France's love affair with Willis pays dividends

Bruce Willis is living large and free overseas.

20th Century Fox’s “Die Hard 4.0″ — as Willis’ new film, titled “Live Free or Die Hard” domestically, is known in foreign territories — has continued to hold its own against the summer’s titan tentpoles, amassing more than $155.7 million in overseas box office receipts through July 22.

Weekend take for the July 20 frame was $23 million from 5,500 playdates in 51 markets, fueled by a six-day Korean launch that resulted in box office receipts of $10.9 million, marking Fox’s biggest opening day ever in that market.

Pic came in No. 3 overseas behind market leader “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” and “Transformers.”

The Gauls’ longtime love affair with Willis is as amorous as ever, judging by the perf of the fourth “Die Hard” in Gaul. Pic dropped off by only 18% in its third frame, taking in $2.6 million from 749 locations for a cume of $14.1 million.

Worldwide, the fourth “Die Hard” installment has grossed more than $274 million, an impressive number considering the franchise has been absent from the bigscreen for more than a decade.

Fox is likewise looking for strong international support for “The Simpsons Movie,” which opens day-and-date in 71 markets on July 27. Early showings on 23 screens in the Paris region brought in a tidy $39,000 late last week.

“Simpsons” will have plenty of competish, especially from the likes of Warner Bros.’ “Order of the Phoenix” and DreamWorks-Paramount’s “Transformers,” which are still relatively fresh in their global runs.

Hollywood studios have never had so much success knocking down borders with their summer mega-tentpoles.

For the first time ever, five summer films — “Phoenix,” “Transformers,” Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” Sony’s “Spider-Man 3″ and Paramount’s “Shrek the Third” will gross more than $400 million outside the United States, as international auds surrender to big stars, big special effects and easy-to-understand storylines.

Last year saw four tentpoles (“Pirates 2,” “The Da Vinci Code,” “Ice Age 2,” “Casino Royale”) go past $400 million internationally, but only two managed the feat during the summer season.

For the weekend of July 20, “Phoenix” remained the market leader for the second weekend, raking in $100.8 million from more than 13,000 playdates in 58 markets for a cume of $351.3 million.

“Phoenix” made the most coin in Japan, beating the record set by “Pirates 2″ in nabbing $18.6 million from 951 playdates, including $9.5 million in sneaks.

Launching in Russia, “Phoenix” set a record for the franchise in making $7 million over the weekend. Pic also launched in Israel, taking in $655,000 and becoming the country’s fourth-biggest opening.

In its second weekend in many territories, “Phoenix” saw varying declines. Pic held up well in the U.K., down a tolerable 46%, taking in $14.2 million.

In Gaul, “Phoenix” made $11.9 million from 950 locations for a cume of better than $32 million. Pic may have dropped 41% from its opening weekend, but still made more than the other top 14 films combined.

“Phoenix” declined 43% in Germany to $9 million and, thanks to a heat wave, 57% in Italy to $2.7 million.

Elsewhere in key markets, “Phoenix” took a 61% hit in Australia to $4.4 million, while the take in Mexico dipped 60% to $3.2 million against the launch of “Transformers.”

Korean biz dipped 67% to $2.9 million against the “Die Hard” launch. South Korea’s “Transformers” run reps the country’s biggest import ever, with $46.2 million through July 24.

Brazil’s hold was more magical, with “Phoenix” dropping only 38% to $2.5 million.

Generally speaking, the overseas perf of “Phoenix” is in line with studio projections, and is expected to easily match the $540 million take overseas for “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” the only other Potter pic to be released in the summer.

“Transformers,” coming in second overseas over the July 20 frame, made $34 million from 4,315 playdates in 42 territories. Actioner has already hit $200 million overseas without yet opening in the four biggest markets — France, Germany, Japan and the U.K. — and rivals believe it’s likely to wind up well over $400 million internationally.

Coming in No. 4, “Shrek the Third” made $10.6 million at 4,544 playdates in 54 markets for a beefy cume of $381.4 million.

Taking No. 5 was newcomer “Hairspray,” which made a respectable $4.1 million in its day-and-date launch in the U.K. at 350 locations.

David Hayhurst in France, Darcy Paquet in Korea and Nick Vivarelli in Italy contributed to this report.

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