Sony's gambling drama tops at foreign box office

Sony’s gambling drama “21” bet just right at the foreign box office over the April 18-20 weekend, ending a three-week winning streak for Fox toon “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!”

In its second weekend abroad, “21” grossed an estimated $10 million from 1,731 playdates in 21 markets for the weekend crown. Pic’s international cume was $21.2 million through April 20.

“Horton” placed second, with $9.7 million from 5,301 runs for an overseas cume of $117.7 million in its sixth week. Pic had been No. 1 in each of the previous three weekends. Worldwide, “Horton” has grossed $262.1 million through April 20, the best showing for a 2008 film so far.

“21” ousted “Horton” on the strength of its showing in territories including the U.K, where it grossed $2 million, good for No. 1 in its second sesh. That was followed by a $1.7 million Russian launch and a $1.4 million Spanish second frame.

Film is loosely based on Ben Mezrich’s bestselling nonfiction tome “Bringing Down the House,” about a group of MIT students recruited by their professor to swindle millions from casinos in a card-counting scheme.

Like American auds, foreign moviegoers are drawn to gambling-themed pics set against the glitz of Las Vegas.

Martin Scorsese’s 1995 “Casino” actually made more overseas than domestically, grossing $70 million overseas, $42.5 million in North America.

Through April 20, “21” has grossed $70 million for a worldwide cume of $91.1 million.

Fox’s gritty cop actioner “Street Kings” moved up the foreign box office chart to No. 3 in its second sesh, grossing $8.5 million from 2,429 engagements in 37 markets for an international cume of $10.3 million. It launched in second place in Australia, grossing $2.4 million, and in fourth place in the U.K. with $1.3 million. The pic, which toplines Keanu Reeves and Forest Whitaker, opened first in Mexico with $709,143 and in Taiwan with $317,955.

“Step Up” came in No. 4 overall internationally for the April 18-20 frame, grossing $5.9 million from 1,819 runs in its ninth week for a cume of $77.2 million, ahead of its domestic gross of $57.7 million.

Like “Street Kings,” “Step Up” showed good traction in particular at the European box office in the calm before the summer tentpole storm.

In Italy, “Step Up” trounced “Horton” in scoring $2.2 million from 308 for local distrib Moviemax. Hip-hop musical magnetized the Italo teen crowd, the biggest moviegoing aud in a flat frame that saw sunshine beam over most of the peninsula. The film also pulled Italy’s highest per-screen average — $7,274.

Paramount’s “The Spiderwick Chronicles” also continues to defy gravity. Placing No. 5 internationally over the April 18-20 weekend, the film grossed $5.7 million from 2,877 runs for a cume of $74.3 million in its 10th week.

French box office blockbuster “Welcome to the Sticks” (Bienvenue chez les cht’is) began to slip down the international box office chart to No. 6, grossing $5.6 million from 963 theaters for a cume of $198.3 million in its eighth week. With more than 19 million Frenchmen having now shelled out to see the laffer phenom, it will surely top Gaul’s all-time attendance record, set by Titanic a decade ago, within the next few weeks.

Among other local fare in Gaul, StudioCanal release “Disco” was down only 32%, posting an impressive cume of $20.3 million.

Local thesp Jean-Paul Rouve’s helming bow, “Without Weapon, Hatred, or Violence,” a biopic of the man behind a legendary 1970s Riviera bank heist, made $2 million on 285 for Mars, also after five days.

Performance of the weekend at the U.K. wickets went to Momentum Pictures’ release “Happy-Go-Lucky.” Benefiting from excellent reviews, the Mike Leigh comedy took $761,097 at 77. Pic’s screen average of $9,884 was well ahead of the competish, and suggests Leigh fans and other sophisticated auds are happy to embrace this mellower work from the revered Brit helmer, best known for his grittier films.

As predicted by exhibs, Daniel Craig starrer “Flashbacks of a Fool” bombed on its U.K. debut. The Disney release netted just $486,214 at 272 –good enough for only 11th on the charts.

Summer came early to the German box office as Disney’s teen romance “Summer” topped the charts, knocking “21” from the top. The beach-blanket romp from Munich-based SamFilm has cemented the appeal of its young star, Jimi Blue Ochsenknecht, who shot to fame with Disney and SamFilm’s hugely popular “Wild Soccer Bunch” franchise. Pic took $2.1 million from 407, followed by “21,” which dropped 38% in its sophomore session, garnering $1.3 million on its way to a $2.7 million cume.

Still going strong in its sixth week in Germany, Constantin’s “The Wave” added $1.1 million to its $18.9 million total.

In Spain, Spanish comedy “Chef’s Special,” released by Warner, slid just 16%, cuming a first-rate $3.2 million and registering the second-best copy average — $5,628.

Best-performing opener was Isabelle Coixet’s fourth-place “Elegy,” which took $946,454 at 127 for On Pictures.

Wayne Wang’s A Thousand Years of Good Prayer,” which won the Golden Shell at San Sebastian, proved a niche hit. Opening on just 27 via Karma, it bagged a $5,512 copy average.

Archie Thomas in the U.K., Ed Meza in Germany, Emilio Mayorga in Spain, Nick Vivarelli in Italy and David Hayhurst in France contributed to this report.

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