12 films gross between $2 mil and $10 mil

With the film biz enjoying its best summer on record domestically, the international box office is just as astounding, even with the advent of the dog days of August.

Usually by this point, theater traffic slows down dramatically abroad, with most Hollywood tentpoles having been released and many Europeans on monthlong vacations.

Not this year.

Take the weekend of Aug. 17-19. A dozen films grossed between $2 million and $10 million, an impressive number. Four grossed between $10 million and $20 million. Two, leader “The Simpsons Movie” and “The Bourne Ultimatum,” took in $22.3 million and $22.2 million, respectively.

Hollywood movies make up almost the entire pack.

“It’s pretty amazing. With all these huge openings at the beginning of the summer, people thought business would burn out. Instead, I think it whetted peoples’ appetites,” says Fox Intl. distribution co-prexy Tomas Jegeus. “Success seems to beget success.”

The surge at the summer box office, both domestically and internationally, has even caught by surprise studio execs, who worried about how they would fare with so many movies on the calendar. Good word of mouth seems to be fueling the bump.

Mother Nature also could be playing a role, as in France, where there’s been plenty of lousy weather. July saw a 58% jump in attendance in Gaul compared with July 2006.

Fox’s “The Simpsons Movie,” which began unspooling in late July, has remained an especially strong contender internationally, becoming the first tentpole of the summer to win four straight weekends.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” “Spider-Man 3″ and “Shrek the Third” each won three straight weekends.

“Simpson’s” international cume was $267.6 million as of Aug. 20 for a worldwide cume of $432.9 million, according to Rentrak.

For the weekend of Aug. 17-19, the pic made $23.4 million from 7,000 playdates in 61 markets. That’s a decline of only 8% from the previous frame. Haul was helped by a $5 million launch in Russia and a $3 million launch in Brazil, as well as strong, continued playability in Europe.

Also bowing in Brazil, “Simpsons” enjoyed a 55% market share.

U’s “Bourne Ultimatum” had nothing to complain about with its first major offshore launches, grossing $22.2 million from $1,470 runs, a pleasing $14,966 per location average.

Three-quel’s haul in the U.K. was an impressive $13 million, doubling the take of “The Bourne Supremacy,” the previous title in the franchise. Coupled with a $5 million Spanish launch, “Ultimatum” shouldn’t have trouble eclipsing the final cumes for the first two films.

Disney-Pixar’s “Ratatouille” continues to prove that rats are nothing to be afraid of. In its eighth frame, pic came in No. 3 behind “Simpsons” and “Bourne,” with a haul of $16.7 million from 2,924 runs for a cume of $151.4 million, a decline of only 13%.

Set in Paris, the toon has been a runaway hit in Gaul, grossing Disney roughly $34.5 million. Film’s performance is on par with other Pixar titles, with half the major markets still to launch.

Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” neared the $600 million mark at the international box office. Declining 35% from the previous frame, it grossed $15.6 million from 6,500 locations for a cume of $591.2 million.

“Phoenix” is only the eighth pic to gross more than $600 million abroad, joining “Titanic,” “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King,” the previous two “Pirates of the Caribbean” and the first, second and fourth “Potter” pics.

DreamWorks-Paramount’s “Transformers” came in No. 5 internationally, taking in $11 million from 5,492 locations for a cume of $354.2 million, a 32% decline. Pic’s performance overseas has far outpaced expectations.

New Line’s “Rush Hour 3″ came in No. 6 overseas, taking in $10.6 million from 1,614 runs in its second sesh for a cume of $25.9 million.

A pair of summer domestic disappointments, Sony’s toon “Surf’s Up” and Universal’s “Evan Almighty,” pulled in moderate performances over the frame. “Surf’s Up” grossed $6.8 million from 2,170 locations, while “Evan” made $5.9 million from 3,600 runs.

“Simpsons” isn’t the only title Fox is benefiting from. “Live Free or Die Hard” and “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” took in a combined $10 million. “Silver Surfer” added $5.5 million from 1,900 runs for a cume of $133 million, while “Die Hard 4.0″ — as it is known overseas — captured $4.5 million at 2,200 to boost the international total to $213 million.

(David Hayhurst in France and Christian Koehl in Germany contributed to this report.)

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