‘Lion’ lords over ape in o’seas jungle fight

'Narnia' passes 'King' in international grosses

It needed three weeks, but “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” has caught and surpassed “King Kong” in overall international grosses, winding up the weekend with $277 million, $5 million ahead of the big gorilla.

Showing impressive holding power among family audiences, BVI’s “Narnia” won its third consecutive weekend at the foreign box office with $30 million at 7,528 playdates in 36 countries. UIP’s “Kong” took in $24 million at 6,900 engagements in 57 markets.

Combined with nearly $248 million domestically, the worldwide “Narnia” total has hit $525 million — clearly winning the battle with “King Kong,” which has a current worldwide cume of $464 million.

“Narnia” opened with $42 million in 13 foreign markets on the Dec. 9-11 weekend, followed by “Kong,” which launched in every market during the following week. “Narnia” then debuted in most international territories before Christmas, but “Kong” led by $15 million at the end of Christmas weekend, with “Narnia” closing the gap ever since.

“Narnia” posted its top figures in France, with $5.9 million at 857 playdates in its third weekend, and in the U.K., with $3.3 million at 530 to lift the Brit cume to $67 million. Its Australian soph sesh saw a 42% decline to $2.9 million, while in its second Korean frame the pic fell 40% to $2.3 million.

Spanish “Narnia” grosses jumped 72%, thanks to the Epiphany holiday, to $2.5 million at 381 in its fifth frame. With the same holiday observed in Mexico, takings rose 2% to $1.2 million at 738, and the Mexican cume hit $25.5 million to set a BVI record for the market.

UIP noted that “King Kong” performed well on Saturday, with many markets up 100% in comparison with the prior Saturday, when many theaters closed early for New Year’s Eve. Top “Kong” grosses came from the U.K., with a 16% decline to $3.9 million at 473 playdates to top “Narnia” and lift the Blighty cume to $45.4 million.

“Kong” topped seven figures in Germany with $2 million at 713, in France with $1.4 million at 771, in Spain with $1.4 million at 378, in Japan with $1.4 million at 305 and in Oz with $1.1 million at 242. It continued to dominate in Peter Jackson’s home turf of New Zealand with $460,000 at 74 for a 26% share and a $4.7 million cume.

Critical fave “Brokeback Mountain,” which received noms from all four Hollywood guilds last week, opened solidly in the U.K. via Entertainment with $1.5 million at 124 playdates.

“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” 2005’s top foreign grosser, remained a powerful player during the weekend, with $11.4 million from more than 6,500 prints in 58 markets. “Goblet” has cumed $568.8 million internationally, trailing only “Titanic,” “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” the first two Harry Potter pics and “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” in that category.

Overall biz looked solid, with “Narnia,” “Kong” and “Goblet” combining for $65 million — $15 million better than the three toppers in the same frame of 2005: “Ocean’s Twelve” ($17.6 million), “Alexander” ($16.9 million) and “The Incredibles” ($15.3 million).

The strong weekend continues positive momentum from December, which saw upbeat results after a downturn in many markets. In the U.K., a robust December has led to Nielsen EDI reporting that the final 2005 box office edged up 1% for the year ended Jan. 6.

BVI’s “Chicken Little” led the rest of the weekend pack, with $5.9 million at 3,651 playdates, thanks to a $1.8 million soph sesh in Australia and a $1.2 million third frame in Japan. Toon’s offshore cume has hit $105.5 million, making it the 18th Disney animated pic to cross the $100 million milestone.

Sony’s “Fun With Dick and Jane” showed respectable comic punch, drawing $5.2 million at 1,030 sites, led by a first-place launch in Germany with $2.6 million at 472 and a $1.2 million soph sesh in Australia. Fox’s “Cheaper by the Dozen 2” continued to generate moderate results, with $4.8 million at 1,548, including $1.4 million at 327 in its second U.K. weekend.

UIP kicked off the foreign run for “Jarhead” with a decent $4 million at 960, led by a fourth-place finish in Germany with $1.8 million at 318. Fox’s “The Family Stone” rang up $2.8 million at 626 to lift foreign cume to $16 million; its Brazilian production “Se Eu Fosse Voce” opened impressively in that market with $1.6 million at 183.

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