‘Simpsons’ stays strong overseas

Sizzling summer box office cools offshore

Homer’s heft keeps growing.

“The Simpsons Movie” topped a cooling but still solid foreign box office for the third straight weekend, with $23.2 million at 5,806 playdates in 59 markets.

Fox’s toon edged the fifth frame of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” by $2 million, and “Ratatouille” by $4 million, as overall offshore biz pulled back from its sizzling summer pace. With summer tentpoles starting to play out and studios opting for limited foreign launches, “The Simpsons” posted the lowest winning total since the last weekend in April, when “Wild Hogs” led with $7.2 million.

Domestic leader “Rush Hour 3” also won in the U.K., with $5.2 million at 400, and U’s foreign launch of “The Bourne Ultimatum” took in $3.8 million at 350 in 11 mid-tier markets.

Still, overall foreign biz performed respectably for the late summer and remained about 20% ahead of the 2006 pace as the top five films combined for $91 million — easily eclipsing the same frame a year ago, when the top five totaled $72 million, led by $44 million from “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.”

For the second weekend in a row, “The Simpsons Movie” saw declines in the 50% range — Brit biz slid 51% to $4 million; Germany was off 47% to $2.7 million and Australia fell 53% to $2.4 million, while French takings held nicely at 35% to $2.6 million. Pic has performed in line with Fox forecasts as its foreign cume reached $230 million, led by $60 million in the U.K., to lift the worldwide total to $382 million.

“The Simpsons Movie” also became the fourth film — and first non-sequel — to win three weekends at the foreign box office this summer, joining “Spider-Man 3,” “Pirates 3” and “Shrek the Third.” Pic expands to Russian and Brazil next week as it seeks a fourth B.O. victory.

“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” led the rest of the pack, with a 16% decline to $21 million from 8,200 prints in 61 markets. It conjured its top numbers in Japan with $3.5 million, Germany ($2.1 million), the U.K. ($1.9 million) and Turkey ($1.7 million in its launch).

“Phoenix” has hit $550 million overseas — topping “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” by $10 million — and should eclipse “Spider-Man 3” in a day or two for 10th place all time and could join the other three Potter pics in bringing in more than $600 million. “Phoenix” also has hit $822 million worldwide for 15th place on that list; the other Potters rank fourth, ninth, 12th and 19th.

Disney’s “Ratatouille” also showed solid staying power, with a 20% decline to $19.2 million at 3,687 in 27 markets. The Paris-set toon held impressively in France, down only 8% to a first-place feast of $9.3 million, while Japan was off 10% to $2 million.

“Ratatouille” biz in Belgium and Holland jumped 63% and 58%, and led in Hong Kong, Switzerland and Hungary. The Pixar toon has cumed $120 million so far outside the United States in less than half of its international markets, with Disney waiting until the fall season for many key territories in hopes of reaching the same turf as “The Incredibles,” which grossed $360 million internationally.

“Transformers” slid 47% but remained a significant foreign player with $16.3 million at 5,239 in 56 territories, led by a solid 36% second-frame hold in Japan to $3.4 million and a 43% decline in Germany to $2.6 million. The actioner has performed well above forecasts with a surprisingly strong $328 million overseas cume.

Fox’s “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” had been off the radar recently but returned with an $11.4 million splash at 1,185, led by a $4.8 million launch in France, $3.9 million in Spain and $1.5 million in South Korea. “Surfer” has matched Fox’s expectations with $122.3 million offshore, $8 million behind the pic’s domestic total.

The studio’s “Live Free or Die Hard” continued to generate notable foreign biz, with $6.8 million at 2,852 — half from its Australian opening. “Die Hard 4.0,” as it’s known outside the U.S., has cumed $204 million offshore to become the seventh pic this summer to top the $200 million mark.

U’s “Evan Almighty” mirrored its moderate domestic performance, taking in $6 million in 28 markets for a $22.8 million foreign cume. The biblical comedy launched in fourth in Germany with $1.3 million at 330 and in third in Austria, while second-frame Brit biz declined 46% to $1.3 million.

Warner Bros. got some additional kick from “Ocean’s Thirteen” as the pic added another $6 million internationally — mostly via a $5 million Japanese launch — that pushed the pic’s foreign cume to a more than respectable $169 million. But amid the profusion of summer tentpoles, “Thirteen” has had a daunting challenge trying to match the $237 million international total for the series’ prior installment, “Ocean’s Twelve.”

Sony saw moderate biz for “Surf’s Up” with $4.9 million at 1,565 in 31 markets, led by a seventh-place launch in the U.K. and a second-place opening in Mexico — both with $1.1 million. Foreign takings have totaled $12.9 million, and expectations aren’t particularly high following the toon’s modest $58 million domestic run.

By contrast, Universal’s foreign launch of “The Bourne Ultimatum” saw first-place finishes in Indonesia, Hong Kong, South Africa, Taiwan and Thailand on its way to $3.8 million at 350 for an impressive $10,857 per-location average. Pic is tracking 58% ahead of “The Bourne Supremacy,” which grossed $112 million overseas; it widens to Spain and the U.K. next weekend.

In contrast to its disappointing domestic bow, Par’s “Stardust” showed traction in a day-and-date Russian launch, with $3 million — better than “Over the Hedge” and “The Chronicles of Narnia.” The fantasy-actioner opens in South Korea next weekend.

Paramount’s sturdy “Shrek the Third” ate up another $2 million to push its foreign cume to $412 million — $85 million short of “Shrek 2” — with Italy and Scandinavia still to open.

Other notable biz saw Warner’s “No Reservations” tasting $1.1 million at 417 in nine markets; U’s “Knocked Up” adding $820,000 from nine markets for a $16.9 million foreign cume; and Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” lifting its international total to $649 million.

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