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Paramount joins billion-dollar club

Five studios cross foreign box office milestone

The billion-dollar club has just added a member as newly minted Paramount Pictures Intl. became the fifth studio to take in more than that amount this year in foreign box office.

Par, which made the announcement Tuesday, joins Sony, Warner Bros., Disney and Fox in hitting the 10-figure mark.

It’s the first time that five studios have crossed the milestone within a calendar year and reflects the sizzling pace of overall biz outside the U.S. Four studios have topped the mark five times in the last seven years.

Par Intl. topper Andrew Cripps noted that the distrib managed the feat in its first year of stand-alone operations following the dissolution of the UIP partnership.

Combined international grosses for all six studios have hit about $5.7 billion and are running 21% ahead of last year at the same point.

Warner Bros. leads the pack with about $1.2 billion as “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” is due to reach the $500 million milestone this weekend. Fox follows at $1.1 billion, with “The Simpsons Movie” now at $109 million; Disney is at $1.02 billion, led by “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” at $644.6 million; Sony’s at $1.01 billion with over half that from “Spider-Man 3.”

Paramount’s chief overseas contributors have been summer tentpoles “Shrek the Third,” now at $400 million, and surprise blockbuster “Transformers” with $253 million. Other significant grossers included “Dreamgirls” with $50 million, “Babel” with $40 million and “An Inconvenient Truth” with $25 million.

Universal trails the pack at $404 million, but that figure should grow significantly in coming weeks as it launches “The Bourne Ultimatum” offshore and expands “Evan Almighty,” “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” and “Knocked Up.”

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