Previous Batman films failed to top $170 mil

“The Dark Knight” has been a bright light for international moviegoing as it heads toward elite status among overseas performers.

Most of the focus on Warner Bros.’ sixth Batpic has centered on its stunning domestic total, set to join “Titanic” by the end of the month as the only pics to gross over $500 million Stateside.

But the foreign performance has also been exceptional — given that “The Dark Knight” is about to become the 30th film to top the $400 million mark. To generate that kind of traction for the Batfranchise has been an unprecedented achievement, given that none of the previous Batman films ever topped $170 million overseas.

The U.K. has led the way with $86 million, followed by Australia with $40 million, Mexico with $25 million, Brazil with $19 million and South Korea with $18.6 million.

With summer winding down during the Aug. 22-24 frame, “The Dark Knight” dominated with $34.7 million as Germany opened with $9.9 million and a second frame of $4.2 million in France.

It was the fourth-biggest opening of 2008 in Germany, behind “Hancock,” “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” and “I Am Legend.” Comicbook superhero pics usually face a tough time at the German box office but Christopher Nolan’s gritty take on the Batman topped the final Teuton gross of all other Batpics in its first four days.

“The Dark Knight” helped keep the six Hollywood studios on track to match last year’s record-setting international total of $9.5 billion — a tall order given that summer 2007 saw seven pics top $340 million internationally and two (the third “Pirates of the Caribbean and the fifth “Harry Potter”) hit $650 million.

Besides “The Dark Knight,” only four 2008 films have gone past $340 million so far — Paramount’s “Indiana Jones” with $465 million and “Kung Fu Panda” with $373 million and Sony’s “Hancock” with $343 million.

Paramount’s turned in the top number so far at $1.5 billion, including a stunning $1.13 billion during the summer. Warners follows closely with $1.45 billion, including $700 million during the summer.

Universal and Fox are battling for third with U slightly ahead at $1.145 billion, including $805 million during the summer thanks to the twin offshore hits “Mamma Mia!” with $238 million and “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” with $225 million.

U’s expected to eclipse its biggest-ever year on the foreign front by Aug. 24, when it should top the 1999 total of $1.18 billion.

Fox is a close fourth with $1.13 billion for the year, though much of that came early in the year with “Horton Hears a Who,” “Jumper” and “Alvin.” “What Happens in Vegas” has been Fox’s top summer entry with a surprisingly strong foreign performance near $140 million.

Disney’s in fifth with a projected $925 million, including $489 million for the summer. The top Mouse House pic’s been “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” with grosses headed toward $280 million — double the domestic total.

During Aug. 22-24, “Caspian” held on to the top spot in Italy with $1.54 million during what’s usually one of the slowest periods of the year.

Sony’s trailing the pack with around $800 million, but is expected to begin minting money on Oct. 31 when it opens “The Quantum of Solace” — particularly with the sixth “Harry Potter” pic moved out of the way until next summer.

Sony’s seen some late-summer punch from “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan,” which took in $10.3 million during the Aug. 22-24 frame. German audiences have been receptive with $9.3 million from its first two frames.

“Zohan” has only opened in about half the international markets so far with a total of $56 million from 30 territories. It’s a respectable performance, given that Adam Sandler pics haven’t been impressive grossers overseas, with “Click” the only Sandler entry to top $100 million outside the United States.

(Michael Day in Italy and Ed Meza in Germany contributed to this report.)

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