'Escape 2 Africa' dominates foreign box office

“Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” roared overseas, dominating the weekend’s international box office with $50.2 million at 5,129 playdates in 35 markets.

Underlining the international appeal of animation, the Paramount and DreamWorks toon snagged a dazzling $9,787 per location and took in more than the combined total of the next four entries — “Quantum of Solace,” “Twilight,” “Bolt” and “Wall-E.”

The frame also saw domestic leader “Four Christmases” finding mixed sledding overseas. The holiday laffer took in a respectable $1.5 million in its second U.K. frame and launched moderately with $1.1 million at 200 in Australia but was DOA with a $310,500 at 155 in its German opening — reflecting the tricky turf for U.S. comedies in foreign markets

“Madagascar 2” corralled most of its offshore coin in a trio of socko European launches with $11 million in Germany, $9.8 million in France and $9.5 million in the U.K. It also opened impressively in first place in Mexico with $4.2 million, Belgium with $1.6 million, Argentina with $1.2 million and Austria and Peru with $1.1 million each.

The weekend pushed the foreign cume to $125 million for the sequel, which had been opening gradually over the past five frames. “With school holidays set to start in many markets, ‘Madagascar 2’ is set for a very strong run this holiday season,” said Andrew Cripps, president of Paramount Pictures Intl.

The openings in major markets came in above “Ratatouille,” which hit $418 million overseas, and the original “Madagascar,” which cumed $339 million internationally three years ago. “Madagascar 2” has already set records in Russia and the Ukraine as the top foreign grosser of all time in those markets.

“Madagascar 2” ended the five-weekend winning streak at the foreign box office for Sony-MGM’s “Quantum of Solace,” which gunned down $10.8 million at 6,350 in 72 markets — nearly all from holdover biz. The Bond pic has totaled $357.8 million outside the United States and, with $151 million domestically, it’s become the 61st title to take in half a billion dollars worldwide.

“Twilight,” while still early in a gradual foreign launch, continued to put the bite on respectable foreign numbers with $9.8 million at 2,169 in 18 markets, lifting the foreign cume to $33 million. The romancer showed plenty of life in Spain with a first-place $4.18 million launch, and notched its third straight victory in Italy.

Disney’s “Bolt,” which won’t hit most key markets until January, fetched $9.5 million at 1,392 in nine territories with its top performance coming from its second Russian frame with $3.2 million, down only 30%. The Mouse House’s “Wall-E” gathered up $5.6 million at 1,020 — nearly all from its Japanese launch and enough to lift the toon’s foreign cume to $271 million, the seventh-highest overseas figure this year.

Warner Bros.’ “Body of Lies” remained a moderate overseas performer with $5 million at 3,000 to lift its foreign total to $52.5 million — $13 million ahead of the domestic cume.

In Australia, Fox’s second frame of “Australia” edged the opening of Disney’s “High School Musical 3: Senior Year” with $2.65 million, off 37% for an Oz cume of $9.5 million. “Australia” will debut in many international markets at Christmas.

Overall international biz looks likely to stay healthy for the rest of the year, with “Madagascar 2” certain to post solid holdovers and Fox’s “The Day the Earth Stood Still” going day and date in many markets next weekend.

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