Avatar' pushes Fox to record $2.28 billion overseas

Twentieth Century Fox reached foreign ticket sales of $2.28 billion over the Dec. 23-27 frame, setting a new industry record as James Cameron’s “Avatar” continued to dominate.Paramount opened Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones” on Dec. 26 in Australia and New Zealand to strong returns.

In its first 10 days, the 3D sci-fi fantasy grossed $625.9 billion, raising the prospect that the pic could become only the third title in history to jump the $1 billion mark in global ticket sales after Cameron’s Titanic” ($1.8 billion) and Warner Bros.’ The Dark Knight” ($1 billion).

Over the Christmas sesh, “Avatar” played on a total of 14,844 screens in 108 markets. France led with $18.5 million from 1,114 screens in a number comparable to the second weekend for “Titanic” and “Return of the King.” Territory cume is $48.4 million. Spain followed with $12.1 million, up 11% from opening weekend. Cume is $29.9 million.

Imax theaters are seeing big business from “Avatar,” both internationally and overseas. Of the film’s global total $617.3 million, $39 million have come from Imax runs, including $11.1 million overseas.

Fox also profited over the Christmas holiday thanks to newcomer Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel,” which grossed $37.2 million as it opened day-and-date in 42 markets on 5,479 screens. “Avatar” paced well ahead of “Alvin” — as well as the rest of the competish — but Fox was pleased with the returns for “Squeakquel.”

“Squeakquel’s” bow was led by the U.K. with $8.6 million from 489 playdates. Spain followed with $3.4 million from 352. The kiddie pic debuted to $75.6 domestically for a worldwide opening gross of $112.8 million.

Warner Bros.’ Robert Downey Jr.-Jude Law topliner Sherlock Holmes” also did plenty of biz, grossing an estimated $26 million from 2,454 screens in 17 markets to place No. 3 for the weekend at the international B.O. behind “Avatar” and “Squeakquel.”

In the U.K., “Sherlock,” directed by Guy Ritchie, debuted on Boxing Day (Dec. 26) to gross $5 million from 650 in just two days.

Sherlock” bowed to $6 million in Italy from 451 screens and $4.8 million in Korea. In the U.S., “Sherlock” opened to $65.4 million for a worldwide total of $91.4 million.

Among other holiday newcomers, Universal’s romantic comedy It’s Complicated” opened day and date in 11 territories on 1,032 screens. The Nancy Meyers-directed film grossed an estimated $5.6 million, and $22.1 million domestically for a total bow of $27.7 million.

“It’s Complicated,” starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, did a pleasing $2.2 million in Spain to come in No. 3 behind “Avatar” and “Squeakquel.”

In Australia, “Lovely Bones,” based on Alice Sebold’s bestselling tome, grossed an estimated $310,000 from 30 locations, 321% ahead of “Slumdog Millionaire’s” opening, as an example. “Lovely Bones” placed No. 3 in New Zealand — Jackson’s home — grossing an estimated $270,000 from 63 locations, easily outpacing other literary adaptations and 319% ahead of “Slumdog.”

Final 2009 foreign totals for the majors will be released this week.

Fox will clearly place No. 1 in market share with its $2.28 billion in foreign ticket sales through Dec. 27. “It is exciting and incredibly satisfying for us to reach this milestone. Not only have we had exceptional films this year, but this success reflects a herculean effort by every team we have at Fox Intl.,” Fox co-prexies of international distribution Paul Hanneman and Tomas Jegeus said.

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