realized another $245,000 at 162, lifting cume to $6.7 million.

Away from the Oscar race, “Rocky Balboa,” which Fox is releasing abroad for MGM, landed a fourth-place punch, with $10.8 million from 14 markets. “Rocky” was a big winner in France, with a No. 1 bow above a long list of local productions.

Among other Oscar noms, Paramount Pictures Intl. expanded its bigscreen musical “Dreamgirls,” which has eight noms under its belt, but no best pic or director hopes. Perhaps as a result of the snubs in those key categories, the pic, starring Jennifer Hudson, Beyonce Knowles and Eddie Murphy, made only modest gains abroad, singing to just under $2 million from five markets, including Italy, Mexico and Spain.

Buzz has always been that Hollywood’s African-American pics do not play to blockbuster numbers overseas, and neither do musicals. DreamWorks had made some major international pushes on the pic to warm up foreign journos, including the unveiling of footage and talent at last year’s Cannes fest.

Meantime, Warners had luck with its violent, arty gangster drama from Martin Scorsese, “The Departed.” With five Oscar noms, the pic shot up $1.5 million at 361 in Japan, sliding just 36% from the prior frame. Pic’s cume has hit $138.7 million overseas for a worldwide total of $263 million.

Warners has relaunched “Departed” as a wide release Stateside.

Japan was fertile ground for Hollywood pics over the most recent frame. Filmgoers there continued to flock to Clint Eastwood’s “Letters From Iwo Jima,” which fell just 24% to $686,000, pushing the war epic’s cume to $37.6 million in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Among the other Oscar faves, Fox’s “The Last King of Scotland” declined just 35% in its third U.K. frame to a hair under $1 million at 230. Brit cume has risen to $6 million. North American cume on the pic stands at just over $8 million.

BVI, meantime, saw decent returns for the first foreign market for “Venus,” with $675,000 at 195 in the U.K. as the pic took advantage of Peter O’Toole’s acting Oscar nom.

Overall biz was solid for a midwinter frame, with four films above $10 million and “Night at the Museum” nearly matching the $15 million grossed by “Munich” in the same weekend of 2006. “Night” now has posted the longest winning streak at the foreign box office since “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” ended the summer with nine consecutive weekend victories.

In other biz, Mel Gibson’s Mayan epic “Apocalypto” launched impressively in Mexico for Fox, with a first-place $2.7 million at 465. It also led in openings in Taiwan, with $336,000 at 56, and in Brazil, with $207,000 at 48, pushing the foreign cume past $40 million.

And Fox’s day-and-date release of “Epic Movie” led in Australia with $2 million at 206, about the same as the “Scary Movie” franchise.

Universal Pictures Intl.’s day-and-date opening of “Smokin’ Aces” led in Russia with $1.7 million at 326.

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