'Ice Age' films play to broader international audiences

When it comes to toon franchises, Fox’s “Ice Age” ranks near the top internationally. In the States, however, the B.O. track record of the chilly critters is far less animated — a trend further illustrated by the middling $46.6 million domestic debut for the fourth installment, “Continental Drift.”

The weekend launch of “Drift” barely eeked by the first “Ice Age,” which bowed to $46.3 million in March 2002. The other two outings — “The Meltdown” and “Dawn of the Dinosaurs” — each beat “Drift” during their opening frames, though “Dinosaurs” debuted midweek, earning $66.7 million in six days. “Meltdown” scored $68 million in three.

“Shrek Forever After,” the only other four-peat in an animated series, also bowed better than its originator in the U.S., but trailed the franchise’s second and third installments.

The domestic bar set by the “Shrek” franchise is significantly higher, however.

It’s tough to pinpoint exactly why “Ice Age” has struggled to hit blockbuster numbers in the U.S., while overseas auds seemingly can’t get enough of the prehistoric pack. One possible reason is that the franchise plays more broadly internationally vs. its skew Stateside, where its ticketbuyers are mainly families. Fox insists the franchise performs evenly among domestic auds.

Regardless, the “Ice Age” pics continue to be hugely profitable for Fox on a worldwide basis. “Drift,” which cost close to $95 million (not including marketing), already has amassed $425 million globally through July 18 — with more of the iceberg yet to be revealed.

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