‘Casino’ likely to squelch ‘Borat’s’ big bucks

Cohen pic has yet to open in France, Spain, Norway, South Africa

After conquering the U.S. charts two frames in a row, Sacha Baron Cohen comedy “Borat” was bound for global domination.

But with James Bond coming on the international scene as a day-and-date release, “Borat’s” days as the world’s primo player are numbered.

“Borat” has yet to open in France, Spain, Norway and South Africa.

As in the U.S., the politically incorrect pic is appealing to upscale urban auds, not just the typical “Jackass” crowd.

Pic scored a solid No. 1 bow on the international front, taking in $15.4 million in 20 territories.

Mocumentary “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” easily bested the No. 2 pic, Sony’s CG- animated “Open Season,” which took in $9 million for 52 markets to bring its cume to $63.5 million to date overseas.

Fox’s “Borat” played to first place finishes in the funnyman’s native U.K., raking in an additional $8.6 million in its second week of release and taking the spoof’s cume to more than $27 million.

Baron Cohen vehicle managed to live up to huge pre-release buzz in Blighty where the Borat character was born on the comic’s TV skein.

Blighty biz on “Borat” slid a soft18% in its soph sesh.

Pic was playing against a hard-hitting local fave in Germany, the comedy “7 Dwarves,” but “Borat” still managed to make hay there as well, taking in $2.7 million and finishing in the No. 2 spot.

In fact, “Borat” was even able to play to a better per screen average than “Dwarves” in Germany on less than half the local comedy’s engagements.

“At first glance, you wouldn’t expect that this film would appeal to educated people,” one German film pro noted on the success of “Borat” globally. “But virtually all opinion-leading critics in the country were nothing but praise about it.”

Showing the global pull of the fictitious Kazakh TV reporter, the pic also played to No. 1 in Sweden in its bow there, and No. 3 in Austria where “Dwarves” was also in its way. Greek, Bulgarian and Serbian launches were also solid on the left-field breakout.

Pic, which cost $18 million to make, now has a worldwide take at $110.6 million.

Beyond “Borat,” however, no pics crossed the $10 million mark.

While “Open Season,” Sony’s first foray into animation, was able to play to No. 2, the pic was playing on 4,570 screens as opposed to dominating “Borat’s” 1,147.

In some major launches, Sony may have been expecting better perf from “Season”: With 269,000 admission in Germany, for example, the pic did not make a spectacular start, and bookers suggested that the studio may have wanted more.

Top perfs for the toon came from its second-place Spanish launch with $1.7 million, and its third-place German bow with $1.89 million at 750.

Beyond “Borat,” Fox’s other left-field sensation “The Devil Wears Prada,” held solidly to remain at the tail of the top five chart overseas, with $7.2 million in 31 markets.

“Prada” — which bows next in Japan, another promising market — has hit $163 million overseas and $288 million worldwide.

Fox’s pair of modestly budgeted, overperforming comedies have led the foreign box office for the past few weekends, keeping overall international biz for Hollywood majors — on track to finish 2006 well ahead of last year and likely to eclipse the 2004 record of $8.5 billion.

But Fox didn’t have all good news to celebrate: Studio’s expansion of Russell Crowe starrer “A Good Year” generated only moderate takings with $4.9 million at 1,600.

Its German opening finished fourth with $1.5 million at 351, while the Australian launch came in third with $983,000 at 287.

Pic was also a disappointment in the U.S. bow, landing in the No. 10 spot upon its opening frame.

Still slashing B.O. bucks at the overseas wickets after Halloween was “Saw III,” which had particularly good showings in Australia, Brazil, Spain and the U.K. Those territories helped latest installment of the gritty horror franchise land at the No. 3 spot on the international charts.

New “Saw” has cumed about $26 million offshore, and $96 million worldwide. Next up for the pic is a Mexican launch, which promises to be a biggie as that turf eats up genre fare.

Buena Vista Intl. opened “Saw” in Spain to a No. 1 launch, with $2.8 million.

Horror sequel took in $1.8 million in its third Brit frame, down 36%; $1.2 million in its Australian soph sesh, off 54%; and $660,000 at 202 in Brazil, off 36% in its second frame.

Martin Scorsese and Warner Bros.’ starry cop story “The Departed” continues to hold solidly overseas as it has in the U.S.

Pic hit up $7.3 million more from 36 markets to raise its international cume to nearly $60 million. That adds to its U.S. total of about $110 million to date.

Looking ahead, “Casino Royale” is expected to make biz overseas spike sharply: Last pic in the series, “Die Another Day,” took in $271 million overseas.

Christian Koehl, Esther de Prado, Bernhard Warner, Liza Klaussmann and Archie Thomas contributed to this report.

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