Franchise foursome pumps foreign box office

“Shrek the Third” led a weekend feast at a robust international box office with $46 million at 3,693 playdates in 36 markets, topping solid results from “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” “Ocean’s Thirteen” and “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.”

The high-profile quartet combined for more than $130 million, underlining the appeal of franchise pics outside the U.S. and Hollywood’s socko foreign performance this year. The weekend takings for the four pics dwarfed the same frame a year ago, when the World Cup chilled moviegoing and the top four movies — “The Da Vinci Code,” “X-Men: The Last Stand,” “The Omen” and “Poseidon” — grossed a combined $48 million.

Par’s “Shrek the Third” grabbed plenty of green in 13 new markets, setting records for an animated launch in Argentina, Brazil, Hungary, Mexico and Turkey. France led the way with $12 million off 724, 21% better than “Shrek 2,” while the Mexican take of $9.7 million from 426 was the second-highest of all time.

In Brazil, the ogre grossed $5.9 million off 280 — the third-highest launch ever and more than double the opening of “Shrek 2.” Holdover biz stayed solid in Australia, with a 49% soph-sesh decline from a holiday weekend launch to $4.3 million; Oz cume is $16.7 million.

Like its predecessors, “Shrek the Third” should remain a major player for most of the summer. Par’s been timing its launches to coincide with school holidays and will move into Germany, Spain and Benelux next frame, followed by the U.K. at the end of the month.

Foreign cume’s at $107 million for a worldwide total of $404 million. “Shrek the Third” is only $50 million shy of the final worldwide take for the original “Shrek” but less than halfway to matching the “Shrek 2″ total.

The fourth frame of “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” remained on a smooth course with $32.6 million off 16,221. BVI saw impressive holdover biz, with a decline of only 37% following decreases of 50% in its second and third weekends. Japan turned in stalwart frame, with a 27% slide to $6.4 million from 838, while China’s opening Friday-Sunday frame set a BVI record with $3.9 million off 979, boosting the six-day cume to $6.8 million.

European biz remained solid, declining 40% overall. The U.K. and Germany led the way, both with 37% declines, to $3.1 million off 515 in the U.K. and to $2.2 million off 1,495 in Germany, followed by France with $2 million from 744 and Spain with $1.5 million at 753. And in Sweden, biz rose 1% to $520,000 at 133 as rain hit the region.

Top territorial cume for the third “Pirates” pic has come in the U.K. with $72 million, followed by Japan with $60.8 million, Germany with $49.3 million, France with $39.2 million and South Korea with $32.1 million. And with $547 million overseas, it’s now passed “Spider-Man 3″ internationally and has a solid shot at becoming the seventh movie to total $600 million in foreign grosses.

Warner’s second frame of “Ocean’s Thirteen” collected a respectable $26.3 million at 5,000 in three dozen markets — mostly as a counterprogrammer — with the best numbers coming from its Brit soph sesh with $4.5 million at 699, declining only 24%. The Australian launch trailed the second frame of “Shrek the Third” with $3.4 million at 356, while the Korean opening finished first with $3.3 million at 190.

“Ocean’s Thirteen” held well in Germany, down 23% to $2.7 million at 773, and in Spain, off 29% to $2.2 million at 493. It’s cumed $67 million foreign, nearly matching the domestic total, and goes into France and Brazil next frame; expectations remain elevated since “Ocean’s Twelve” took in $270 million outside the U.S.

Fox’s day-and-date launch of “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” finished a close fourth with $25.5 million off 3,292 in 32 markets. The U.K. opening led the way with $8 million from 474, 31% higher than the original “Fantastic Four.” Next up was Italy with $3.5 million at 646, Russia with $1.95 million at 480, the Philippines with $1.7 million at 232, Thailand and Singapore with $1.4 million each and Hong Kong with $1 million.

“Surfer” set Fox weekend records in Indonesia and the Philippines and a Saturday mark in Malaysia. The respectable reception indicates it may be able to match the original’s $175 million foreign cume; pic opens next frame in Australia and Mexico.

The seventh frame of “Spider-Man 3″ finished a distant fifth with $3.1 million at 4,300, pushing the foreign cume to $543.9 million and the worldwide to $874 million — 10th- highest on that list.

With the third Spidey and “Pirates” pics combining for $1.1 billion outside the U.S., distribs believe that foreign auds have been primed to return to multiplexes as more tentpoles arrive, such as “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” “Transformers,” “Live Free or Die Hard,” “Ratatouille” and “Evan Almighty.” “Evan” will open in a few markets next weekend, but “Die Hard 4,” as it’s known in most foreign territories, will go out day-and-date in many markets in the final June frame.

Outside of tentpoles, distribs provided limited offerings, led by Warner’s “Zodiac” with $2.9 million at 1,800 in 45 markets, lifting the foreign cume to a moderate $37 million. Thriller opened mildly in Japan with $662,000 at 235.

“Hostel: Part II” scared up $2.1 million at 730 in 10 markets for Sony, and Warner’s soph sesh of “300” took in $1.5 million at 452, pushing the international total to $240 million. Sony’s “Vacancy” finished fourth in the U.K. with $1.2 million at 300, and its “Surf”s Up” swam in with $945,000 at 400; Universal comedies “Hot Fuzz” and “Mr. Bean’s Holiday” grabbed $900,000 and $700,000, respectively, pushing the latter’s cume to $183.5 million.

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