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‘Ice Age’ sends Fox over $1 billion mark

3-D sequel grosses $151.7 million overseas

The $1 billion club is taking shape.

Last week, 20th Century Fox became the first studio to cross the $1 billion mark in foreign box office revenues this year, thanks to the larger-than-life opening of 3-D toon “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.”

The third installment in the franchise opened to $151.7 million from 12,267 screens in 101 territories, the best number ever for an animated pic and the sixth best international opening of all time.

Fox co-prexy of international distribution Tomas Jegeus calls the number “a tribute not only to Fox’s outstanding product but also to the efforts and creativity of our international team.”

Through Wednesday, the toon’s foreign gross was $190 million — not all that far behind the final international cume of $206.9 million for the first “Ice Age.” Sequel “Ice Age: The Meltdown” grossed $456.7 million internationally.

“Ice Age 3’s” performance is no doubt boosted by its 3-D runs, which have higher ticket costs. The 1,990 3-D runs dished up a hefty $54.1 million, meaning only 16% of the total screen count contributed 35.5% of the opening gross.

The film scored the biggest opening ever for an animated pic in numerous territories, led by Russia at $18.9 million, Brazil at $10.3 million and Mexico at $10 million. Other countries included Austria, Chile, Peru and Columbia. In Mexico, the opening was 100% ahead of “Transformers 2’s” debut and 81% ahead of “Dark Knight.”

In Germany, “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” enjoyed the biggest opening of the year, pulling in a whopping $16 million in its first five days, gobbling most of the box office pie and easily freezing out Paramount’s “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.”

According to Fox, 3-D screens accounted for 24% of the pic’s five-day gross. One local exhib says the film benefited from summer holidays in much of the country, in addition to the huge popularity of the first two installments.

Paramount’s big overseas performer “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” placed No. 2 in its second sesh as “Ice Age 3” entered the market. For the July 3-5 weekend, “Transformers 2” grossed $57.5 million from 9,158 theaters in 61 territories for a foreign cume of 301.6 million.

“Transformers 2” is only the second pic of the year to jump the $300 million mark alter Sony’s “Angels and Demons,” which remains the highest foreign grosser of 2009, at $344 million.

Through Sunday, Par’s foreign revenues for the year were $950 million. Sony also is in the $900 millions.

Jegeus and co-prexy Paul Hanneman says a number of pics are responsible for the studio’s stellar 2009 foreign run. Those include Fox’s two other summer tentpoles, “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian,” which has cumed $207.2 million to date internationally, and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” grossing $184.7 million. “Museum 2” and “Wolverine” have yet to open in Japan, almost certainly a big territory for each.

Earlier in the year, Fox released Tom Cruise starrer “Valkyrie” overseas, where the Nazi drama grossed a boffo $90 million. Fox’s “Marley and Me,” released in December, grossed $98.1 million in this calendar year for a foreign cume of $100.3 million, while “Australia” grossed $99 million in 2009 after its fall 2008 release. That film’s foreign cume was $158.3 million.

In Brazil, Fox scored with local production “If I Were You 2,” which grossed $21.7 million, the second-highest number of all time after “Titanic.”

“Our films have done great business, even if they haven’t been as touted as much as ‘Angels and Demons’ or ‘Transformers,’ ” Hanneman says.

Other 2009 titles include “Bride Wars,” which grossed $56.3 million overseas, and “Dragonball: Evolution” ($48.3 million).

“Ice Age 3” and “Transformers 2” still have plenty of elbow room at the box office, but the landscape will become a lot more treacherous once Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” opens day and date July 15.

Many are predicting “Half-Blood Prince” will be the biggest international performer of the summer.

David Hayhurst in Paris, Ed Meza in Berlin, Emilio Mayorga in Madrid, Mark Schilling in Tokyo and Nick Vivarelli in Rome contributed to this report.

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