Limited worldwide bow grosses $16.5 million, with $9 million from Blighty

Warner Bros.’ international rollout of “Inception” was small, but mighty, over the July 16-18 weekend, debuting day-and-date with the U.S. for a healthy $16.5 million in just nine overseas markets.

Pic’s weekend take is even mightier given that the U.K. was the only major territory to get the film. Blighty auds shelled out more than half of the film’s total gross, with $9 million on 783 screens. Pic accounted for 40% of the territory’s top five grossers and repped the highest opening to date for star Leonardo DiCaprio in the U.K.

“Inception” marks the latest effort from helmer Christopher Nolan since his 2008 worldwide blockbuster “The Dark Knight.” That film went on to gross a massive $905.6 million worldwide.

“Inception,” which also features Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard and Michael Caine, tells the story of a team of specialists hired to steal from a person’s subconscious.

Warner timed the launch of the pic to unspool the week after the World Cup soccer tourney ended on July 11. The studio has mounted an aggressive rollout for the pic since then, expanding to 29 markets the weekend of July 23. Pic’s second wave includes Australia, France, Japan, Mexico, Russia and South Korea, where it will compete with Disney’s family-themed fantasy “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”

Like “Inception,” Disney’s “Apprentice” debuted July 16 in a limited day-and-date overseas rollout. The pic, toplining Nicolas Cage and Jay Baruchel, totaled $9.4 million from 13 territories, repping only 10% of the international market.

Top territory for “Apprentice” was Russia, which contributed nearly 60% of the pic’s opening take and grossed a total $4.8 million over the weekend. Debut more than doubled the opening of Disney’s Cage-starrer “National Treasure: Book of Secrets,” also produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, to become the best start for a Cage/Bruckheimer collaboration in that market.

Russia has become one of the most significant markets this year, but many B.O. observers still insist the country is a two-week market.

Paramount and DreamWorks Animation’s 3D toon “Shrek Forever After,” which added a massive $56.4 million to its $297.9 million overseas cume, earned a whopping 90% of its Russian totals during the first two weeks. “Shrek” bowed there in May with $20 million.

During the most recent week, “Shrek” debuted in Mexico with $8.4 million on 824 screens, repping the toon’s top territory. “Shrek” also played well in holdover frames, with $7 million in the U.K. for a cume there of $37.7 million. In Germany, the toon was up 26%, with $3.5 million on 911 screens, totaling $15 million, while in Gaul, the pic slid 40%, grossing $3.8 million for a cume of $26.5 million.

Toon’s take in France repped a sizable hold, especially given the fact Disney’s 3D toon “Toy Story 3″ bowed there with a solid $8.9 million. “Toy 3″ took in an additional $32.9 million overall, down a mere 8% from the previous weekend, and has grossed a total $269.2 million from 41 territories.

Both toons have gained steam in repeat frames as overseas tykes on summer vacation boost revenues. And both also play to broad demos, which provide stiff competition for any film in the market.

Twentieth Century Fox, which debuted its Tom Cruise-starrer “Knight and Day” in the U.S. on June 23, expanded the pic to 19 additional markets, including Australia, Brazil and Mexico, for a total of 49.

“Knight” grossed a healthy $19.6 million, with Australia contributing $3.3 million on 360 screens, followed by Brazil, with $2.8 million on 322. Pic’s cume reached $64.8 million as of July 19 and will expand to German-speaking Europe this weekend.

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

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