Comic adaptation edges out 'Museum'

“Ghost Rider” galloped to the top spot at the weekend international box office with $15.5 million from 1,871 prints in two dozen markets, edging sturdy comedy “Night at the Museum.”

The weekend also saw a spectacular U.K. launch for cop spoof “Hot Fuzz” with $11.6 million at 422 in what was the fourth biggest opening ever for a Brit pic on its home turf.

Sony saw “Ghost Rider” finish first in 21 territories, led by the Russian market with $3.4 million at 401 in the nation’s 18th largest launch, in Spain with $3 million at 415, in Australia with $1.9 million at 208 and in Taiwan with $1.5 million at 120. The Nicolas Cage vehicle also opened impressively in Malaysia with $760,000 at 60 and in Singapore with $725,000 at 40.

With its boffo U.S. debut, “Ghost Rider” has already grossed $60 million worldwide. It will launch next weekend in France, Germany and Scandinavia and move into the U.K. and Japan in the following frame.

Fox continued to cash in on “Night at the Museum” with $13.8 million at 5,000 playdates in 46 markets, led by its French soph sesh with $3.5 million at 676, off only 22%. The Ben Stiller laffer trailed openings for French pics “Taxi 4″ and Edith Piaf biopic “La Vie En Rose.”

“Night at the Museum” launched well in Hong Kong with $1.6 million at 46 including previews for the second largest Fox opening in that market after “The Day After Tomorrow,” but its Chinese debut was less auspicious with $1 million at 600. “Museum” also launched well in Belgium with $900,000 at 85 and in Holland with $544,000 at 100.

“Night at the Museum” has now hit $250 million overseas and $487 million worldwide — the 48th highest of all time. It’s due to open in Japan in mid-March.

The U.K. launch of “Hot Fuzz,” starring Simon Pegg as an investigator probing a series of deaths in an English village, marked the fifth largest British debut for a Universal pic behind “Bridget Jones 2,” “King Kong,” “Love Actually” and “Hannibal.” David Kosse, president of the newly minted Universal Pictures Intl., told Variety that the pic’s blend of comedy and action has managed to draw well from all demos and should do more than $28 million in the U.K. by the end of its run.

“This opening is a real indication of strong future business outside the U.K.,” Kosse noted. “And we can’t pretend that we expected it to do this much.”

“Hot Fuzz” will open in Australia on March 15, in Holland and Russia on April 5, in Norway and Sweden on April 13 and in the United States on April 20.

The weekend also saw respectable holdover biz from Warner’s “Blood Diamond” and Sony’s “The Pursuit of Happyness,” which had finished in the top three along with “Night at the Museum” for the past three weekends. “Blood Diamond” drew $8.6 million from 3,500 prints in 59 markets led by its third French frame with $1.5 million at 433, down 30%, and its Spanish soph sesh with $1.4 million at 347, off 34%.

“Puirsuit” took in $7.7 million at 2,900 in 50 markets, led by its fourth Japanese weekend with $1.2 million at 272. The Will Smith starrer has now grossed $104 million overseas and $265 million worldwide.

Warner’s “Music and Lyrics” stayed fairly tuneful internationally with $6.8 million at over 1,000 in eight markets, led by a solid U.K. soph sesh with $3.1 million, off only 17%. The romantic comedy has also grossed $2.4 million at 275 in Australia since its Valentines Day launch and finished second to “Ghost Rider” for the weekend.

Paramount’s “Charlotte’s Web” managed to snag $6 million at 2,075 in 45 markets, with most coming from its second frame in the U.K. with $3.9 million at 492, up 4% amid school holidays.

Fox’s “Rocky Balboa” continued punching in respectable biz with $4.9 million at 2,300 in 29 markets, including a modest South Korean launch of $752,000 at 230 for a sixth-place finish behind five local pics. The sixth “Rocky” has totalled $65 million overseas, less than $5 million behind the domestic cume.

Paramount’s “Dreamgirls” remained a moderate draw with $3.7 million at 1,331 in 26 markets led by its Japanese launch with $1.7 million at 288 — slightly ahead of the opening of “The Devil Wears Prada.” “Dreamgirls” has cumed $19.2 million overseas.

Universal’s “The Holiday” took in another $2 million at 950, mostly from its second Italian frame with $1.2 million at 210, off 40%. The romantic comedy’s foreign cume has hit $124.3 million, nearly double its domestic total.

Fox’s “Epic Movie” took in $2.5 million at 700 in a dozen markets and its “Notes on a Scandal” grossed $2.4 million at 450, led by a third-place Australian opening of $1.1 million at 100. And its “The Last King of Scotland” took in $1.8 million at 600, led by a French launch of $579,000 at 103, lifting the foreign take to $12.8 million.

Universal’s foreign launch of “The Good Shepherd” drew a moderate $1.8 million at 396 as it won a Best Ensemble award at the Berlin Film Festival on Saturday. It opened fourth in Australia with $800,000 at 175 and sixth in Germany with $750,000 at 134.

Paramount’s international launch of “Norbit” generated a modest $527,000 at 100 in Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan.

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