Disney film has 'High' expectations overseas

If the success of musical “Mamma Mia!” is any indication, Disney won’t have trouble hitting the high notes at the international box office with “High School Musical 3: Senior Year,” which opens in two weeks.

The “High School Musical” franchise is as wildly popular abroad as it is in the U.S. In addition to the two “High School Musical” television movies, the franchise has spawned live stage shows and local-language productions.

“HSM3” begins its international rollout on Oct. 22, two days before it debuts in North America. Last week, Disney premiered the pic in London to whip up the already heightened interest.

No one could have predicted “Mamma Mia” would bank north of $377 million to date internationally, since musicals have never traveled well. But the Meryl Streep starrer once again took the No. 1 spot at the foreign B.O. over for Oct. 3-5 weekend, grossing $14.5 million from 4,222 wickets in its 14th stanza. That’s far ahead of its $142.7 domestic gross. In the U.K. alone, “Mamma Mia” has banked an incredible $112.8 million.

“Mamma Mia” might have an advantage over “High School Musical” in that it appeals to more ages. Disney franchise’s biggest demo is young kids and tweens.

“Mamma Mia!” had the mother of all bows over the weekend in Italy. In a land where such films rarely click, the Abba tuner became the country’s top-opening musical movie ever. Universal’s $2.5 million first-frame Italo take for “Mamma” may not seem molto, but it’s far higher than “Chicago,” which debuted at $1.7 million; “Hairspray,” which opened at $1.3 million; and “Moulin Rouge,” which bowed at $1 million in Italo hardtops.

Coming in No. 2 for the frame at the international box office was Disney/Pixar’s “Wall-E,” which added $11.5 million from 3,027 to its coffers for an international cume of $229 million.

Paramount’s thriller “Eagle Eye” placed No. 3 over the weekend, grossing $8.6 million from 1,971 theaters in its second sesh for a cume of $15.4 million.

The Coen brothers’ “Burn After Reading” placed fourth, grossing $6.5 million from 1,026 runs in its third frame for a cume of $13.2 million. As expected, it opened strongly in Germany, grossing $3.2 million from only 307 screens. That’s a notable per-screen average of $10,480.

Among new releases, Disney’s “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” saw a strong start, bowing in 810 theaters in only five territories. The pic’s gross was $5.2 million for a per-location average of $5,926 — best among the launches, with the most from its $2.4 million take in Australia and $1.8 million in Mexico.

Simon Pegg laffer “How to Lose Friends & Alienate People” — a Stateside disappointment —got off to only a reasonable start in Blighty. Pic opened atop the U.K. box office with a modest $2 million at 451 screens via Paramount. In a quiet overall frame, “Alienate People” edged out Liam Neeson starrer “Taken,” which held very well in its soph sesh. The abduction thriller dipped only 6% to $1.9 million at 398 for a handy $5.5 million cume for Fox.

Literary adaptation “Brideshead Revisited” (Disney) did not click with Brit auds. The Ben Whishaw starrer collected just $659,616 off 256 screens in its lackluster bow. Poor reviews from local crix didn’t help.

U.K. hit of the week in terms of screen average was Momentum Pictures release “Fly Me to the Moon 3D.” Released only in 3-D, the family film netted an impressive $548,565 on 73 screens, including three Imax sites. The $7,517 per-screen average was a top 10 best.

“We are over the moon with this result,” Sam Nichols of Momentum says. “We have a proven track record when it comes to opening independent family films, but 3-D was a new experience for us. Exciting times are ahead in this new market, so it’s great to have a foothold so early on.”

Local pics fared best in France, where chart-topper “The Class” is performing above pre-release expectations. France’s first Palme d’Or winner in 21 years and its hope for foreign-language picture at the Oscars, “The Class” was off 15% in its second frame for pleasantly surprised distrib Haut et Court. The low-budget docudrama about a high-school teacher and his students in one of Paris’ more hard-scrabble neighborhoods has cumed $6.5 million. It has been especially well received in and around Gaul’s capital.

In Spain, Holocaust drama “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” (BVI) slid just 25% in its fourth week to hold onto the top spot with $3.3 million. Exhibs partly attribute success to auds’ appetite for more serious fare after the deluge of lightweight summer popcorn movies.

Andrew Horn in Germany, Emilio Mayorga in Spain, Nick Vivarelli in Italy, David Hayhurst in France and Dave McNary in the U.S. contributed to this report.

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