French pic tops box office with $39.4 million

French franchise installment “Asterix at the Olympic Games” easily grabbed the gold at the international box office over the Feb. 1-3 weekend, grossing a whammo $39.4 million.

Perf easily put the family pic in first place at the overseas box office for the frame.

It’s the first time in months that a non-U.S. release topped the overseas chart.

Film debuted first in Poland on Jan. 25, where it shot to No. 1, at $913,853. Through Feb. 3, the pic’s international cume was $41.9 million.

That’s helped ease nerves for all involved, since the picture cost $113 million to produce. Distributed by Pathe, “Asterix” is being billed as the most expensive French film to date.

“Asterix,” sporting a muscular launch in Gaul, grossed $23.8 million from 1,078 screens in its first five days in release in France.

Film, based on the hugely popular comicbook series created by Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo, stars Gerard Depardieu and Clovis Cornillac. It’s the third live-action film based on the comics.

The 2002 entry “Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra” grossed $74 million in France and $30 million elsewhere. In the latest installment, Asterix and Obelix have to win the Olympic Games — held in Spain in the film — in order to help their friend marry a princess.

“Asterix at the Olympic Games” had to battle poor reviews across Europe.

In Germany, distrib Constantin opened “Asterix” respectably at No. 2, with $3 million from 600, despite scathing notices. However, it had the weakest opening of the three live-action “Asterix” pics so far.

In 1999, “Asterix and Obelix vs. Caesar” opened with $6.2 million, followed by “Mission Cleopatra,” which took in $4 million in its opening weekend in 2002.

Coming in No. 2 at the international box office for the Feb. 1-3 frame was Paramount’s monster pic “Cloverfield.”

Pic grossed $18.5 million as it expanded into major markets in its second frame, led by a $6.9 million launch in the U.K. Its screen average of $17,748 was far ahead of the field in an upbeat overall frame.

“Cloverfield’s” international cume through Feb. 3 was $36 million. Pic’s domestic gross was $72 million through Feb. 3.

In Italy, “Cloverfield” pulled the frame’s highest per-screen haul, tallying $7,800 per engagement. The trendy Manhattan-set sci-fier debuted in third place with $2.2 million from 286 via Universal. Coming in No. 6 in Germany, “Cloverfield” garnered $1.4 million from 345, also via Universal. In an upbeat overall Spanish frame, the pic exceeded expectations, grabbing $2 million off 363.

As awards season approaches its climax, kudos contenders including “Sweeney Todd,” “No Country for Old Men” and “Into the Wild” held well, and “Juno” delivered in its Spanish debut.

“Sweeney Todd,” directed by Tim Burton and toplining actor nominee Johnny Depp, in particular is having a singing time overseas.

For the Feb. 1-3 weekend, the bigscreen musical adapation came in No. 3 at the overseas box office, grossing $9.5 million from 18 markets in its third frame. Pic’s cume is $46.5 million. Domestic cume is $51.2 milion. The pic slipped 46% in its second sesh in the U.K., for an impressive $15.7 million.

The falloff pleased bookers. “Warner sold it very much as a Burton horror, not a musical, so we expected a hefty dropoff when word got out that it was a musical. But is has held well considering ‘Cloverfield’ opened up big,” one exhib says.

As expected, the Coen brothers’ “No Country for Old Men” held very well in its third frame in the U.K. Dipping just 15% from 90 more locations, the Oscars and BAFTAs contender has cumed $7.7 million for Par in Blighty. “No Country’s” overall international cume thorugh Feb. 3 was $17.3 million.

Sean Penn-helmed “Into the Wild” continued its strong run in Italy, up 11% in its second frame, with $1.2 million off 191 for a $2.9 million cume to date via BIM Distribuzione. Off only 18% in its fourth frame in France, “Wild” has also offered pleasing returns for Pathe, cuming a hearty $7.4 million on 243.

In Spain, “Juno” bowed on a limited 139 and took $959,796. Bookers hope strong word of mouth will mean long legs.

However, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” disappointed, despite unanimously strong reviews, collecting just $109,664 off 55 in Spain.

Archie Thomas in London, Ed Meza in Germany, Emilio Mayorga in Spain, Nick Vivarelli in Italy and David Hayhurst in France contributed to this report.

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