Box office leaders push pic playability on eve of the World Cup

During the final period before the World Cup soccer tourney kicks off June 11, the international B.O. showed off athletic-like stamina among top holdovers: Warner Bros.’ “Sex and the City 2″ and Disney’s “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.”

“Sex 2″ topped the overseas frame with $44 million after expanding to 50 territories on 7,930 screens, while “Prince” followed with a stately $37.6 million in 48 markets on 10,316. Both films struggled to gain much of a following Stateside, with considerable drops in their sophomore sessions.

Still, given built-in overseas appeal through casting and foreign locales, studios skedded rollouts meant to massage more moolah before the World Cup. Overseas cume for “Sex 2″ stands at $89 million, with “Prince” totaling $164.5 million internationally.

Disney launched “Prince” overseas a week before its U.S. bow, while Warner debuted “Sex 2″ in limited day-and-date before expanding wide overseas the following week. Both films repped last weekend’s widest releases.

“Sex 2″ earned a shapely $7.6 million during its opening sesh in Australia, the film’s top market, debuting 13% better than its predecessor.

Meanwhile, despite the sequel’s leading ladies (Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon) heavily promoting the pic in Japan, “Sex 2″ bowed with a less-than-stellar $3 million at the Japanese B.O., launching on par with the first film, which cumed $20 million in that territory.

Pic also underperformed in both Spain and Italy, where sunny weather may have kept moviegoers from the plexes. At the Italo B.O., “Sex 2″ saw a steep 60% drop in its soph sesh, earning $997,000 on 504 screens for a cume of $5.4 million. In Spain, the film launched with a soft $1.9 million on 343.

French auds tipped their Cosmo glasses to the pic, spilling $3.7 million on 526 screens. Pic benefited from a healthy build-up to its bow with aggressive event-style promotions.

The sequel’s French bow beat out Disney’s “Prince,” which took in an additional $3 million in its second stanza, dropping 41% for a cume of $9.3 million. Russia ranks as “Prince’s” top market, totaling $17.9 million after its $5.5 million sophomore outing. The strong hold is especially impressive given the film’s boffo opening weekend ($9.7 million), which ranks as the third best for Disney in the territory.

China followed with $4.4 million, down only 27% in its second weekend, bringing the pic’s cume in that territory to $14.8 million. Strong holds in Russia and China are significant, given that both territories continue to overperform on the international front; Russia has improved by 70% compared with the same five-month period last year, while China is up a massive 189% over 2009.

Twentieth Century Fox launched its family-friendly “Marmaduke” in 17 markets, including Russia, where it grossed $706,352 on 338 screens. Based on the comicstrip Great Dane, “Marmaduke” took a pup-sized bite out of the B.O., grossing a total $3.5 million on 1,495 screens. Fox’s tyke tale may have stumbled among overseas auds, given the subject’s U.S. origins.

Despite “Marmaduke’s” lukewarm reaction in Russia, local auds have shown a recent appetite for family films. Paramount and DreamWorks Animations’ “Shrek Forever After” continues to perform strongly there, with $4.5 million in its third weekend. Russia’s $46.1 million take accounts for more than half of the 3D toon’s $67.2 million total.

Par chose to delay the toon’s release in most markets — the current total stands at 17 — until after the World Cup. And like “Shrek,” Disney is holding back its 3D toon offering “Toy Story 3,” except in Russia, Brazil and Mexico which open day and date June 18.

This weekend, Sony is bowing “Karate Kid” in just a few Asian markets, while Fox will brave the World Cup pitch as it opens “The A-Team” in 35 territories. The TV reboot should provide the biggest competish for holdovers “Sex 2″ and “Prince.”

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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