Tournament disrupts distribs

The World Cup soccer tourney threw a wrench in the summer’s international B.O. machine, and though the tourney ended Sunday, studios still haven’t cleared the pitches overseas.

Now distribs are playing catch up in major markets, creating a bottleneck of product during the remaining weeks of summer and forcing studios to push back some new entries until early fall. Warner Bros.’ “Inception” may be highly anticipated in the U.S., but only British auds will get a day and date rollout this weekend. Likewise, Disney’s “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” bows only in Argentina and Russia, while “Despicable Me” will get a slow rollout lasting into the fall.

“What you’re seeing is all the studio distribution units being prudent enough to give each other the appropriate amount of space so that everybody’s product can co-exist,” said a Disney intl. distribution exec. “If you’re going head-to-head with one another, nobody’s going to win.”

During the World Cup, studios held most adult-themed titles to avoid competing with preoccupied moviegoers. Even family-oriented pics like “Toy Story 3″ and “Shrek Forever After” were pushed back until mid-summer. But instead of World Cup worries, those pics were held to benefit from younger auds on summer vacation.

Disney will hold “Apprentice” in Germany until the first weekend in September to avoid competing with heavyweight holdover “Toy Story 3.” Toon launches there on July 29 and in France next weekend. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. decided to challenge Disney’s toon three-quel, bowing “Inception” in Germany the last weekend in July.

“Toy 3″ has opened in 39 territories to date, with an impressive overseas cume of $221.2 million. France will open the toon this weekend, followed by the U.K. and Spain on July 23.

Paramount and DreamWorks Animations’ 3D toon offering “Shrek Forever After” also has benefited from delayed rollouts internationally. Last weekend, the toon earned $56.2 million from 47 territories, bringing its cume to $210 million.

Overseas tykes likely had their hands full with “Toy 3″ and “Shrek,” causing Universal to delay its debut of 3D toon “Despicable Me.”

The toon launched last weekend in only four territories, earning $5 million. U will expand “Despicable” to only a few territories by the end of July, instead waiting for fall school holidays. Territories including France, Germany, Italy and the U.K. will break from school in October, while Australian students go on vacation in September.

Summit’s third “Twilight” installment “Eclipse” also has added to the overseas glut in recent weeks. Pic grossed $81.1 million last weekend from 62 territories and has cumed $219 million to date. Despite the World Cup still kicking, “Eclipse” tallied a boffo $21 million in the U.K., the year’s highest opening in that territory. Pic has 11 territories yet to open, bowing next in Germany this weekend and Japan later in the year.

And while threequels like “Eclipse” and the 3D toon pair continue to dominate the foreign front, some B.O. observers suggest that delayed rollouts for original titles, including “Inception” and “Despicable Me,” allow the pics to gain steam with auds.

“Most often it’s more challenging for studios to launch new franchises,” an insider noted. “Sometimes holding a film gives it time to grow.”

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