Despite 'Indy' looming, Disney sequel impresses

With the world obsessing over the return of Indiana Jones, “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” has quietly demonstrated its viability as a worldwide franchise, launching impressively in a dozen overseas markets.

In a healthy pre-Indy session on May 16-18, “Caspian” took in $23.6 million at 3,037, nipping at the third frame of “Iron Man,” which grossed $25.8 million at twice as many locations. The “Narnia” sequel also edged the soph sesh of romantic comedy “What Happens in Vegas,” which held exceptionally well with a 7% slide to $23.1 million at 4,265.

The early performance for  Disney’s “Prince Caspian,” which won’t move into many European markets until June, showed solid traction as it launched 40% above comparable markets for predecessor “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” That’s notable, given that the original wound up with $453 million offshore — the 22nd highest number of all time.

Additionally, Disney and producing partner Walden Media have already launched production on the third film in the franchise — “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” And there are probably another four “Narnia” pics after that, based on the C.S. Lewis series.

“Caspian” delivered particularly well compared with “Iron Man,” topping those launches by 20% in the same markets. 

“Caspian” posted its highest grosses in Russia with $6.7 million, the biggest launch of this year; in Mexico with $6.3 million, 15% above the original; and in South Korea with $4 million, the third biggest Disney title for that market.

The surging market in India — no longer solely devoted to Bollywood titles — chipped in with $2 million, three times higher than the first “Narnia,” and Malaysia scored $1.1 million to represent the third largest Disney entry ever there, behind the second and third “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

Overall biz was also aided by cooler weather in Europe. Partly cloudy skies with scattered showers brought German auds back to the theaters,  giving the weekend a whopping 78% bounce-back from the B.O. doldrums of the previous week — when temps soared — and an almost 14% increase over the same frame last year.

And “Iron Man” – envisioned as a franchise starter by Marvel Studios – underlined the appetite for big-budget action fare in foreign markets, where tentpoles tend to command a larger share of moviegoing than in the United States. On May 18, it became the year’s top title with $207.3 million internationally, $1 million ahead of French megahit “Welcome to the Sticks.”

“Iron Man” showed solid staying power with a decline of only 33% from its second frame — particularly in the U.K., where cooler temps bolstered overall biz. It fell just 5% to $3.7 million, lifting its Brit cume above $25 million.

France also continued to deliver with $2.5 million for a $15 million cume, while Australia kicked in $2.4 million for a $14 million total.

Those totals dwarfed the $1.1 million take for “Iron Man” in Germany, where superhero pics often face an uphill battle. Even with a third-frame decline of a mere 2%, “Iron Man” has wound up with only $7 million in three weeks — the only middling performance in a major market for the Robert Downey Jr. actioner.

Fox’s second frame of “What Happens in Vegas” gave hope to studios looking to offer counterprogramming choices this summer — particularly with a wide array of comedies that may not automatically translate in foreign markets.

The Cameron Diaz-Ashton Kutcher romantic comedy showed impressive legs as U.K. grosses rose 22% to $3 million and German biz bounced up by 32% to $2.5 million. Foreign cume for “What Happens in Vegas” has hit $57 million, led by $7 million in Spain and $6.9 in the U.K.

International grosses on “Vegas” are already outpacing domestic, with nearly 60% of worldwide biz coming from outside the United States.

Warner Bros.’ costly “Speed Racer” continued to prove that there are no sure things in the movie biz, taking in only $7.2 million at 4,750 for a dismal $24.6 million foreign cume. The tentpole finished a distant fifth in the U.K. with $801,034 for a quiet two-week gross of $1.7 million — the best of any Euro market.

Sony’s romantic comedy “Made of Honor” finished a close fifth at far fewer locations than “Speed Racer,” grossing $5.7 million at 1,975, led by a $1.6 million German launch and a $1 million Brazilian opening. “Made” has cumed $20 million early in its foreign run.

Sony’s gambling thriller “21″ continued to cash in overseas with $4 million at 1,355 to lift its foreign cume to $46 million. Despite its lack of star power, “21″ has clearly clicked, with worldwide grosses nearing $130 million.

And locally produced fare kept on contributing. Italy’s “Gomorrah,” Matteo Garrone’s Cannes competish Neapolitan Mafia drama, bowed in first place in that market with $2.8 million just as Italian police nabbed a reputed top Naples mob boss.

Garrone’s bestseller-based rendition of the dark criminal forces gripping the Naples crime underworld scored a solid $6,920 per-screen average via 01 Distribuzione, prompting cheer from producer Domenico Procacci.  

“Considering how dramatic this film is, I consider this an exceptional result,” Procacci says. “I don’t think anyone can remember an opening this strong in Italy for a film with this kind of gravitas.”

“Gomorrah” posted the best local launch of the year, topping the $2.2 million opening for Nanni Moretti’s “Quiet Chaos.” which in February opened at $2.2 million while unspooling in Berlin.

“Gomorrah” bested spoof “Superhero Movie,” which opened in second with a still strong $2 million at 362 via Medusa.

David Horn in Germany and Nick Vivarelli in Italy contributed to this report.

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