Sony's romantic comedy nabs $12.4 million

It took most of the year, but Sony’s “The Ugly Truth” has become the first romantic comedy in 2009 to win a weekend at the foreign box office.

“The Ugly Truth,” starring Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler, achieved that distinction during the Oct. 2-4 frame — a typically moderate mid-autumn session marked by the absence of tentpoles — with $12.1 million at 2,385 playdates in 54 markets.

That was enough to edge the Disney duo of “Surrogates” and “Up,” which were the only other titles to top the $10 million mark during the first weekend of the fourth quarter.

“The Ugly Truth” has topped $71 million overseas — a decent achievement given the obstacles faced by many American comedies outside the United States. With the German run just started and Italy not opening until mid-November, “Truth” looks likely to match its $88 million domestic cume.

“Truth” won a tight race in its debut in the German market, beating family pics “Up” and local entry “Vicky the Viking” with $4.5 million from 501.

The romantic comedy managed to show traction among Teuton audiences due to good will remaining from Butler’s “P.S. I Love You” and positive reviews. Trade magazine Blickpunkt: Film wrote: “The situation comedy often falls flat and the screenplay is not original, but the chemistry between stars Heigl and Gerard Butler is right on the mark,” while pubcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk called the film “primitive but funny.”

The year’s top romantic comedy, Sandra Bullock’s “The Proposal,” has wowed audiences outside the United States with $144.3 million in foreign cume for Disney including $19 million in the U.K. and $18 million in Germany. Near the end of its foreign run, “The Proposal” gathered $2.4 million at 1,206 during the first October frame and looks likely to approach the $163 million domestic cume with a mid-October Japanese launch.

“Surrogates” finished a close second during the frame with $11.4 million at 2,251 in two dozen markets including a $2.5 million Korean launch and a $2.2 million soph sesh in Russia — where the sci-fier has already become the market’s biggest Bruce Willis title by topping “Die Hard 4.”

Unlike romantic comedies, actioners such as “Surrogates” usually see their overseas cume exceed the domestic total. That’s already the case, with “Surrogates,” which has taken in $28.4 million early in its international run — $2 million ahead of the Stateside gross after two weeks.

“Up” also remained a player at the foreign box office, four months after its domestic launch, with $10.6 million at 3,579 in 27 markets. Its third German frame led the way with $3.4 million, followed by its fifth weekend in Australia with $2.6 million for an Oz cume of $18.4 million — 18% ahead of “Wall-E.”

“Up” has cumed $231 million overseas and — with launches still coming in the U.K., Italy and Japan — looks likely to top the domestic total of $293 million.

The frame also saw continued solid performance from Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” with $8.6 million at 2,984 in 45 territories for a foreign total of $141.5 million — Universal’s second best international pic this year after “Fast and Furious.” With a domestic total of $117 million, the combined worldwide gross is nearing $260 million midway through its foreign run.

“Basterds” launched in Italy with $3 million at 331, narrowly topped by the second frame of Giuseppe Tornatore’s epic “Baaria,” the Italian candidate for the foreign- language film Oscar. In Spain, “Basterds” finished second in its third frame with $1.9 million, off 31% for an $11.4 million cume.

France remains the top market for “Basterds” with $22.7 million after seven weeks, while German cume has hit $20.9 million in the same period. U still has 18 territories to release including Brazil, Japan, Mexico and South Korea.

With most summer tentpoles out of the market, local films such as Italy’s “Baaria” began to gain prominence. In Spain, Filmax franchiser “Rec 2″ came roaring out of the Sitges Film Festival to post the best local opener mark for the year with $3.4 million from 356 playdates for a boffo $9,140 per-screen average.

“Rec 2″ easily improved on first weekend of “Rec,” which grossed $2.5 mil and ended up with a $12 million Spanish cume in 2007. Distribs expect “Rec 2″ to show legs.

In Japan, the sixth frame of “20th Century Boys 3″ topped the box office for the fifth time. The latest iteration of the sci-fi franchise has grossed $45.9 million, lifting the cume for all three installments to $125 million.

The ninja actioner “Kamui” finished second in its third frame and has cut down $9.1 million after 16 days on release. The toon “Tales of Vesperia — The First Strike,” based on a popular role-playing game, grossed an impressive $495,000 off just 34 screens.

Additionally, the Japanese total for “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” hit $89.8 million in its 12th week, making it the year’s second-highest grosser after the local smash “Rookies.”

The sixth Harry Potter pic is the second-highest foreign grosser of the year at well over $620 million internationally, trailing only Fox’s “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” with $684.1 million. In Italy — the only market where it’s still in wide release — the toon took in $891,903 in its sixth frame to boost its Italian cume to $43.1 million, the third-highest grosser of all time after “Titanic” and “Life Is Beautiful.”

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

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