Summer hits go for a dip

Pics rely on overseas as they fade at home

Performance anxiety seems to be setting in.

The three May tentpoles — the third installments in the “Spider-Man,” “Shrek” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchises — all opened stupendously, beating the record-setting numbers of their immediate predecessors in the respective series.

But with steep falloffs domestically, none of the three will match the final domestic B.O. of the second films.

Overseas, it’s a different story, with the third “Spider-Man” and “Pirates” pics expected to surpass the tallies of the second movies. The reason may be the “Shrek” factor.

The DreamWorks Animation film did not open day-and-date overseas, meaning the other two pics have had room to grow; meanwhile, the domestic perf could reflect the crowded marketplace.

So it will be interesting to see what happens when “Shrek the Third” opens overseas this week in 14 territories, including Australia and South Korea.

It’ll open in other key areas, such as Japan, the U.K., Germany and France on various dates later this month.

Studio execs said they refuse to paint these pics as underperformers. Sony and Marvel point out that “Spider-Man 3” is expected to top $900 million — a feat managed by only seven other movies.

But the record-breaking bows set expectations too high for these films, and many of those who predicted the summer would be a record-breaker are now worried about the falloffs, wondering what they portend for the next three months — especially domestically.

The numbers are indeed off-pace as North American auds seem to be running out in opening frames but abandoning pics for the next high-profile choice that comes along.

Stateside, “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” had the biggest Memorial Day weekend bow ever. But its second frame was the 19th best of all time, sliding more than 60% in ticket sales.

Pic fell behind the second entry in the series, “Dead Man’s Chest,” by 16% and seems unlikely to even match the B.O. of the first one in the series.

But overseas, the third Disney movie has enough gas in its tank to strike the $642 million international total racked up by “Dead Man’s Chest.”

“At World’s End” is running ahead of “Dead Man’s Chest” in virtually every overseas territory for a comparable time period. Foreign coin already represents nearly two out of every three dollars spent on the third pic, which has tallied $406.6 million internationally in a dozen days.

Third movie’s second frame abroad marks only the second time that a pic has topped $100 million internationally in its soph sesh. It held far better overseas than in the U.S., with most key markets — the U.K, Australia, Spain, Germany, France, Japan, Italy — seeing drops of 50% or less.

And while “Spider-Man 3” is running 8% behind the second movie at home, it has hit $526.6 million overseas and $845 million worldwide — better numbers already than its two predecessors abroad.

Jay Sands, senior VP for Sony Pictures Releasing Intl., says Spidey will stick around long enough to finish at around $900 million worldwide.

Hollywood majors’ overseas business could this year top $10 billion — a record that would represent a 16% hike over last year.

“You look at (this summer’s domestic) numbers and say, ‘I will never find an excuse to be unhappy with $300 million in box office,” said one high-ranking studio veteran. “No one can complain with the results of any of these movies. If you’re in the $300 million club, you’ve got something.”

“Spider-Man 3” and the third “Pirates” pic have combined for close to $1 billion in international box office receipts already.

In the U.K., for example, “Spider 3” has cumed $65 million vs. $49.7 million for “Spider-Man 2”; in France, it’s snared $51.8 million, $12 more than the last Spidey pic; in Mexico, it’s the all-time leader with $34.2 million, $3 million ahead of “Spider-Man.”

In South Korea, the “Spider-Man 3” cume of $33.8 million exceeds the combined totals of the first two films. That’s also the case in Russia, where the current cume has hit $13.8 million.

“Shrek the Third” will have a tough time marching to the $441.2 million that “Shrek 2” drew domestically. After setting the record as biggest bow ever for an animated pic and a PG film, “Shrek the Third” is running a full 19% behind the ogre’s second outing after three weekends in release.

Looking ahead internationally, Warner’s “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” and “Shrek the Third” are both expected to combine for another $1 billion overseas, and “Evan Almighty” could break out, given the strong overseas perf of “Night at the Museum,” another broad comedy with plenty of effects.

Other pics with strong foreign prospects include “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer,” “Live Free or Die Hard,” “Ocean’s Thirteen,” “Transformers,” “The Simpsons Movie” and “Ratatouille.”

But it remains to be seen if future summer pics can stay in it for the long haul rather than just break the bank and fade. And whether the glut of hits proves to be a double-edged sword.

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