Film continues strong hold
As summer winds down, Batman blockbuster “The Dark Knight” continued to light up the foreign box office over the Aug. 15-17 frame, pushing its international cume to a boffo $328.6 million for a worldwide total of $799.7 million.“Dark Knight,” enjoying punchy bows in France and Spain, easily topped the international box office for the sesh, grossing $42.4 million from 7,775 venues and enjoying a strong hold. The Warner Bros. tentpole appears destined to jump the $400 million mark overseas. It did nearly double the biz of Universal’s “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor,” which still racked up a tidy gross of $28.9 million from 5,327 runs for a foreign cume of $186.5 million. “Dragon Emperor” came in No. 2 for the sesh. Through Aug. 17, “Dragon Emperor’s” worldwide total was $272.7 million. Christopher Nolan’s brooding Batpic may be one of the biggest hits of the summer but Euro auds also continue to show a strong appetite for lightweight laffers and feel-good musicals. Adam Sandler comedy “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan” did boffo biz in its German opening over the Aug. 15-17 frame, while Universal’s “Mamma Mia!” refuses to bow to box office gravity, especially in Blighty. “Mamma Mia” came in No. 3 for the weekend, grossing a dazzling $17.7 million from 2,676 playdates in its sixth frame and pushing its foreign cume to $206 million, far more than anyone could have predicted. Musicals have had a spotty track record internationally. Disney-Pixar’s “Wall-E” placed No. 4 at the international box office, grossing $13 million from 3,537 runs for a cume of $145.8 million in its eighth frame. Sony’s “Zohan” came in No. 5, grossing $11.2 million from 1,421 playdates for a foreign cume of $40.8 million in its 11th week. Studio decided on a slow rollout for the laffer, hoping to avoid the crush of summer (Paramount is doing the same with comedy “Tropic Thunder”). But it wasn’t all good news for Hollywood fare at Euro wickets. “Star Wars: the Clone Wars” lost the opening battle for auds in its day-and-date release. The animated pic, from George Lucas Lucasfilm and distributed by Warners, grossed $7.4 million from 3,200 in 22 markets to come in No. 7 for the Aug. 15-17 frame. In France, “The Dark Knight” overshadowed the competition, earning $6.1 million at 820 theaters in its opening five days. As elsewhere in Europe, pic was boosted by lots of buzz and strong reviews. Going for Gallic distribs is “Dragon Emperor,” which dropped 51% in its soph sesh to $1.6 million off 551 and a $5.7 million cume. “Dark Knight” took in a decent $7 million in Spain for a strong per-location average of $7,323. “We know that Batman isn’t the Spaniards’ favorite comicbook hero, so takings are more than satisfactory,” one booker said. “Mamma Mia” confounded naysayers who complained about its platform release in Spain in grossing $4.9 million as it expanded to 404 runs. In the U.K., “Dark Knight” just pipped “Mamma Mia” to the top spot, raking in $4.3 million at 499 toward a $74.8 million cume for Warner Bros. Although not holding quite so tenaciously as “Mamma Mia” (it dipped 44% in its fourth sesh), “Dark Knight” is still a boffo box office hit in Blighty. “Mamma Mia” dropped just 21% in its sixth frame in the U.K. to $4.1 million at 523 screens, taking the cume to $84.2 million for Universal. Bookers attribute the continued success to the enduring popularity of Abba, strong word of mouth and lots of repeat visits. “‘Mamma Mia!’ is a true phenomenon and, in terms of breakout success, deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as ‘Titanic’ and ‘The Full Monty,’ ” said an ecstatic London-based booker, predicting it will top $100 million by the end of its U.K. run. “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan” shrugged off poor reviews from the Brit crix to take $2.8 million at 367. Result made it the best performing opener of the weekend and landed it in third spot. Working Title’s teen comedy “Wild Child” opened nicely for Universal, netting $2.2 million at 359. Pic about a spoiled Malibu girl who is sent to a British boarding school, posted an impressive $6,106 per-screen average. Result was particularly impressive given the continued appeal of femme-skewed “Mamma Mia!” “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” tanked on its U.K. debut, taking a sickly $1.7 million at 419 for WB. The perf was less than half the pre-release expectations of bookers, who had expected “Star Wars” fanboys to at least make it a decent opening weekend performer. Germans were more than eager to mess with “Zohan,” making the laffer Sandler’s biggest hit ever in Germany, grossing $5.1 million from 579. “The camp antics and international storyline made it very accessible here,” said one local booker. “After so much action and fantasy, moviegoers were eager for laughs.” Opening in fifth, “Clone Wars” grossed $885,634. While squarely aimed at tyke auds, the latest installment in George Lucas’ franchise was hurt by an age 12 rating for excessive violence, too high for the pic’s intended target group, according to the exhib. Italo Mafia pic “Gomorra,” winner of the grand jury prize at Cannes, did a highly credible $571,919 at 121. Positive reviews, some of which suggested it deserved the Palme d’Or at Cannes, helped it on its way to a strong bow. Emilio Mayorga in Spain, Dave McNary in Los Angeles, Ed Meza in Germany, Nick Vivarelli in Italy and Lauren Seligman in France contributed to this report.