'Marshall' tops overseas in forgettable frame

With tentpole season about to start, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” topped the mildest frame of the year at the foreign box office, with $7 million at 1,000 playdates, edging out “21″ and “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!”

Overall international moviegoing saw a double whammy — a lack of launches other than a few targeted markets plus warm temps in Europe. But at least the former will change this week with the worldwide opening of Marvel’s “Iron Man,” starting with France, Italy and South Korea on Wednesday followed by virtually every other major market Thursday and Friday.

“Iron Man,” handled by Paramount in most markets, is expected to energize foreign biz. And the rest of May should see robust results from day-and-date launches for Warner Bros.’ “Speed Racer” on the second weekend in May, Disney’s “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” on the month’s third frame and Par’s “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” on the fourth.

In the meantime, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” launched impressively in the U.K. in first with $4.1 million at 393 for a 26% market share and the best Brit debut of any Judd Apatow pic. The raunchy laffer grossed more than double its nearest rival, the opening of “The Eye.”

“Sarah” also showed impressive traction in its Australian soph sesh with a decline of only 7% to $1.6 million. It will avoid going head to head with next month’s tentpoles and won’t go into most major Euro markets until June.

Sony’s “21,” which edged “Horton Hears a Who!” last weekend, took in $6.2 million at 1,775, mostly in holdover biz, such as $1.06 million from its third Brit frame to push its foreign cume to $30.7 million in 28 markets. The only launches for the gambling thriller came in the UAE with $250,000 and Venezuela with $145,000.

Fox’s “Horton,” which has topped studio expectations, also grossed $6.2 million, at 5,100 in 45 markets, led by its fourth French frame of $1.8 million. Though the big-hearted pachyderm was previously unknown outside the U.S., the CG toon’s been a family fave overseas with a $127.2 million cume — $20 million short of the domestic take — and a South Korean launch coming next weekend.

Fox’s “Street Kings” shot down $6.1 million at 2,650 in 45 territories, led by its Spanish opening of $1.06 million as it battled “Fool’s Gold” for first. “Kings” has a foreign cume of $19.9 million — $4 million short of the Stateside take.

Warner’s “Fool’s Gold” grabbed enough coin to finish with $5.1 million at 1,600 in 40 markets including modest launches in Germany with $962,000 for second place and Italy with $668,000. “Gold,” which opens this week in France, looks unlikely to see overseas grosses match its $69 million domestic take.

Par’s “The Spiderwick Chronicles” led the rest of the pack with $4.4 million at 2,796 in 64 markets, paced by a moderate $1 million Japanese launch and a $1 million French second frame. “Spiderwick” has cumed $81 million overseas, $11 million ahead of the domestic total in a demonstration of the popularity of fantasy fare in foreign markets.

French heist comedy “Cash” opened respectably with about $4 million at 522. Mega-hit “Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis” grossed $3.4 million at 850 in its ninth frame for a total of $195 million in France alone.

In Germany and Austria, the second frame of Disney’s local drama “Sommer” led with $1.4 million.

“Meet the Spartans” remained a decent overseas performer for Fox, with $3.2 million at 700, mostly from a first-place Italian launch of $2.3 million. “Spartans” has cumed $42.8 million offshore, $4 million ahead of the domestic total.

The frame also saw Warner’s “10,000 BC” grab $2.2 million at 1,650, mostly from its $1.6 million Japanese launch. The caveman epic’s been the top 2008 title from Hollywood in foreign markets, with $164.5 million — nearly double its $93 million U.S. total.

Disney’s 3-D concert pic “Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus” remained a sturdy performer overseas given the scarcity of 3-D venues (only 330 available). It opened with $130,000 at seven Brazilian sites, lifting its foreign cume to $4.1 million from 135.

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