'Pirates,' 'Potter' cleaning up
As fall starts, Hollywood studios will no doubt look longingly back at a season that delivered the best summer on record.The summer saw seven films go past $200 million in foreign grosses — “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” at $651 million, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” at $627.8 million, “Spider-Man 3” at $553.7 million, “Shrek the Third” at $436.4 million, “Transformers” at $375 million, “The Simpsons Movie” at $302.6 million and “Live Free or Die Hard” at $223 million. By contrast, the previous summer saw only four pics hit the $200 million milestone — “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” “The Da Vinci Code,” “Mission: Impossible 3” and “X-men: The Last Stand.” Thanks almost entirely to the tentpoles, overseas summer grosses hit $4.26 billion for the six studios (Disney, Fox, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros.) or 20% higher than the 2006 summer. And that’s not entirely bad news for the fall season on two fronts. First, there’s carry-over from successful high-profile pics; and secondly, the major summer tentpoles were so overwhelming that there was still gas in the tank during the first weekend of September “Shrek the Third,” “The Bourne Ultimatum” and “Ratatouille.” That trio of summer pics combined for more than $40 million internationally during the weekend — hardly blockbuster but still solid given the tendency of overall biz to cool down once the summer’s over. For example, “Shrek the Third” won the weekend with $17.7 million, well above the $11.6 million total for “Pirates of the Caribbean 2” during the same frame of 2006. The green ogre dominated in Italy taking in nearly one in three of all admissions with $8 million for the weekend, $2.7 million in previews and $2.4 million more on its first two weekdays for a socko five-day cume of $13.1 million. Scandinavia saw more of the same, led by $2 million in Denmark — also the top opening in the territory for an animated pic — along with $2 million in Norway and $1.6 million in Sweden. “The Bourne Ultimatum,” which had won the two previous foreign frames, continued to connect with adult audiences with $14.7 million in 29 markets. International perf has been tracking well above 2004’s “The Bourne Supremacy,” approaching $80 million as of Sept. 5 — nearly half of that from the U.K. “Ultimatum” kept biz respectable in Blighty, were overall trade edged up 2% on the previous frame and up 11% on the same weekend last year. “The Bourne Ultimatum” slipped just 22% in its third frame to $4.5 million — well above the soph sesh of “Knocked Up,” which impressed by dropping just 10% in its soph sesh to $2.9 million. “Ultimatum” also held decently in Spain, declining 35% in its third weekend for a chart-topping $1.1 million, moving the cume to $10.56 million. ” ‘Bourne’ is a great movie that is working pretty well at the box office. It has been the only summer pic targeting adult auds,” noted one Spanish booker. Disney’s “Ratatouille” took in $10.6 million — thanks largely to a sterling run at Gallic wickets. The Paris-set Pixar toon dipped just 22% in its fifth frame to $4.5 million and a $51.7 million cume, less than $4 million short of the final cume of “Spider-Man 3” as the top performer of the year. It also set a launch record for an animated release in Singapore with $1.2 million. And it dominated biz in Belgium in its fifth frame with $649,217 — more than double the second sesh of “Disturbia” — and has cumed $5.6 million in that market. “Ratatouille” has cumed $191 million overseas as of Sept. 5 with about 50% of the foreign markets still to open. The cume’s only $20 million short of the final foreign take for “Cars,” the previous Pixar toon. With summer tentpoles starting to play out, distribs also began looking for more targeted releases. In the U.K., as predicted by bookers, hotel-set horror “1408” proved the best performer among midrange newcomers with $2.2 million at 406 screens — in line with positive industry expectations. Although there were no major hits over the weekend, Germany’s box office climbed 28% as local and Hollywood comedies drew Teutonic crowds looking for laughs. “Knocked Up” remained in the top spot, dipping just 9% to $1.9 million for a running cume of $4.9 million; exhibs report that the Judd Apatow laffer is benefiting from strong word of mouth. Constantin Film’s “Kein bund fuers leben,” a military comedy about reluctant army recruits from director Granz Henman, proved a decent performer with the youth demo, garnering $1.6 million from 301. And “Rush Hour 3” followed with $1.3 million for a $9.1 million total. In Spain, Universal’s local acquisition “La carta esferica” performed impressively. Despite downbeat predictions, Imanol Uribe’s seafaring treasure tale nabbed $888,933 from 211 copies — the best opening weekend for any Spanish film this year. Archie Thomas in the U.K., Ed Meza in Germany, Nick Vivarelli in Italy and Emilio Mayorga in Spain contributed to this report.