‘Earth’ conquers foreign box office

International audiences tune in to sci-fi remake

“The Day the Earth Stood Still” showed plenty of life in its launch at the international box office with a solid $39 million at 7,695 in 90 markets.

As school holidays startedin many markets, the frame also saw families flocking to Paramount’s “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” with $33.6 million at 5,338 in 46 territories — nearly all via holdover coin. The toon sequel’s second frame in France, Germany and Mexico easily topped “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”

And domestic sensation “Twilight,” still early in its international run, continued to put the bite on foreign coin with $10.7 million at 2,540 in two dozen markets led by a $3.6 million launch in Australia — doubling the third frame of Baz Luhrmann’s “Australia.”

“The Day the Earth Stood Still” scored a respectable $5,072 per-location average and finished first in 53 territories. Russia led the way with $5.6 million, followed by the U.K. with $4.1 million, France with $3.3 million, Spain and Mexico with $2.9 million each, Germany with $2.8 million and Italy with $2.5 million.

“Day” performed in line with studio expectations in Western Europe and above forecasts in Russia, Asia and Latin America. With little competition for foreign action fans in coming frames and several major markets still to open, the sci-fi remake’s likely to match Fox’s sci-fier “Jumper,” which took in $142 million earlier this year.

Combined with the first-place U.S. launch of $31 million, “The Day the Earth Stood Still” totaled $80 million worldwide. It opens next weekend in Japan, followed by debuts in South Korea, Australia, Argentina and Brazil.

“Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” scored its top figures from its soph seshes in Germany with $7.2 million and in France with $6 million, down only 36% and 31% respectively, and scored the third-biggest animated launch ever in Brazil with $4 million. “Madagascar 2” has totaled $172.7 million outside the United States, $2.7 million more than its domestic cume, with 13 markets still to open including Italy and Australia next weekend.

Thanks to solid late year performances, overall foreign biz for the six majors is on pace to finish 2008 about equal to last year’s record-setting $9.5 billion. Sony-MGM’s “Quantum of Solace,” a key driver during pre-holiday sessions, gunned down an additional $5.2 million for a $367 million overseas cume.

Disney’s animated “Bolt” fetched $4.1 million at 1,900 in 11 markets for a $28 million foreign cume as the Mouse House mostly holds off on challenging “Madagascar 2” head to head. And its “Wall-E” scooped up $4 million more in its second Japanese frame for an offshore total of $276.8 million.

The weekend also saw family fantasy “Inkheart” open modestly with $3.1 million at 992 in Germany, the U.K., Austria and Switzerland — five weeks ahead of the U.S. launch. The New Line project was financed by selling off foreign markets and looks unlikely to come anywhere near the stunning international performance of “The Golden Compass,” which topped $300 million in contrast with a moderate $70 million domestic take.

“Australia” opened decently in South Korea with $2 million to finish third behind local title “Overspeed Scandal” and the launch of “Twilight.” “Australia,” with $12.7 million in three weeks in Australia, will move into most key markets at Christmas.

Universal also announced that “Mamma Mia!” had topped “Titanic” as the top British grosser of all time, measured in local currency. “Mamma” has hit $105.3 million in the U.K. and $426.7 million overseas, trailing only “Indiana Jones 4” and “The Dark Knight” among 2008 titles.

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