International audiences dig 'Indiana Jones'

“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” unearthed international box office treasure with $146.5 million at 12,000 playdates in 56 markets — the fifth biggest foreign weekend ever — and tacked on $14 million more Monday.

“Crystal Skull” generated a socko $12,766 per-screen weekend average as it dominated every market, with all demos responding strongly despite the 19-year absence of Indiana Jones from multiplexes.

Paramount’s estimate for Monday — a non-holiday in foreign territories — punched its offshore cume to $160 million and the worldwide total to $311 million.

The U.K. led the way with $21.5 million, followed by France with $14.1 million, Germany with $12.6 million, Spain with $11.7 million, South Korea with $10 million, Australia with $9 million, Russia with $8.4 million, Italy with $6.5 million, Brazil with $5.7 million and Mexico with $4.5 million. “Crystal Skull” opened in most foreign markets Thursday with a few launches Wednesday and Friday.

The weekend-opening for “Crystal Skull” came in just above the 2005 foreign launch of “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith.” Only four other films — “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” ($251 million), “Spider-Man 3″ ($231 million), “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” ($193 million) and “The Da Vinci Code” ($155 million) — have posted bigger opening weekends internationally.

In a sign that “Crystal Skull” will have long legs overseas, the sequel easily outperformed “Transformers,” which grossed an impressive $382 million internationally by the end of its run. The opening frame eclipsed “Transformers” by 84% in the U.K., 138% in France and 153% in Germany, 232% in Spain and 384% in Poland.

Several mid-tier markets also generated socko returns for “Crystal Skull” such as Poland with $3.7 million, Denmark with $2.4 million and Taiwan with $2.1 million.

The fourth Indiana Jones pic is already the fourth biggest performer in foreign markets among 2008 titles, trailing only “Iron Man” with $228 million, French hit “Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis” with $207 million and “10,000 BC” with $173 million. With little head-to-head competition until Universal opens “The Incredible Hulk” on June 12, “Crystal Skull” should take the lion’s share of foreign grosses during the next two sessions.

“Crystal Skull” is already the second-highest foreign performer among the four Indiana Jones titles, trailing only 1989′s “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” at $277 million. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” grossed $141 million overseas and “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” pulled in $153 million offshore.

Disney’s “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” led the rest of the weekend pack as it continued generating solid biz early in its foreign run with $18.4 million at 3,360 from 13 markets. Japan — the only major market without a “Crystal Skull” opening — led the way with a first-place launch weekend of $7.7 million at 320 as it topped the combined grosses of the next four films.

“Caspian,” which will expand gradually offshore over the next two months, has already cumed $49 million internationally with grosses 15% ahead of the original “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” in the same territories — an early signal the sequel will be a foreign powerhouse, since the original topped $450 million overseas.

Mexico and Russia led holdover markets for “Caspian” with $3 million each, followed by South Korea with $1.9 million. “Caspian” also played well in India — where “Crystal Skull” opens next weekend — with $1 million to boost its two-week cume to $4.2 million, 70% higher than the entire run of the original.

Fox’s “What Happens in Vegas” stayed attractive as a counterprogrammer with $13 million at 3,800 in 56 markets, pushing its international cume to $78.2 million in three weeks — $22 million ahead of the domestic total. The pic continued to draw well in Germany and the U.K., taking second place with $1.8 million each; “Vegas” also finished second in Australia, France and Spain.

“Iron Man,” which dominated the previous three frames, stayed a player with $12.1 million at 8,000 to push its international cume to $228 million — underlining the drawing power of tentpole action films in foreign markets. “Iron Man” has now totaled $486 million worldwide.

Warner Bros.’ “Speed Racer” continued to crash and burn, dropping 58% to a quiet $3 million at 3,400 in 40 markets in its third frame. The high-priced tentpole has shown little traction internationally, cuming only $30 million from foreign markets.

Sony’s “Made of Honor” took in $3.4 million at 1,745 in 25 markets to raise its foreign cume to $25.6 million, and the studio’s “21″ drew $1.8 million at 1,025 in 37 territories to lift that pic’s offshore total to $49.3 million.

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