Foreign box office up 9% in ’07

'Legend,' 'Treasure' top off solid year overseas

Foreign moviegoing’s ending a boffo year on solid footing, led by the high-profile trio of “I Am Legend,” “The Golden Compass” and “National Treasure: Book of Secrets.”

The three pics brought in more than $90 million internationally during the robust pre-Christmas frame along with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. And another trio of family-friendly entries — “Enchanted,” “Alvin and the Chipmunks” and “Bee Movie” — bolstered offshore numbers with an additional $60 million during the weekend and Christmas.

With most markets seeing holiday vacations for the next week, foreign box office should end the year on an upbeat note. For the first time, Hollywood’s six majors have all topped the $1 billion mark in international grosses and are heading for a combined 2007 gross of $9.34 billion — 9% ahead of last year’s record-setting performance.

Warner Bros. has left its rivals in the dust this year with an estimated $2.15 billion overseas, led by “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” ($645 million), “300” ($246 million) and “Ocean’s Thirteen” ($194 million). And it’s winding up 2007 with a major hit in “I Am Legend,” which led the weekend with $26.2 million in just 15 markets and tacked on $6 million more in the next two days.

“Legend” dominated in France with $8.6 million, taking 44% of the market, and Spain with $5.8 million, more than double the “National Treasure” debut. Japan’s second frame declined only 32% to $3.5 million, while South Korea fell 57% to $2.5 million.

“Legend” also opened in first in Belgium and Holland with $1.3 million each. Pic had cumed $61.3 million internationally as of Christmas Day, outperforming similar titles such as “Constantine,” “I, Robot” and “Die Hard 4.0”; it opened Wednesday in the U.K. for Boxing Day, traditionally one of the year’s top moviegoing days.

As with other fantasy fare, “The Golden Compass” continued to point toward far more traction overseas with $23.9 million for the pre-Christmas weekend — more than three times the domestic take. The fantasy, handled by a variety of distribs offshore, has totaled about $135 million internationally through Christmas Day, outpacing the domestic perf by nearly $85 million.

In its Boxing Day launch in Australia, “Compass” led with $1.4 million. Disney’s “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” found plenty of international coin in day-and-date launches with $22.3 million at 2,055 playdates in 17 markets over the weekend and an additional $7 million over the next two days. The actioner’s opening topped the 2004 original by 31% in comparable launches, indicating it may top the $174 million “National Treasure” foreign cume.

The Nicolas Cage vehicle finished first in Japan with $3.6 million, in South Korea with $3.5 million, in Australia with $2.8 million and in Taiwan with $2.5 million in what was the fifth-biggest December launch ever in that market.

Disney also saw “Enchanted” conjured solid overseas results with $15.8 million at 4,700 in 41 markets, then added $11 million more in the next two days. The princess fantasy pic showed impressive staying power in the U.K. with a soph sesh of $4.7 million — a decline of only 1%.

Fox’s “Alvin and the Chipmunks” gnawed its way during the weekend to $13 million at 3,500 in 38 markets — mostly from moderate launches in major territories, including the U.K. with $2.8 million, Mexico with $1.7 million, South Korea with $1.4 million, Germany with $1.3 million and $1.1 million each in Spain and France.

Par’s animated “Bee Movie” remained a decent player during the weekend with $12.1 million at 4,748 in 55 territories, led by $2 million in its second U.K. frame. “Bee” has cumed $78 million overseas; combined with domestic, “Bee” has topped the $200 million mark worldwide.

Fox’s co-production of Russian comedy “Irony of Fate 2” opened impressively with $7.2 million at 903 screens during the weekend. Studio’s “Hitman” gunned down $3.7 million at 1,100 in 44 markets to lift the foreign cume to $41.3 million.

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