Sequel has banked $150 million as of Aug. 12
Universal’s “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” has shown plenty of life at the international box office, leading the charts for two consecutive weekends.With over $150 million banked as of Aug. 12, the third “Mummy” movie has managed to keep the summer’s momentum going following June’s disruption from the Euro Cup. The recovery in July and August — fueled by “Dragon Emperor,” Warner Bros.’ “The Dark Knight” and U’s “Mamma Mia!” has been impressive enough to convince distribs that year-do-date grosses for the six majors are on track to match last year’s record-setting $9.5 billion total. The 2007 total wound up 10% ahead of 2006 and represented the first time that all six majors had cracked the $1 billion mark. Execs believe the foreign box office looks likely to duplicate those milestones. Universal’s been a major contributor so far. Its 2008 gross was set to crack the $1 billion mark on Aug. 14, so the studio’s already nearly matched its 2007 total of $1.03 billion. Paramount’s also set to top its 2007 total of $1.6 billion, with $1.46 billion already banked thanks to distribbing the year’s two top pics so far — “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” with $461 million and “Kung Fu Panda” with $350 million. Rivals estimate that WB’s hit $1.27 billion as of mid-August — with nearly half of that coming from “I Am Legend” and “The Dark Knight,” which looks likely to go all the way to $400 million overseas. The sixth Batpic’s obliterated the previous top foreign mark for a Batman title, with “Batman Begins” leading that list at $166 million. WB led the pack last year with $2.15 billion, although the recent reskedding of the sixth Harry Potter pic to next summer could keep studio from breaking more records later in the year. Fox has gone past $1.1 billion as of mid-August, matching the 2007 pace when it wound up with $1.68 billion. Disney’s at $860 million and should cross the $1 billion for the 14th consecutive year by the end of August. Sony trailed the pack at $750 million but should see a major lift in the final months of the year, thanks to its latest Bond pic “Quantum of Solace.” With the 2007 schedule heavily weighted toward summer tentpoles, this year’s total has slightly lagged last year’s pace but prospects look bright for the majors to finish the year on an upbeat note. Summer biz should stay lively for several more weeks, particularly with “Dark Knight” heading into its final major markets, and Disney’s “Wall-E” is poised to generate solid grosses as it moves into key territories in the fall. And the holiday tentpole season looks to be stronger this year with several solid entries — Par’s “Madagascar 2,” “The Quantum of Solace,” Sony’s Will Smith drama “Seven Pounds,” Fox’s “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and Disney’s “High School Musical 3.” “Hancock” has been an excellent overseas performer as it heads toward the $340 million foreign mark. The fantasy-actioner’s already gone past “I Am Legend” at $327 million, burnishing Smith’s reputation as the most reliable offshore draw among stars. “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” turned in sparkling perfs in major Euro launches during the Aug. 8-10 frame. It topped the third frame of “The Dark Knight” in the U.K. and turned in the best German opening since “Hancock.” In its first two weeks, the top figures for “Dragon Emperor” came from two of the top emerging markets — Russia with $23 million and South Korea with $21 million. The Brendan Fraser vehicle looks likely to wind up its run in the same vicinity as its predecessors — 1999’s “The Mummy,” which topped $260 million overseas, and 2001’s “The Mummy Returns,” with $230 million. U’s “Mamma Mia!” continued to amaze with international grosses topping $180 million on Aug. 13 — far in excess of initial forecasts, with plenty of gas still in the tank since only two dozen markets had opened at that point. The feel-good musical’s likely to wind up in the same territory as another successful summer counter-programmer — “Sex and the City,” which has hit $240 million overseas with a Japanese launch coming Aug. 23. “Mamma” managed to hit $79 million in the U.K., $23 million in Australia and $22 million in Germany with whammo holdover perfs — off 11% in its fifth Brit frame and just 10% in its fourth Teuton weekend. Par’s “Kung Fu Panda” continued showing impressive traction as it benefited from Disney’s strategy to hold back “Wall-E” from many key markets. In France, for example, “Panda” managed to see fifth-frame grosses decline only 28% to push its cume to $23 million. That’s a typical “Panda” performance with seven other markets topping the $20 million mark, led by the U.K. with $36 million, South Korea with $28 million, Oz with $24 million, Germany with $22 million and Spain and Russia with $20 million each. “Panda” is not the only pic that’s managed to tap into the massive offshore family market during the summer. Disney’s sequel “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” has also gone past the $250 million mark via an array of solid perfs in key territories such as Germany, where it notched $6.4 million in its first two weekends. Another family pic, Disney’s “Wall-E,” continued to scoop up solid grosses with around $130 million from 28 markets, led by $35 million from four weeks in the U.K. Spain saw the best perf during Aug. 8-10 with a No. 1 launch at $4.6 million while the $2.8 million Korean debut represented the top Disney animated opening in that market. Not every market was buzzing. In Italy, nearly everyone has hit the beach and the box office has gone quiet — except for the third frame of “The Dark Knight” with $1.5 million in its third frame, off 45% for a cume of over $10 million. But other studio pics found the going rocky in Italy. Fox’s “Shutter” opened with a modest $203,756 at 117 playdates and “Meet Dave” launched with only $123,081 in its first frame from 415 screens. The Aug. 8-10 frame also saw a major milestone out of China, where “Dragon Emperor” opens after the Olympics. Part one of the John Woo-helmed “Red Cliff” became the biggest grossing film of all time in China — in dollar terms at least with $43.7 million. “Red Cliff” overhauled this year’s top performers “Forbidden Kingdom” and “CJ7,” each with some $27 million, several weeks earlier. It then went past Zhang Yimou’s “Curse of the Golden Flower,” the previous all-time record holder at $37.5 million. The “Red Cliff” total is also ahead of “Titanic,” which hit $38.7 million in 1998 — though in local currency terms it is still ahead of “Cliff” with 320 million yuan ($46.7 million). Zhang Hongsen, deputy director of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television Film Bureau, recently forecast box office earnings in China this year will expand by $100 million to exceed $583 million. The second installment of “Red Cliff” is skedded to hit Asian screens in January, just in time for Chinese New Year holidays. Clifford Coonan in China, Patrick Frater in Hong Kong, Ed Meza in Germany, David Hayhurst in France, Michael Day in Italy and Archie Thomas in the U.K. contributed to this report.