'Legend' still on top of foreign box office

International moviegoing for 2008 got started with a bang as “I Am Legend” and “The Golden Compass” delivered a one-two punch to lead the way for a third straight weekend.

“I Am Legend” stayed solid with $34 million from 3,900 prints in three dozen markets for a beefy $170.2 million foreign cume, while “The Golden Compass” continued to tally amazing numbers overseas with $29 million at 7,000 playdates in 59 territories for an international total of $232 million.

With many markets still on holiday break, overall offshore biz remained robust, with five additional pics — “National Treasure: Book of Secrets,” “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” “Enchanted,” “Bee Movie” and “Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem” — topping $13 million apiece.

All told, the top seven films in international plexes combined for about $140 million. With the exception of “I Am Legend” and the “AVP” sequel, family fare dominated.

“I Am Legend” launched impressively in Australia with $8.5 million, more than double the debut of “Alvin,” and stayed sturdy in the U.K. with a 38% decline to $8 million in its second frame for a $37 million Brit cume. The Will Smith sci-fier also dominated in its Greek debut with $1.9 million and in New Zealand with $1.1 million.

“Legend” has been outperforming similar titles such as “Minority Report” and “I Robot,” each of which cumed more than $200 million internationally. It should continue to top the foreign charts next weekend as it heads into Germany and Italy.

“The Golden Compass” remains a paradoxical performer whose B.O. underlines the widespread appeal of fantasy fare outside the U.S. With fifth-frame foreign grosses coming in at $29 million, it did more than 10 times the pic’s domestic take of $2.7 million over the frame. (U.S. cume is $65.5 million.)

Combined worldwide take for “Compass,” handled internationally by a variety of distribs, is now at $298.5 million, with the foreign take contributing a stunning 78% of that figure. New Line sold off foreign rights to help finance the pic, which carries a reported $180 million pricetag.

Disney’s “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” remained in the hunt with $19.1 million at 4,382 in 31 markets, thanks to solid holds in major territories. Russian grosses edged up 1% to $3.1 million in the pic’s second frame, and Japanese biz bumped up 13% to $2 million in its third frame.

Sequel has cumed $100.6 million overseas. With openings still coming in France, Germany and the U.K., “Secrets” should top studio expectations and easily surpass the $174 million foreign cume for the original.

Fox’s “Alvin” warbled its way to $15.6 million at 4,200 in 49 markets for a $65 million foreign cume as the comedy continued to generate respectable grosses, as opposed to its socko Stateside take. Top numbers came from the Oz launch with $3.5 million; declines in the U.K., Germany, France and Mexico were all under 30%.

Disney’s “Enchanted” conjured $15 million at 5,370 in 43 markets with average holds of 25% and an international cume at $138 million — $20 million ahead of the domestic total. The Brits remained charmed, with $3.1 million in the film’s fourth frame, off 28% for a $28 million cume, while the third French frame slid just 14% to $2.7 million. Pic has outperformed studio forecasts and appears likely to top $200 million offshore.

Paramount’s “Bee Movie” stayed in flight overseas with $13.7 million at 4,884 in 60 markets, pushing its international cume to $130 million. Best “Bee” number came from a No. 1 launch in South Korea with $2.7 million.

Fox’s counterprogramming foray with “Aliens vs. Predator — Requiem” continued to scare up respectable biz with $13 million at 3,000 in 33 markets for a $36 million foreign cume. Best numbers came from a $3.1 million French launch and a $1.7 million Mexican debut.

Fox’s Russian production “Irony of Fate 2″ remained a massive hit in that market with $9 million at 905, giving the romantic comedy a three-week cume of $23.8 million.

Awards season fare is continuing to expand steadily overseas. Universal’s “American Gangster” gunned $5.8 million at 1,553 in 32 markets, including launches in Argentina and Denmark, for a foreign cume of $73 million; Denzel Washington vehicle heads into the U.K. next weekend.

U launched its first foreign markets for “Charlie Wilson’s War” with $500,000 at 70 via openings in Portugal, finishing second behind “I Am Legend,” and a first-place debut in the United Arab Emirates. “War” goes to the U.K. next weekend.

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