O’seas B.O. billionaire club

Four studios expected to hit milestone in '02

SYDNEY — Four studios will cross the $1 billion B.O. milestone overseas in 2002, heralding a banner year for Hollywood.

Year also will mark only the second time four majors have reached that peak; the international arms of Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, Disney’s BVI and Universal set the precedent in 1999.

Sony’s Columbia TriStar Intl. hit $1 billion Sept. 8, and through Sept. 22 the studio was perched at $1.057 billion. Through the weekend, Fox Intl. had clocked $978 million (including MGM’s films, which it distributes overseas) and WB Intl. had racked up an estimated $959 million. BVI was next with $735 million, followed by Universal at $529 million (including $180 million from handling DreamWorks’ films excluding three Asian markets) and Paramount with $192 million.

Nearing the mark

Execs at WB, Fox and BVI are confident their divisions will each reach $1 billion before the end of the year. “That would be a great result for international and a great result for all of us,” Fox Intl. distribution president Scott Neeson told Daily Variety Monday.

What is less certain is who will take line honors among the majors, as WB rides to the finishing line on the back of upcoming “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.”

Mark Zucker, senior exec VP at Columbia TriStar Intl., is shooting to end 2002 with more than $1.3 billion. His division has been propelled by “Spider-Man” ($403 million) and “Men in Black II” ($235 million).

Zucker expects “XXX,” which has grossed nearly $14 million early in its overseas expedition, to generate more than $100 million, and is banking on continuing contributions from “Mr. Deeds,” “The Sweetest Thing” and “Enough,” plus several upscale titles.

At Fox, Neeson is delighted with “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones,” which has minted $332 million, and “Ice Age” ($197 million).

‘Minority’ to hit $200 mil

“Minority Report” has amassed $99 million and with major European territories and Japan ahead, Neeson forecasts Steven Spielberg’s sci-fier will soar to $200 million.

Having seen MGM’s “Die Another Day,” Neeson is sure the Bond opus will ring up at least $200 million abroad. All told, Neeson expects Fox Intl. to post $1.2 billion-$1.3 billion by year’s end.

BVI president Mark Zoradi is confident his division will notch $1 billion again for the eighth consecutive year, a Hollywood record.

Buoyed by the success of “Signs,” he forecasts the Mel Gibson starrer will earn north of $200 million. BVI also has high hopes for the Reese Witherspoon headliner “Sweet Home Alabama,” which rolls out in most offshore markets October through December; Christmas treat “The Santa Clause 2,” and the toon “Treasure Planet,” which will go out everywhere by year’s end except Japan and the U.K.

“Since most of our fall films will not be opening until later in October and November, we do not expect to surpass $1 billion until then,” said WB Intl. distribution president Veronika Kwan-Rubinek.

United Intl. Pictures’ cumulative grosses, including Par, U/DreamWorks and its own pickups, stand at $765 million.

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