Spielberg's 3D motion-capture pic opens in Europe two months before U.S.

The intrepid boy reporter Tintin is known for travelling the globe, but the first stops on “The Adventures of Tintin’s” worldwide tour are all on the character’s home turf.

Overseas moviegoers will get first crack at Steven Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn” this weekend as Paramount and Sony launch the 3D motion-capture pic in 18 European markets before the U.S. bow on Dec. 21.

“Tintin” opens today in France and Belgium, followed by Germany on Thursday. Pic bows Friday in territories including Italy, Spain and the U.K.

Early overseas starts for major titles aren’t unprecedented — they’ve become the new norm for summer tentpoles like “Iron Man 2″ and “Fast Five.” But those pics bowed internationally only a few weeks before their U.S. preems, while family films are often delayed in overseas markets until after Stateside berths.

With “Tintin,” wide European recognition (the original comicstrip was created in Belgium) always signaled strong foreign prospects. Add local school holidays through November, and the earlier-than-usual overseas bow of “Tintin” became a no-brainer for Par and Sony.

“We wanted to capitalize on school holidays this time of year in Europe, then roll out during November and December through the rest of the world,” said Par Intl. prexy Andrew Cripps.

Students in France and Blighty are on vacation this week; students in other markets, including Russia and Belgium, start next week.

Adding to the complex release, Paramount and Sony are splitting worldwide rights — Par has distribution rights in the U.S., all English-speaking territories and Asia (except India), while Sony has the rest of the world. “Tintin” should see stellar returns throughout Europe, mainly in France, Belgium, Spain and the U.K., with 3D performing well in Asia.

Cripps admitted that staggered releases increase the risk of piracy but added, “You have to take advantage of a release pattern like this.”

Stateside B.O. is much more difficult to predict, and Paramount is hoping buzz from the rest of the world will make its way to U.S. auds.

American youngsters aren’t terribly familiar with the more-than-80-year-old Tintin brand, which has sold millions of comicbooks and toys outside the U.S. and has seen numerous animated adaptations. But the combination of Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson, with positive reviews already trickling in, should help convince Stateside filmgoers.

“Tintin” has another major overseas push next week, with an expansion to 24 additional markets, including Russia, followed by Brazil and Taiwan the weekend of Nov. 11 and China on Nov. 15. Par launches the film in Japan on Dec. 1; Australia and Mexico will go day-and-date with the U.S. over the Christmas holiday.

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