Universal's 'Ultimatum' scores at box office

Superspy Jason Bourne hit the target again at the international box office as “The Bourne Ultimatum” dominated a typically moderate early fall frame with $20.8 million at 4,333 playdates in 46 markets.

Universal’s thriller won its fourth international crown in the past five frames and nearly matched the combined grosses of the next three pics — the toon trio of “The Simpsons Movie,” “Ratatouille” and “Shrek the Third.”

The third Bourne pic has topped U’s expectations in showing continued traction in multiple markets en route to a $125 million overseas cume. It’s already surpassed “Bourne Supremacy” at $112 million and “The Bourne Identity” at $92 million. It is still to open in 14 territories, including Italy and China in November.

Best weekend perfs for “Ultimatum” came from a pair of solid No. 1 launches: France with $4.4 million, representing 35% of the market; and $3.6 million in South Korea, representing the second-best Universal opening after “King Kong” despite a typhoon hitting Saturday. The Matt Damon vehicle also held well in its German soph sesh, off 39% for a first-place $2.8 million and dropped 45% to $1.8 million in Australia in its third frame.

“Ultimatum” also won launches in Belgium, Holland and Norway, with all debuts 50% better than the two previous Bourne iterations. It’s become only the third pic in 2007 to win four foreign frames, joining “Shrek the Third” and “Night at the Museum,” which won the first five weekends of the year.

Overall international biz eclipsed the same frame a year ago, with the top five pics combining for $47 million — $11 million ahead of the same frame in 2006 when “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” led with $16.5 million, followed by “Cars,” “Little Man,” “Miami Vice” and “Monster House.”

With six summer franchises topping $300 million, offshore biz for the six major Hollywood studios remains around 20% ahead of last year’s record-setting pace.

“The Simpsons Movie” drew $10.5 million at 3,000, mostly from a socko $8.2 million Italian launch in the top animated opening for that market — edging the two-week-old record set by “Shrek the Third.”

“Simpsons” has outperformed Fox’s forecasts in cuming $321 million overseas — 46th on that list and 64% of its worldwide total. And it’s also become the 52nd film to gross more than half a billion dollars in combined domestic and international box office.

Disney’s “Ratatouille” followed in third with $5.5 million at 3,092 in 34 markets, led by $1.5 million each in Australia and France, to lift the pic’s worldwide gross past $210 million. The seventh French frame represented the first time that “Ratatouille” hasn’t won in that market, where the Pixar pic is already the top 2007 grosser with $54.4 million.

Par’s “Shrek the Third” finished fourth with $5.3 million at 1,700, led by $2.2 million in its third Italian frame. The ogre also set an opening-weekend record for an animated pic in Greece with $938,000.

Toon has hit $459 million overseas, $20 million short of the final foreign cume for “Shrek 2,” in an emphatic demonstration of the traction of high-profile animated fare offshore. Combined international grosses for “Shrek the Third,” “Simpsons” and “Ratatouille” — which still has much of Europe to open — are a shade short of $1 billion.

The frame also saw Warner’s make a moderate counterprogramming play with restaurant romancer “No Reservations,” which took the fifth slot with $4.9 million at 1,850 from fourth-place launches in Germany with $1 million — on par with “The Lake House” — and in Italy with $690,000 plus a fifth-place French opening with $659,000.

U’s “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” took in $4.1 million at 1,575 in 25 markets, including a third-place launch in Spain with $1 million. “Chuck and Larry,” which has totaled a moderate $20 million overseas, opens next frame in the U.K.

The second frame of Simon Pegg comedy “Run, Fatboy, Run” won a tight battle at the British box office with $3 million, edging U’s soph sesh of “Atonement” and Sony’s opening of “Superbad.” “Atonement” fell only 9% for a 10-day gross of $8.9 million; the “Superbad” launch mirrored “Knocked Up” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.”

Sony’s “Surf’s Up” rode to $3.1 million at 2,405 in 35 markets, led by a $1.3 million third-place German opening for a $43 million foreign cume. That’s in line with modest expectations following a $59 million domestic total for the pic.

Par’s “Disturbia” also grossed $3.1 million, with $1.4 million coming from its Brit launch, to lift the pic’s overseas take to $28.3 million from 55 markets. Expectations had been higher for the thriller, which has come up short of matching a strong domestic cume of $80 million.

Fox’s “Live Free or Die Hard” shot up $2.4 million at 900, mostly from $2 million in its second frame in Spain, where it edged the launch of “Hairspray” and moved its foreign take to $233.8 million.

Other notable performers included U’s “Knocked Up” with $2.3 million, Warner’s “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” with $1.9 million, Lionsgate’s “War” with $1.4 million, U’s “Evan Almighty” with $1.4 million. “Phoenix” has cumed $639 million overseas.

Par’s initial foreign foray for “A Mighty Heart” took in a moderate $1 million at 355, led by $551,000 in Spain and $200,000 in Germany. Per-screen average of $2,817 nearly matched the domestic opening frame, when “Heart” debuted with $3.9 at 1,355 on its way to a disappointing $9.2 million cume.

In the U.K., “Shoot ‘Em Up” and “3:10 to Yuma” opened quietly with about $700,000 each.

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