‘Pirates’ ship-shape overseas

'Ocean's' brings in $28 million

The buccaneers stayed on course in a robust frame at the international box office, as “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” sailed to its third weekend victory with $51.3 million at 17,500 playdates in 103 markets.

Disney’s pirates fended off their first serious challenges as Warner Bros.’ “Ocean’s Thirteen” opened solidly with $28 million from 4,200 in 30 markets — including 20 first-place finishes — and Paramount’s “Shrek the Third” grabbed serious green in its first major expansion with $25 million at 1,852 in 25 territories, setting several records.

And with the sixth frame of Sony’s “Spider-Man 3” ensnaring $7 million at 6,205, the frame underlined the dominance of the third versions of mega-tentpoles in foreign markets — where studios take in 60%-70% of their worldwide grosses on high-profile fare. The third “Pirates” pic and “Spider-Man 3” have already combined for more than $1 billion overseas; the two franchises have now combined for nearly $3 billion in foreign grosses.

Overall foreign biz posted socko results compared with the year-ago frame, when soccer’s World Cup launch chilled international moviegoing as the fourth frame of “The Da Vinci Code” led with $22 million.

For the second weekend in a row, “At World’s End” declined by 50% on the foreign front as it again showed more traction internationally than domestically. It held best in Latin America, with a 42% slide, and in Asia at 44%, while Europe slid a steeper 57% amid direct competition from “Ocean’s Thirteen.”

The third “Pirates” should become the 15th film to cross the $500 million mark for international grosses today or Tuesday. And with combined domestic and foreign box office nearing $750 million, pic’s on target to join 17 others with worldwide grosses topping $800 million by the end of next weekend — even with more serious competition via the worldwide launch of Fox’s “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.”

“At World’s End” performed best by far in Japan, where it remained unchallenged by other tentpoles. It saw a decline of only 26% to $9 million at 871, lifting that market’s cume past $50 million. It finished a sturdy second in the U.K., 21% behind “Ocean’s Thirteen” with a 56% drop to $4.7 million at 552 for a Brit cume of almost $67 million; and in France, free of competish from “Ocean’s Thirteen,” the buccaneer biz fell only 29% to $3.9 million at 783.

“At World’s End” finished behind “Ocean’s Thirteen” in Germany with a 59% decline to $3.3 million at 1,568 and took in more than $2 million in Mexico, Australia and South Korea, where the pirates’ cume has hit $30.7 million — a record for a Hollywood pic. In Russia, the pirates’ $1.5 million lifted the territorial total to $28.7 million, topping “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” as the highest U.S. grosser ever.

Third “Pirates” pic is less than $150 million behind the final foreign cume of $642 million for “Dead Man’s Chest” and will receive one more boost Tuesday when it opens in China, its final market. It’s already topped its predecessor in Mexico with $21 million, in Brazil with $12.8 million, in Hong Kong with $4.9 million, in India with $4.1 million and in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

“Ocean’s Thirteen” — viewed as an effective counterprogrammer after the pirates and Spidey dominated the international market for the past five frames — turned in its top perfs in the U.K., with $6.1 million at 699; in Germany, with $4 million at 768 (including previews); in Spain, with $3.4 million at 487; in Italy, with $2.4 million at 526; and in Greece, with $1.1 million at 118.

“Thirteen” led the booming Russian market, but estimates weren’t available Sunday; it also won in Austria, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Norway, the Philippines, Portugal, Taiwan, Turkey and the UAE. Given the solid overseas traction seen by “Ocean’s Eleven” and “Ocean’s Twelve” — which combined for more than half a billion dollars in foreign grosses — the star-laden caper comedy should have plenty of gas in the tank through midsummer as it gradually expands its markets.

“Shrek the Third” showed serious box office muscle in its expansion, gobbling the most green in South Korea, with $11.27 million at 536, as it easily bested the “Shrek 2” mark for top animated launch. Its Oz debut of $8.5 million at 276 topped “Spider-Man 3” by an impressive 9%; it also hit seven figures in New Zealand, with $1.3 million, and in Colombia, with $1.15 million, and set records in the UAE and Egypt for animated launch.

“Shrek the Third,” which has cumed $54.5 million foreign and $337 million worldwide, should see beefy returns next weekend amid launches in Brazil, France and Mexico as Par opens the pic to coincide with summer vacations. Expectations are sky-high given the $400 million-plus that “Shrek 2” grabbed overseas.

“Spider-Man 3” showed durability as its foreign cume hit $539 million, led by the U.K. with $66 million and Japan with $54.3 million and France with $52.9 million. Its worldwide total has hit $864 million for 12th place on the all-time list.

The frame’s notable nonsequel biz came from a pair of Warner pics — “Zodiac,” with $3.6 million at 1,800 in 44 markets, and “300,” with an impressive Japanese launch of $3.5 million at 453 (including previews). “Zodiac” has racked up $32.7 million overseas, nearly matching the disappointing domestic cume; “300” has hit $236.8 million outside the U.S., eclipsing the Stateside total by $27 million.

Sony saw solid numbers from its day-and-date launches of “Surf’s Up” in Russia with $1.9 million at 340 and in the Ukraine with $175,000 at 60. Studio’s holding off on sending the toon into many major markets until late summer.

Universal’s sturdy “Mr. Bean’s Holiday” tacked on $750,000 at 1,200 for a cume of $182.4 million. And “Hostel: Part II” scared up a moderate $465,000 on 140 in Australia and Argentina for Sony.

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