Knocks 'Inception' from top for first time in four weeks

The international box office continues to make headway with rollouts of domestic summer holdovers in major overseas markets, even as Labor Day weekend signals the official end of the domestic B.O. season.

Paramount’s 3D film “The Last Airbender,” which expanded to Mexico and China over the Aug. 27-29 weekend, claimed the top spot at foreign wickets. Pic’s weekend take of $20.3 million was enough to knock Warner Bros.’ “Inception” from the chart-topping position it had occupied for four straight weeks.

“Inception” still held well, posting an additional $17 million, boosting overseas totals to $387 million as of Aug. 29. “Airbender” reached $122.2 million in foreign B.O. receipts.

Screening in 51 territories at 5,843 locations, “Airbender’s” top take marks the second straight week of sizable grosses due to gusty expansions. In Mexico, the film debuted in the No. 1 spot with $4 million at 812. Pic’s bow outpaced Par’s similar fanboy pic “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” by a whopping 71% in that market.

Chinese auds, however, showed less enthusiasm for the M. Night Shyamalan-helmed pic, shelling out just $2.6 million at a whopping 1,500 locations, while the film debuted in Peru with less than $1 million on 47.

“Airbender” has gained considerable traction in repeat frames, an impressive feat considering the less-pricey 2D version has done an outsized part of the pic’s business. The film joins several other 3D conversions, including Warner’s spring release “Clash of the Titans,” to receive flak for its 3D makeover.

Stateside auds also warmed to “Airbender” and may have increased overseas interest, says Andrew Cripps, prexy of Paramount Pictures Intl. “It’s the first litmus test of a movie in front of an audience,” Cripps says, referring to a pic’s domestic perf. “If a film does well in the United States, all the better. Successful films get noticed and get attention.”

Par launched the film Stateside during the Fourth of July frame; worldwide figures now total $252.9 million.

“Airbender” has held well in repeat markets, including Germany and Brazil, where the film slipped 41% in its soph sesh for a weekend take of $1.5 million. Pic dropped 44% in Germany, with $2.5 million over the weekend. Overall totals in Brazil stand at $5 million, while German auds have spent a healthy $9 million.

“Inception” continued to hold steady in markets like France, where in its sixth frame, the film posted $2.1 million, down 27%, for a local cume of $34.5 million. Its opening in Greece took in $1.5 million, including sneaks, on 150 screens.

Top overseas market for “Inception” is the U.K., which has contributed $50.8 million since its day-and-date release with the U.S. July 16. Pic entered its sixth frame in Japan, where it has cumed $37.1 million, repping the film’s next highest-grossing territory.

“Inception” has two major markets to go, with China set for this weekend, followed by Italy Sept. 24.

Looking to benefit from few new entries in the overseas market, 20th Century Fox re-released its all-time B.O. champ “Avatar” in 14 markets, including Russia, South Korea, Australia and the U.K., and boosted international totals past $2 billion. “Avatar” now stands as the only film to reach that milestone.

With several foreign territories still screening “Avatar,” and others having just ended the film’s theatrical run, some B.O. observers questioned whether the re-release came too soon after its original bow. Russia was the only market to cross the $1 million mark, where the film came in third behind “The Expendables” and “Karate Kid.”

Still, the film’s re-release was limited to at most two screenings in some markets, playing during non-peak hours.

Fox credits repeat auds and those who’ve seen the film only on homevid as the driving force behind “Avatar’s” second run. The studio added 8 1/2 minutes of deleted scenes meant to boost repeat business. The pic will continue to expand next weekend in seven markets, mostly in European countries such as France and Germany.

Emilio Mayorga in Barcelona, Mark Schilling in Tokyo, Clifford Coonan in Beijing, Ed Meza in Berlin, Lauren Seligman in Paris and Nick Vivarelli in Rome contributed to this report.

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