Disaster pic brings in total of $225 million

Sony’s Roland Emmerich disaster pic “2012” was a global tidal wave at the worldwide box office, flooding screens to the tune of $225 million in its opening weekend. Pic wreaked far more destruction overseas, where it grossed $160 million, compared to $65 million domestically.

Emmerich’s film saw the fifth best international opening of all time, and the best foreign launch ever for a nonsequel, if the estimates hold.

The specialty biz also sprang to life with Lionsgate’s “Precious,”

zooming to No. 4 in its second frame at the domestic B.O. Drama grossed a boffo $6.1 million from only 174 runs for a location average of $35,000 and cume of $8.9 million, seeing a 225% jump as it successfully expanded from 18 runs the weekend before.

Twentieth Century Fox’s prestige/family title “Fantastic Mr. Fox” successfully raided the chicken coop, scoring a per-location average of $65,000 for an estimated $260,000 from four runs in Los Angeles and New York. The Wes Anderson-directed animated film has earned $12.6 million from its run in the U.K., where it opened last month.

“Mr. Fox,” with a voice cast led by George Clooney and Meryl Streep, expands nationwide in the U.S. on Nov. 25.

Focus Features’ Brit pic “Pirate Radio,” the only new wide release after “2012” at the domestic B.O., encountered rough seas. Directed by Richard Curtis and starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, title grossed an estimated $2.9 million from 882 runs for a per-location average of $3,253. Focus distributed on behalf of parent studio Universal, which produced the film with Working Title.

Weekend brought some much-needed solace for the Mouse House as Robert Zemeckis’ “Disney’s A Christmas Carol” fell just 26% in its second frame to an estimated $22.3 million for a cume of $63.3 million. Disney insisted the film would have strong legs, and the weekend bore out that prediction.

Overseas, “Christmas Carol” grossed a solid $16 million from 3,229 screens in 21 territories to come in No. 2. Holdover markets, led by the U.K., dipped only 20%. Pic launched at No. 1 in Japan to $3.1 million from 375. Foreign cume is $33.6 million for a worldwide total of $98.6 million.

Two pics jumped the $100 million mark at the domestic B.O. this frame: Paramount’s micro-budgeted blockbuster “Paranormal Activity” ($103.8 million) and Universal’s “Couples Retreat” ($102.1 million).

Still, domestic ticket sales were down roughly 5% from the same weekend last year, when Sony’s James Bond installment “Quantum of Solace” debuted to $67.5 million and Paramount/DreamWorks Animation’s “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” grossed $35 million in its second sesh.

“2012” earned Sony’s second B.O. victory in a row after Michael Jackson’s “This Is It,” which finished the sesh with a worldwide cume of $222.6 million.

Sony needed a big opening for “2012,” considering the film cost at least $200 million to produce, plus hefty marketing costs.

“2012” also was a boost for Emmerich, whose previous film, “10,000 BC,” couldn’t crack the $100 million mark at the domestic box office, topping out at $94.8 million. That film did far more business overseas, cuming $175 million. That’s a familiar pattern for Emmerich’s action-disaster pics, which seem to appeal more to international auds than domestic.

In the U.S., “2012” skewed slightly older, with 55% of the audience over age 25. It also skewed slightly female, at 52%.

“The opening number says that Roland Emmerich is an incredible filmmaker whose work resonates everywhere. He has truly set a new bar with this film in regards to the amazing images and special effects, as well as the story,” said Sony prexy of worldwide distribution Rory Bruer.

Overseas, “2012” opened No. 1 in all 105 territories where it bowed. France led with $17.2 million, followed by Russia at $15.3 million, Germany at $12.4 million, China with $12.3 million and the U.K. with $10.8 million. In some territories, including Russia and India, it was the second-best Hollywood opening of all time, based on local currency.

In terms of top international launches, “2012” comes in behind Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” ($236 million), Sony’s “Spider-Man 3″ ($231 million), Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” ($216 million) and “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” ($193 million). “2012” bumped Sony’s “Da Vinci Code” ($155 million) from the No. 5 slot.

Placing No. 4 on the domestic top 10 chart was a significant achievement for “Precious,” acquired by Lionsgate at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. The harrowing urban drama, toplining newcomer Gabourey Sidibe and Mo’Nique, is playing both arthouses and theaters in predominantly African-American neighborhoods.

Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry are exec producers on the film.

“Precious” went into new markets including Philadelphia, San Francisco and Dallas, as well as adding screens in holdover markets Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta and Chicago.

Urban theaters continued to overperform, but Saturday traffic in arthouse theaters was up significantly, a good indication that the film is crossing over.

Pic narrowly lost the No. 3 spot to Overture Films’ George Clooney topliner “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” which declined 51% in its second frame to an estimated $6.2 million from 2,453 theaters for a cume of $23.4 million. “Precious” could pull ahead when final figures are tallied for the weekend.

Like “Precious,” “Mr. Fox” also is a marketing hybrid, targeting both Anderson’s fans and families. Fox Searchlight is consulting with big Fox on marketing the toon.

Fox senior VP of domestic distribution Chris Aronson said 65% of the matinee crowd on Saturday were families, who also made up 35% of the Saturday nighttime aud.

“The film is satisfying for both audiences,” Aronson said. “All manner of hens were flushed out of the coop with this one.”

Focus said that while it was disappointed with “Pirate Radio’s” overall performance, the turnout in arthouse theaters in major markets was strong enough to fuel good word of mouth. In the U.K., pic was released under the title “The Boat That Rocked.”

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