Third Installment is the top earner overseas

After patiently waiting his turn for a No. 1 weekend, “Shrek the Third” finally landed as the top earner overseas.

CG pic — from Paramount and DreamWorks Animation — didn’t get the same day-and-date treatment that other high-profile sequels have had so far this summer, including “Spider-Man 3″ and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.” But the green guy widened to 3,445 screens in 29 territories, earning $44.7 million. And there’s more room to grow, with openings still skedded for Germany and Spain, among other territories. Pic has cumed $106.1 million abroad to date.

Over the most recent weekend abroad, every movie on the top-five chart was from a franchise series.

Disney’s “Pirates” at No. 2 was still sailing strongly. Pic has crested to an eye-popping $549.3 million to date, after taking in $34.7 million in its most recent foreign frame. No. 3 on the foreign chart was Warner Bros.’ “Ocean’s Thirteen,” which has rolled to $67.4 million internationally.

Domestic B.O. champ “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” from Fox settled for the No. 4 slot, debuting with $25.2 million from 32 markets. Hollywood’s superhero movies generally don’t fare quite as well overseas because of international auds’ unfamiliarity with the characters and storylines from the source material. But “Four” was No. 1 in key territories including Italy and the U.K. First pic in the series stretched to $175.4 million overseas.

Pic has yet to invade markets including Mexico and Australia, which should prove to be solid plays.

Also bucking the trend against superheroes succeeding outside the States, Sony’s “Spider-Man 3,” which was No. 5 over the weekend, has swung to $543.9 million to date.

Breaking down the territories, “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” was an easy winner in the U.K., riding to $8.2 million off 475 locations in its first weekend. Pic beat out “Ocean’s,” which breezed into No. 2 with $4.3 million in its second frame. “Surfer” wiped out the competish by performing a full 17% better than the U.K. opening of the first pic in the Fox series, which banked $7 million in 2005.

Insiders say the pic benefited from a savvy marketing push, including a giant Surfer character riding atop the London Eye observation wheel, a stunt that had not been previously allowed.

At least in part as a result, haul for the comic actioner was almost twice that of second-place “Ocean’s,” which dipped 28% in its soph sesh.

Still doing some solid swashbuckling in Blighty thanks to its Euro stars, “At World’s End” slipped a wee 30% in its fourth frame.

In Italy, “Surfer” also glided to the top. Sequel scored $3 million on 578, outpacing “Ocean’s Thirteen,” which hasn’t clicked in Italy: Pic dropped 47% in its second frame, pulling a paltry $1.2 million on 501 for a $4.5 million cume, according to Cinetel data.

“At World’s End”fell by 53% in its fourth Italo frame to $613,000, moving the latest “Pirates” pic to a $21 million cume there.

“Shrek,” meantime, ruled in Gaul. Pic earned Par approximately $12.4 million on 850 in its first five days, while “Pirates” slid 40% in its fourth French frame.

Victims of the French weekend were Buena Vista’s “Wild Hogs,” which withered to just over $1 million and a fourth place opening, and TFM’s “Deathproof,” the Quentin Tarantino pic, which gunned to a cume of only $2.7 million in its second frame.

In Germany, “At World’s End” and “Ocean’s” continued to dominate, despite an overall 11% drop in B.O. in the territory due to sunny weather. Still No. 1 after 25 days in release in Germany, “At World’s End” dipped just 35% to $3.1 million from 974 locations for a total of $49.7 million. “Ocean’s” continued to cash in on the popularity of Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Matt Damon, dropping 28% to $2.8 million from 773 and a $7.8 million cume.

Spain, meantime, was waiting for “Shrek” over a soft weekend in which the B.O. was down.

In other notable world action, “At World’s End” became the biggest grossing foreign film ever in Russia. After its fourth weekend, the actioner has taken just north of $30 million, according to local reps of Buena Vista-Sony Pictures Releasing.

John Hopewell in Spain, David Hayhurst in France, Ed Meza in Germany, Nick Vivarelli in Italy and Tom Birchenough in Russia contributed to this report.

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