Film breaks records at box office

The worldwide “Pirates of the Caribbean” colossus keeps rolling, with international coin for “At World’s End” topping $500 million in a record-setting 20 days.

That feat — beating by a week the “Spider-Man 3″ mark for fastest film to reach half a billion dollars in overseas grosses — underlines the powerful performance of the third “Pirates” pic abroad, with foreign markets supplying two of every three dollars of its worldwide total.

“At World’s End” became the 15th pic to cross the half-billion milestone Tuesday, thanks partly to an impressive Chinese launch of $1.3 million at 506 playdates in the movie’s final major overseas opening. Movie’s release remains on hold in Lebanon due to violence in that market.

China could be a significant contributor in coming weeks given the growing appetite there for Hollywood pics. “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” was banned from China by the Film Bureau because of scenes of cannibalism and ghosts, and Chinese auds are seeing a trimmed version of “At World’s End,” with a number of scenes featuring Hong Kong star Chow Yun-fat cut by censors.

As of the end of biz Tuesday, “At World’s End” foreign cume had hit $505.6 million, while Stateside total hit $257.7 million, lifting worldwide gross to $763 million — 21st highest of all time. Domestic performance has declined more quickly than international, with 70% of last weekend’s worldwide take of $72 million coming from outside the U.S.

Asia has been a stalwart on “At World’s End,” with grosses already topping “Dead Man’s Chest” in 17 markets, including South Korea ($30.9 million), Russia ($29.1 million), Hong Kong ($5.1 million), India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. And its Latin American cume of $51.7 million is a beefy15% ahead of that for “Dead Man’s Chest.”

Anthony Marcoly, BVI prexy of sales and distribution, told Daily Variety he’s confident that the third “Pirates” pic can make it to the $600 million mark overseas — a territory occupied by only six films, led by “Titanic” with $1.2 billion and “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” at $750 million. The list also includes “Dead Man’s Chest” at $642 million and three of the four “Harry Potter” pics.

Marcoly noted that the second and third weekends both declined by 50% after reaching record levels in the first and second frames, adding, “The holds have been excellent throughout the world, and there’s no market that has disappointed us.”

“At World’s End” took in $5.4 million overseas and $2.2 million domestically on Monday, then added another $6.4 million overseas and $2.1 million Stateside on Tuesday.

Third “Pirates” pic had little competition overseas in its first two frames, except for the fourth and fifth weekends of “Spider-Man 3.” It then easily fended off challenges last weekend from the launch of “Ocean’s Thirteen” and an expansion of “Shrek the Third” last weekend.

“At World’s End” will face more serious competition this weekend, making it difficult to retain all of its 17,500 international locations. Par’s “Shrek the Third” expands into Brazil, France and Mexico; Warner widens “Ocean’s Thirteen” with launches in Australia, Holland and South Korea; and Fox goes day-and-date with “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” in 31 markets, including Italy, Russia and the U.K.

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