Gradual rollouts pay for Mouse

“Up” is about to start moving up overseas.

Two months after its domestic launch, Disney’s finally launching “Up” in several major overseas markets this weekend including France, South Korea, Spain and Taiwan with an additional 1,200 locations. Demand’s likely to be particularly strong in France, where the Pixar toon received an enthusiastic response at Cannes.

Stateside grosses for “Up” have now topped $283 million while foreign cume’s at $56 million from Russia and Latin America. Thus far, “Up” has been the best or second-best Pixar title in those markets.

“Up” won’t hit Germany until September, or the U.K. and Italy until mid-October. And its Japanese release won’t come until the middle of December.

The Mouse House is opting to use the same gradual release strategy that’s worked well in the past for other Pixar titles such as “Ratatouille,” which topped $410 million internationally, and “Wall-E,” which hit $310 million.

Disney execs believe that timing release dates to coincide with local holidays — particularly among the key demo of families with school children — along with nurturing each market is crucial to maximizing a title’s foreign take, since Pixar pics aren’t recognizable franchise “pre-sold” properties.

By contrast, “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” opened day and date in nearly all foreign markets along with the domestic release in early July to stunning results as Fox took full advantage of the strong recognition from the first two “Ice Age” toons plus the increasing numbers of 3-D screens.

As of Tuesday, the foreign cume on “Dinosaurs” has hit an eye-popping $514 million, and it’s about to pass Disney/Pixar’s “Finding Nemo” at $528 million as the top international grosser among animated films of all time. About 38% of the international gross has come from 3-D sites.

“Dinosaurs” still hasn’t opened in South Korea or Italy and those two markets will likely drive the final foreign cume past $600 million — making it the ninth title pass that milestone. It’s already the top film of all time in a dozen markets, including Mexico and Russia.

The “Ice Age” results portend a potentially massive international performance next summer when Disney launches “Toy Story 3″ on June 18. The studio’s likely to go day and date in many foreign markets to fully leverage the good will from the first two films, released in 1995 and 1999.

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