‘Aliens’ invade Russia before U.S.

3-D feature nabs $6.2 million over weekend

Russia and Ukraine aren’t the usual launching pads for Hollywood event pics, so it came as a surprise when Paramount and DreamWorks Animation decided to open 3-D toon “Monsters vs. Aliens” in those markets first.

Hollywood has tended to shy away from debuting a film early in territories with high rates of piracy.

But Par and Jeffrey Katzenberg wanted to take advantage of kids’ spring break, so that meant going out on March 20, a week ahead of the pic’s domestic launch.

The move seems to have worked. “Monsters” — which debuts Friday in North America — grossed $6.2 million from 644 locations over the weekend, the bulk of that from Russia. According to Par, 3-D locations, including several Imax venues, saw strong business.

“Monsters” scored the fourth-highest opening of all time for any animated pic in Russia.

In a precautionary move to ward off pirates, Paramount supplied only dubbed prints of “Monsters” to Russian and Ukrainian theaters. There’s also a growing feeling that it may actually be better to go out in markets rife with piracy as early as possible in order to garner as much business as possible in case pirated copies begin to circulate.

“Jeffrey has always been very cognizant about having a world view, which is `let’s do the best thing for the movie and release it in the most commercially beneficial time we can,’ ” said Paramount prexy of domestic distribution Andrew Cripps. “To miss out on a weeklong holiday doesn’t make sense.”

Katzenberg has made similar moves in the past, including opening 2004’s “Shark Tale” first in Australia.

“Monsters” placed No. 7 at the international box office for the March 20-22 frame. Top spoils went to “Slumdog Millionaire,” which grossed $10.5 million for the weekend for an international cume of $136.8 million.

Warner Bros.’ “Gran Torino” came in No. 2, grossing $9.7 million for a foreign cume of $60.9 million.

A pair of local films got off to a strong start. French comedy “Coco,” starring popular comic thesp Gad Elmaleh, grossed $9.5 million as it opened in France, Switzerland and Belgium. Pic came in No. 3.

German comedy “Mannersache” also made headlines, opening to $6.8 million and placing No. 5 overall for the weekend.

The soft opener of the frame was Universal’s Julia Roberts-Clive Owen starrer “Duplicity,” which came in No. 10 for the sesh as it debuted to $4 million from 2,062 playdates in 10 markets.

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