Overseas sales heat up Hollywood

Several overseas territories are on the rise this year, boosting international grosses well past last year’s five-month high.

Markets like Russia, with a 70% increase, and China, with a 189% bump, have seen huge surges at the box office, and Australia, Brazil, India, Mexico and South Korea are also looking much stronger. So far this year, foreign sales for the majors have outpaced the same five-month period in 2009 by a whopping 64%, and running 52% ahead of 2008.

The international box office typically contributes 60%-65% of worldwide box office but given the overseas mania for 3D pics, improved theatrical infrastructure and a growing middle class in some territories, that percentage could increase substantially.

“Russia has an extensive cinemagoing history, while moviegoers in India have become more acclimated to Western culture,” says David Kornblum, Disney’s VP of international sales and distribution. “If you have free time and disposable income, people are going to continue to go to the movies.”

In Russia, Paramount’s 3D toon “Shrek Forever After” helped boost the territory’s totals 70% to date over last year while Disney’s fellow 3D offering “Alice in Wonderland” maintained a seven-week perch atop the Japanese B.O., contributing to an 8% increase to date over 2009 in an already profitable market. “Shrek” debuted with $20 million to become Russia’s all-time highest-grossing opener, having cumed $46.1 million in that territory. Meanwhile, “Alice” ranks as the fifth-highest grossing film internationally, with $680.3 million.

As 3D pics like “Shrek Forever After” and “Alice in Wonderland” prove popular choices in those markets, studios also have bolstered their slates with titles aimed at reaping international rewards.

Disney plans to launch day and date 3D toon “Toy Story 3″ in growing markets like Russia, Brazil and Mexico on June 18. In order to avoid conflicting with the World Cup, the Mouse House will delay the release in most other territories until after the tourney’s end on July 11.

Launching this weekend in 35 territories, 20th Century Fox’s “The A-Team” could tempt overseas auds with an international cast that includes Liam Neeson and Sharlto Copley (“District 9″). “The A-Team” bowed in major markets like Australia, Russia and South Korea day and date June 11.

“Alice” ranks as the fifth highest-grossing film internationally, with $680.3 million.

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