Disney musical nabs $41 million at box office

“High School Musical 3: Senior Year” turned out to be the tonic to charge up what had been a typically quiet season at international multiplexes.

Disney’s feel-good tuner supercharged the foreign box office with $41 million at 3,045 in 19 markets during the Oct. 24-26 frame, marking the first time in more than two months that a pic had gone past $21 million during a weekend. “HSM 3” then tacked on another $10 million during its first two weekdays, bringing its overseas cume to $51 million as of Oct. 28.

The initial success wasn’t a total surprise, since the “High School Musical” franchise had already shown traction in Euro music and TV arenas, reinforced by a multistop premiere promo tour spearheaded by Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens.

Brit audiences turned out to be especially receptive, with $13.8 million on the launch weekend and another $5 million on the following Monday and Tuesday with students on half-term holidays — an early indication that the musical may be able to generate solid holdover biz.

In Germany, “HSM 3” debuted in first with $5.7 million, outdistancing the opening of “Mamma Mia!’ by 25%.

“The popularity of the ‘High School Musical’ movies and of Zac Efron has really become a global phenomena,” a Teutonic booker adds. “It’s a formula and a star that have really clicked with kids, with girls, and elevated this entire franchise to a whole other level.”

And in Spain, “HSM 3” warbled its way to $5 million in the most successful opening for a musical in the market and the fourth biggest debut of any pic in 2008 behind “Hancock,” “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” and “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.”

“One of the key factors in this success has been that demo targets have widened at both ends,” a Spanish distributor noted.

It’s still unclear if “HSM 3” can scale the same heights as “Mamma Mia!,” which had crossed $410 million in international grosses as of Oct. 28 — thanks largely to stunning holdover biz that emerged during the late summer and early fall. “Mamma” now ranks among the top 30 all-time grossers overseas, cementing its status as an icon of escapist entertainment.

“Mamma” has cumed $128.3 million in the U.K., or $15 million shy of its U.S. cume, and continues to pull in Brit coin, with $422,208 at 272 in its 15th weekend. It’s also the second-largest grosser in British history, trailing only “Titanic.”

The Meryl Streep vehicle also has been an impressive performer elsewhere, with $38.4 million in Germany, $29 million in Oz, $24.1 million in South Korea, $23.5 million in Sweden and $19.3 million in Spain. It will go into Japan, its final market, in January.

As for “High School Musical 3,” prospects look solid, given that its core audience consists of female teens and pre-teens — a demo willing to back a pic with multiple viewings. Additionally, foreign markets have turned in respectable biz for several other feature versions of musicals in recent years, including “Chicago” with $136 million overseas, “The Phantom of the Opera” with $103 million, “Sweeney Todd” with $100 million and “Hairspray” with $82 million.

Beyond “Mamma” and “HSM 3,” the rest of the biz saw respectable rather than blockbuster biz via a combo of targeted launches and holdovers. In France, local crime biopic “Mesrine: L’Instinct de mort” (“Public Enemy Number One, Part 1”), toplining Vincent Cassel, outmuscled “HSM 3” by about 20% with $4.4 million on 489 in its first five days.

The Coen Brothers’ “Burn After Reading” continued to hold particularly well, with $47 million overseas. The Brad Pitt-George Clooney starrer slipped only 30% in its British soph sesh for a healthy $7.2 million cume.

“Vicky Cristina Barcelona” remained a strong foreign performer, with $4.3 million during the frame and foreign grosses topping $27 million — $5 million more than the domestic total. The romantic comedy’s an unqualified hit for Warner Bros. in Gaul with nearly $10 million after three weeks, with a decline of only 26% in its most recent sesh.

In Italy, “Vicky” slid just 28% for a $1.5 million sophomore frame and a $4.3 million cume via Medusa.

Ed Meza in Berlin, Emilio Mayorga in Madrid, Nick Vivarelli in Italy, David Hayhurst in Paris and Archie Thomas in London contributed to this report.

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