Holdovers hang on as markets catch up after soccer

Studios continued to play catch-up with overseas auds during the July 23-25 weekend, as a handful of holdovers gained considerable steam in major international markets.

Disney’s 3D toon “Toy Story 3″ led the attack, with a weekend take of $62 million, followed by Warner Bros.’ “Inception,” grossing an additional $58.6 million in its soph sesh. Another 3D toon offering, “Shrek Forever After,” from Paramount and DreamWorks Animation, also pulled down sizable returns at foreign wickets, with $34.6 million from 47 territories.

Light on fresh fare, the international market continues to feel the effects of the World Cup soccer tourney, which forced studios to push back titles until after the final match July 11.

Sony’s Angelina Jolie-actioner “Salt” was the only major studio release to launch day-and-date, though limited to just 17 Asian markets. Pic, which earned $5.3 million on 779 screens, debuted with notable returns in both India and Taiwan.

In India, “Salt” became the market’s top opener for Jolie, with $1.6 million on 464 screens, nearly tripling opening figures for 2008’s “Wanted.” Taiwan was the pic’s next-best market, with $1 million on 104.

In the Middle East, “Salt” became the region’s No. 1 title, beating out each “Bourne” franchise installment in all markets except Lebanon.

Directed by Phillip Noyce, “Salt” follows Jolie as a CIA officer accused of being a Russian spy. Sony timed its release in southeast Asia day-and-date with the U.S., hoping to capitalize on local auds’ preference for action thrillers. “Salt” should continue its hearty run there next weekend, expanding to Japan and South Korea, with holdover-light Russia added to the mix.

Most studio pics go as close to day-and-date as possible in Russia, which has the dubious honor of out-ranking most countries with its high piracy rates. More than half of this summer’s Hollywood fare launched day-and-date with the U.S. in Russia, including Disney’s “Toy Story 3.”

“Toy 3″ has cumed a boffo $376.1 million through July 27, to become the Mouse House’s all-time fifth-highest grossing toon internationally, surpassing “The Incredibles,” which hit $373 million in 2004.

“Toy 3″ became the highest-opening toon in the U.K., debuting to $30.6 million. It’s the U.K.’s second-highest opening ever behind Warner’s “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” which bowed to $36.9 million in 2004. In Spain, “Toy 3″ ($8 million) beat Par’s “Shrek 2″ ($7.9 million) to become the country’s top toon debut.

The debut of Warners’ “Inception,” meanwhile, was topmost in the minds of filmgoers in Japan ($8.9 million at 523 mazes), Gaul ($8.1 million on 717, controlling 37% of the Parisian market), and Russia ($7.1 million on 906). After launching day-and-date in the U.K. on July 16, the Christopher Nolan-helmed pic added an aggressive 29 markets in its soph sesh, for an overseas cume of $85.7 million from 38 markets.

Despite a record-setting debut for “Toy 3,” “Inception” dropped a mere 29% in the U.K., taking in $6.3 million during the weekend for a local cume of $21.4 million. The Leonardo DiCaprio starrer expands to German-speaking markets this weekend.

Par’s latest “Shrek” installment topped holdover territories in Latin America, including Mexico and Brazil. In Mexico, the 3D toon posted an additional $4.7 million in its soph sesh, lifting the territory’s totals to a stellar $18.8 million. Brazilian auds contributed $4.1 million to the ogre’s third frame for a cume of $27.3 million.

“Shrek” has shown surprising legs, launching overseas in late May and cuming $363.2 million to date. Par attributes the boost in revenues to tykes on summer vacation, as well as higher ticket prices from the 3D format. European markets like France and the U.K. both contribute a considerable amount of 3D runs, where “Shrek” has earned $30.2 million and $40.1 million, respectively.

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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