Animated bird soars to B.O. heights wings of school holidays

Offshore box office headlines over the April 8-10 weekend were dominated by 20th Century Fox’s 3D toon “Rio,” which bowed to this year’s highest worldwide opening, winging its way to $54.9 million from 45 international territories.

“Rio’s” overseas debut, which came a week before its domestic launch, narrowly beat the start of Paramount’s “Rango,” which previously held the 2011 global debut mark of $54.8 million. That pic, however, benefited from a U.S. launch totaling $38.1 million, added to a $16.7 million day-and-date overseas bow.

Fox went early with “Rio” in most international territories to benefit from tykes entering school holidays, most of which begin this week in territories like the U.K. and Australia.

Toon cumed $64.4 million internationally through April 12.

And while “Rio” saw slightly depressed totals overall because of warmer weather — especially in European markets — pic also saw boosted revenues from higher 3D ticket sales. “Rio” collected 71% of its total opening take from 3D screens, which repped just 57% of the pic’s overall 11,612 foreign screen count.

In Russia, the film’s highest-grossing territory, “Rio” tallied a whopping 88% of its $11.3 million from 3D, while in Brazil, 3D coin made up just 59% of the pic’s $8.4 million bow.

Still, Russia benefited from a four-day opening (pics typically open on Thursday in that territory), with an additional $2.5 million from preview screenings the week before. Brazi tallies grosses from Friday to Sunday, though “Rio” had a titular advantage there, which led to Fox’s biggest opening ever in Brazil.

“This is a fantastic start for a new franchise,” noted Fox Intl. co-prexies Paul Hanneman and Tomas Jegeus in a statement. “With consistently stellar reviews and excellent word of mouth around the world, as well as no significant family competition ahead, we are well established to take advantage of the school holidays which begin in the coming weeks.”

Other notable territories for “Rio” included Germany, China and the U.K., all of which saw significant grosses from the 3D format. Germany, which drew $2.6 million from “Rio” filmgoers over the weekend, grossed 81% of its debut from 3D, while Blighty took in 69% of its $2.5 million opening from 3D. Meanwhile, Chinese plexes, which contributed $3.5 million, offered the toon in 3D only.

The format’s dominance in major markets reps a significant step forward for 3D, which has some critics questioning its potency among family-targeted films, given that families, more than any other demo, have been most hesitant to paying the 3D upcharge.

“Rio” perched atop the frame in every major market in which it opened, and will bow in an additional 19 markets during its second frame, including France and Italy.

Fox execs predict the pic will have another stellar sesh next weekend, with less sun in the weather forecast in key European markets. Moreover, the film’s Stateside launch is expected to land north of $40 million.

Elsewhere at the international box office, Universal held family film “Hop” from most overseas markets, though the live action-toon hybrid collected another $5.3 million from 32 territories, bringing its international cume to $14.6 million as of April 10.

“Hop,” whose major markets include Australia, Germany, Italy and the U.K., also was adversely affected by warmer weather in European markets.

U hopes the film will have enough steam to carry it through Easter, but that depends on how much business “Rio” continues to see at overseas wickets. “Hop” expands to 14 additional markets starting April 11, including Mexico and Spain. Both of those territories opened well for “Rio” and could continue to turn in top returns for the Fox film in holdover frames.

Emilio Mayorga in Barcelona, Ed Meza in Berlin, David Hayhurst in Paris, Nick Vivarelli in Rome and Mark Schilling in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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