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‘Samurai’ on o’seas cruise

Worldwide warlord tops 'Rings' at box office

This article was updated at 7:30 p.m.

The foreign box office moved into Cruise control over the weekend with Warner’s “The Last Samurai” grossing an impressive $40.6 million on 5,734 screens in 31 territories, nearly double the take of $23.1 million for New Line’s fifth frame of “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”

The overseas perf, which pulled the international cume for “Samurai” up to $157.6 million, is certain to lift spirits at the studio as foreign B.O. revenues help push the $140 million project toward the black. And the biggest question regarding the profitability of “Samurai” — will a pic focused on 19th century Japan translate in foreign territories outside Japan? — seems to have been answered with a resounding positive.

“Samurai” showed impressive drawing power as an opener in European and Latin American markets and as a strong soph session holdover in major European territories. It also led in Japan with $3.8 million at 425 playdates in its seventh frame, lifting that territorial cume to $83.9 million, $18 million short of the domestic B.O.

“Samurai” debuted on top in France, Australia, Belgium, Mexico, Brazil, Greece, French Switzerland and South Africa. The French gross of $4.86 million at 606 engagements was three times higher than the fifth frame of “Return of the King” and 88% higher than the opening of “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.”

Happy holdovers

Second-weekend Italian grosses for “Samurai” declined only 16% to $5.4 million at 610 sites; Spanish biz dipped 24% to $4.1 million at 467; German takings were off just 23% with $3.76 million at 902; Holland grosses slid only 13% to $754,000 at 103.

“Samurai” fell short only in the U.K., where its soph sesh declined 23% to $3.7 million. That was about $600,000 short of the still-robust “Return of the King,” which declined 36% in its fifth frame and has now cumed $90 million in Blighty.

“Return of the King” remained reasonably potent despite having played for a month already in most major territories. Cume hit $496.7 million on Sunday, 25% ahead of “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” at the same point last year; that figure is only $85 million behind the final offshore cume for “Two Towers.”

In addition, “King” has surpassed final territorial totals for “Two Towers” in 16 markets, including Greece, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey and Uruguay.

“King” remained in first place in Sweden, the Netherlands and Norway. Swedish biz fell only 27% to $1.1 million at 169 playdates to lift cume to $19.9 million.

Battle upcoming

Italy should see a serious battle during the upcoming sesh, when “Return of the King” opens against the third frame of “Samurai.” Distribs have mostly opted for allowing the two titans to dominate in most markets by holding back new films to all but few select markets and opting for holdovers.

BVI reported $7.5 million for its long-legged “Finding Nemo” to lift foreign cume to $492.5 million.

Distrib also saw a solid perf for “Brother Bear” in its Korean debut, with $565,000 for the biggest opener ever by a traditional animated pic. “Bear” also grabbed $800,000 from its fifth weekend in Mexico, down 27%; its foreign cume has hit $36.5 million.

Sony reported respectable soph sesh returns in France for “Gothika,” with a 24% decline to $2.1 million at 412 engagements. Its “Mona Lisa Smile” opened solidly in Spain with $1.94 million at 304, the same range as “Erin Brockovich.”

Warner also enthused over the second frame for “Something’s Gotta Give,” worth $648,000 at 235 sites (down only 16%) and the soph outing for “Mystic River” in Japan with $706,000 at 204.

‘Paycheck’ payoff

UIP’s “Paycheck” posted a moderate debut in the U.K. with $1.6 million at 342 sites, edged out by its second frame of “Lost in Translation” with $1.82 million at 187. Distrib’s “Honey” finished a distant third in Germany with $753,242 at 356 for a four-week cume of $7.2 million.

BVI expressed satisfaction with the opening of “Haunted Mansion” in Brazil with $275,000, noting it was on a par with “Flubber.”

UIP reported $1.7 million from four markets for “Peter Pan” while Sony’s 10 territories chipped in with $1.25 million, including an $815,000 opening in Korea at 149 sites. Combined foreign cume has topped $23 million.

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