‘Samurai’ slices way to top at o’seas B.O.

'King' shows staying power in its fifth frame in key markets

Tom Cruise replaced the denizens of Middle Earth as the dominant force at the international box office as Warner’s “The Last Samurai” easily won the weekend over “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” with an estimated $38.7 million in 31 territories, $17 million higher than “King.”

“Samurai,” which finished a close second to “King” in the previous frame, has now generated $156.1 million offshore to go along with $102 million domestic. The 19th century epic, helmed by Ed Zwick, opened at No. 1 in France with $4.84 million at 606 playdates, 87% higher than the debut of “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the Word.”

“Samurai” also debuted on top in Oz with $2.65 million at 274 engagements, 11% higher than “Master”; in Mexico with $1.93 million at 475, 45% higher than “Minority Report”; and in Brazil with $910,000 at 220, 3% ahead of “Gladiator.” And second-weekend European business saw relatively low declines — 23% down in Italy to $4.94 million at 610, 29% off in Spain to $3.8 million on 467, 21% down in the U.K. with $3.83 million at 430 and 23% off in German for $3.75 million on 902.

“Samurai” also ranked first in Japan with $3.7 million at 425 screens, lifting seven-week cume to $83.7 million in that market.

New Line’s “Return of the King” showed impressive staying power in its fifth frame in key markets, off 38% to $21.3 million. Foreign cume has hit $495 million, or 25% ahead of “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” at the same point.

“King” managed to top “Samurai” in the U.K. with $4 million, boosting Blighty cume to $90 million. In Germany, “King” generated $2.9 million for a $78.5 million total, while its French take was $1.25 million to push cume to $45 million and its Spanish showings took in $1.1 million for a $35.6 million cume.

Scandinavian biz for “King” remained potent with cume near $50 million, including $19.9 million in Sweden, $13 million in Denmark, $10.2 million in Norway and $5.8 million in Finland. South Korean cume has topped $26 million.

Sony’s “Gothika” stayed solid in France with $2 million in its second frame, down just 26%. Its Spanish opening of “Mona Lisa Smile” generated a cheerful $1.83 million at 305 playdates for an impressive $6,000 per venue in a perf similar to those of “Maid in Manhattan” and “Two Weeks Notice.”

Sony also reported a respectable Korean opening for “Peter Pan” with $800,000 at 130 engagements for fourth place after a trio of local entries while its second frame of “Pan” in Brazil was off 30% to $300,000. Combined with UIP territories, foreign cume for the family pic has hit $23.4 million, led by $12.8 million in the U.K.

UIP reported solid perf for “Love Actually” in its 10th foreign frame with $3.2 million at 1,800 engagements in 19 markets. Foreign cume for “Love,” which took in $58 million in the U.S., has gone past $153 million.

Another long-legged entry, BVI’s “Finding Nemo,” remained resilient with $6.7 million to lift its international takings to $492 million, positioning the Disney-Pixar toon to shortly become the first animated pic to eclipse half a billion dollars in overseas biz. Its seventh frame in Japan totaled $3.2 million for a second-place finish behind “Samurai.”

BVI’s Spanish debut of “Cold Creek Manor” generated a decent $1.7 million as the Sharon Stone starrer battled Julia Roberts’ “Mona Lisa Smile” for second.

UIP’s “Honey” danced to $1.7 million at 480 playdates in Oz, Germany and German-speaking Switzerland for a foreign cume of $10.1 million.

UIP also reported impressive takings by “Lost in Translation” in Oz with $188,000 at 34 playdates for a 24-day cume of $1.8 million, passing the final gross in that market for “Being John Malkovich.”

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