'Apprentice,' 'Airbender' find love overseas

It’s no surprise that domestic megahits like “Toy Story 3” and “Inception” are doing well in other countries, earning $503.1 million and $251.2 million respectively overseas. But it is surprising that international audiences have embraced some summer pics that were written off as flops by the mainstream press after their modest domestic showing.

Disney’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and Paramount’s “The Last Airbender” have each earned about $55 million overseas. On the face of it, that’s a modest sum, but it’s promising considering that the pics have opened in only 34 and 25 territories, respectively.

Typically, a film reaches its widest international rollout somewhere between 65 and 70 territories. This varies, however, depending on how studios treat certain markets, such as Central America, which also could be counted as individual countries.

As the chart on page 10 illustrates, the summer’s biggest surprise is probably Disney’s “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” since its international cume tripled Stateside earnings: $243.5 million vs. $89.8 million. The pic’s May bow in the U.S. was at the low-end of studio expectations, and the pic was regarded as a considerable disappointment.

Many of the studios’ big summer hopefuls are still in progress. Moviegoing hits a huge speedbump every four years, as much of the world is glued to the TV set for World Cup matches, meaning fewer day-and-date openings for U.S. pics. In addition, the shortage of 3D screens meant some titles have had their openings adjusted.

In an attempt to beat the World Cup heat, Disney launched “Prince” a week before its U.S. bow; Paramount did the same with “Iron Man 2.” Both strategies successfully added a week of playability before the soccer-induced crunch, as studios held product until after the tourney ended on July 11.

Twentieth Century Fox decided to brave the games with its action-comedy “The A-Team,” with lackluster results. Still, with Germany and Japan yet to weigh in, Fox said the film could reach $100 million in foreign box office receipts.

Pics like “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and Universal’s “Despicable Me” are still expanding overseas. Disney plans to expand “Sorcerer’s” to markets like Brazil, France, Japan and the U.K this weekend. “Despicable” will wait to expand until October, when most Euro students are on vacation.

While Stateside auds still shell out the most coin compared to any other country, in most cases a film’s total overseas performance far outpaces U.S. totals.

The answer about profitability won’t be in until overseas exhibitors return the last print. Still, as a way of catching up.

(Andrew Stewart contributed to this report.)

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