'Racer' crashes at the foreign box office

“Iron Man” stayed golden at the international box office, dominating the weekend with $39 million at 7,500 playdates in its second frame while “Speed Racer” crashed out of the gate with a disappointing $12.8 million at 3,940.

Though “Iron Man” ruled, romantic comedy “What Happens in Vegas” proved an able counterprogrammer, cashing in on $23 million in foreign coin at 3,902.

Following its $98 million debut, “Iron Man” posted the second-largest weekend gross of 2008 despite a 60% decline as sunny weather in Europe held down biz. “Iron Man” — handled in most markets by Paramount — saw its foreign cume hit $165 million in a dozen days, lifting the worldwide total to $342 million with plenty of gas still in the tank for the rest of the month.

“Iron Man” heavily damaged Warner Bros.’ family-friendly “Speed Racer” in head-to-head contests, particularly in Europe. South Korea saw the top takes for both titles, with “Iron Man” sliding only 19% to $4.7 million, or almost double the $2.4 million launch for “Speed Racer.” 

U.K. moviegoers kept “Iron Man” in first place despite a 58% decline to $4.1 million — five times the Brit take of $789,000 for “Speed Racer.” In Spain, “Iron Man” slid 48% to $2.1 million, while “Speed Racer” launched with a mere $930,000; in Italy, “Iron Man” also fell 48% to $1.7 million, but that was three times better than the $480,000 “Speed Racer” opening.

Mexico saw the closest contest between the tentpoles with “Iron Man” decreasing 59% to $2 million while “Speed” launched with $1.9 million. “Iron Man” also won in Brazil with $1.7 million, off 55%, to $1.5 million for “Speed.”

“Iron Man” also notched first place finishes in France with $3.3 million and in Australia with $3.1 million. And with Disney’s “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” launching in only a dozen markets next weekend, the Marvel superhero pic is likely to continue its powerful offshore performance and wind up well over $200 million internationally.

As for “Speed Racer,” the lack of foreign traction — the per-location average was a modest $3,248 — has dashed hopes that the high-priced actioner could get help from international markets in easing Warner’s financial pain. It’s due to open next in Russia on May 29, followed by June launches in Australia and France and a July 5 debut on its home turf in Japan.

Fox’s “What Happens in Vegas” launched above internal expectations and looks like a solid entry that should sustain momentum — at least until “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” opens in a dozen days. The Cameron Diaz-Ashton Kutcher laffer translated especially well in Spain with $3.6 million, or 70% ahead of the “Iron Man” soph sesh, and in Russia with a $3 million launch.

“Vegas” finished second to “Iron Man” in the U.K. with $2.7 million and hauled in $2.4 million in France, $2.3 million in Australia, $1.8 million in Germany and $1.6 million in Italy.

Other than “Iron Man,” holdover biz was fairly quiet, led by Sony’s “Made of Honor” with $3.5 million at 1,320 and its “21” with $2.3 million at 1,350. Warner’s “The Bucket List” scooped up $2.2 million, mostly via a second-place Japanese launch behind local production “Partners,” to lift its foreign cume to a respectable $68.9 million — $23 million behind its domestic take.

Fox’s “Horton Hears a Who!” gathered $1.5 million to lift its foreign cume to $135.7 million. And Warner’s “10,000 BC” padded its international take with another $685,000 to push its offshore total to $171.7 million — the highest among U.S. titles released this year, but due to be surpassed in a day or two by “Iron Man.”

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more