Swashbuckler sails at foreign box office

Though Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” hasn’t completely been living up to sky-high expectations at home, the pic has been setting a torrid pace abroad.

The pic, which dropped more than 60% domestically, suffered more modest dropoffs internationally in its soph sesh, defying many foreign exhibs’ expectations.

Through last weekend, “Pirates” has scored an international cume of $406.8 million, roughly 65% of the worldwide take for the franchise’s third installment.

In its most recent voyage, “At World’s End” sailed to a plump $103 million from 102 territories overseas. That repped the vast majority of biz around the world overall: Sony and Marvel’s “Spider-Man 3″ came in at No. 2 internationally with just $12.5 million.

Spidey has caught a total of $526.6 million in its web after the most recent frame.

Looking at the world charts, “Pirates” absolutely dominated: In its soph sesh, the pic was No. 1 in key countries, ranging from the U.K., France, Italy, Spain and Germany to markets including Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and Sweden.

Rounding out the top five abroad were Warner Bros.’ “Zodiac,” which has performed well overseas so far, with a $26.6 million cume to date after a so-so U.S. launch, followed by “Shrek the Third” and “28 Weeks Later.”

“Shrek” — yet another in a spate of May blockbusters from Hollywood — hasn’t opened in enough territories to make a real impact yet abroad. Pic’s cume is $30 million from just seven territories, but a major expansion is on tap this weekend for the Paramount and DreamWorks Animation film.

Looking more closely at the world’s numbers, the U.K. proved to be the best port of call for “Pirates,” which stars Brit talent Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley. Pic wasn’t able to smash any U.K. opening weekend records, but it is showing momentum: In its soph sesh, the actioner dipped 53% — far less than its American slide — to $10.7 million at 550 for a $19,486 screen average. That take brought “Pirates” to a $58.3 million U.K. cume after 11 days, putting it well ahead of last year’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” ($34.4 million from 514 in its first 11 days in Blighty).

“At World’s End” has already lapped the original pic in the franchise, which pocketed just $55.8 million in 2003. And “World’s” is also catching “Spider-Man 3″ in Blighty, too. Mouse House brass in the U.K. feel that the pic will last through the summer, thanks to repeat visits.

But “Pirates” wasn’t the only pic playing well in Blighty. Laffer “Wedding Daze” worked as counterprogramming to collect $1.6 million (including $290,159 in previews) at 344, good for No. 2 on the U.K. charts.

In other key Euro markets, Germany saw a 47% drop for “Pirates,” which dominated, with only one new opener, “Zodiac” (a distant second with $813,571 from 150 via WB) in its path. “At World’s End” took in a healthy $9.7 million from 974 locations in the territory en route to a $38 million take.

” ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ has become a huge event, and it’s attracting a really broad range of viewers,” notes one Teutonic exhib.

In France, “Pirates” managed to take in just a tad less than $7.3 million on the week, for a cume of nearly $29 million on 783 for Buena Vista, dipping 57% in its second frame.

Meantime, France is one of the territories helping David Fincher’s “Zodiac” pick up steam after a tepid U.S. release. Pic finished at No. 3 after “Pirates” and “Spider-Man 3,” with about $950,000 from 771 theaters. Spidey has swung to $48.6 million in France after more than a month in release.

In Spain, “Pirates” dropped 50% after registering the biggest opening ever in the territory. Pic took in $6 million in Spain for a total of more than $21.1 million, drawing better than 2,770,000 spectators since its May 24 preem. 

The smallish drop pleased exhibs, who said they expected “Pirates” to sink about 60% in ticket sales.

But the latest “Pirates” still fell short of its immediate predecessor: After 10 days, “Dead Man’s Chest” had grossed $26.3 million, or about $5.3 million more than the most recent installment.

With “Pirates” dominating performance, other American films failed to snatch auds in Spain. Romantic drama “In the Land of Women” bowed, weakly, grossing $503,457.11 on 200 screens, despite favorable reviews from Spanish critics. 

Italian numbers for “Pirates” brought the film in at No. 1, coasting to another $5.1 million and bringing its cume to $17.2 million in the territory. Perf was well ahead of No. 2 finisher “Grindhouse,” which is being distribbed there by local unit Medusa. Still, the “Grindhouse” bow of $1.18 million, put it ahead of “Spider-Man 3,” which through last week earned a total of 23.6 million in Italo dough.

Ed Meza in Germany, David Hayhurst in France, Matt Griffin in Spain and Nick Vivarelli in Italy contributed to this report.

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