Terrific trio tops $300 million o’seas

Pics' opening frames posted a combined $300 mil

The month of May turned magical for the international moviegoing business, thanks to the formidable one-two-three punch of “The Da Vinci Code,” “X-Men: The Last Stand” and “Mission: Impossible III.”

The trio’s opening frames posted a combined $300 million in foreign grosses, starting with $70 million for “MI3,” followed by $154.7 million for “The Da Vinci Code” and $76.1 million for “X-Men 3.”

And the second weekend of “Code” continued to click exceptionally in foreign markets with $91 million as the thriller declined only 40%, compared with a 56% slide Stateside.

As of May 30, “Code” had cumed $340 million internationally, representing 70% of the worldwide gross of $487.8 million. On the same date, “X-Men 3” had totaled foreign coin of $91.4 million, while its U.S. performance was more impressive with $130 million; and “MI3” had cumed $185.2 million overseas, or 62% of its worldwide total of $300 million.

It was the best stretch for overall international biz since the last holiday period, when the combo of “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” “King Kong” and “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” salvaged what had been a mostly disappointing year. And the red-hot May performance evoked comparisons with the early summer of 2004, when four tentpoles — “Troy,” “The Day After Tomorrow,” “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” and “Shrek 2” — drove foreign biz to stratospheric levels.

In France, for example, the battle between “X-Men 3” and “Code” drove receipts up by a whopping 113% compared with the same frame of 2005, with the mutants grabbing 31% of the market and “Code” taking 22%.

In the U.K., the presence of dual blockbusters plus dreary weather boosted biz by 12% from the previous frame and an impressive 68% from the 2005 weekend. “X-Men 3” opened in line with estimates and could take in as much as $40 million in Blighty, while final Brit gross for “Code” could hit $60 million.

U.K. exhibitors noted “X-Men 3” also reaped benefits from the star power of Halle Berry and Hugh Jackman along with the presence of Brit thesps Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen and Vinnie Jones.

In Germany, overall box office rose 24% due to drizzly weather, a solid bow of “X-Men 3” and impressive holdover biz for “Code” as Teuton patrons ignored negative notices.

“People want to make up their own minds,” one German exhibitor asserted. “And word of mouth has been much more positive than the reviews.”

It was the same story in Spain, where “Code” easily beat “X-Men 3” with a 46% decline after its record-setting launch weekend. “The picture really has good word of mouth despite having such bad reviews,” one Iberian booker noted.

And in Italy, also coming off a record opening, “Code” remained a crowd-pleaser with a respectable 45% slide.

“Over a hot summer weekend like this, a weaker film would have failed to continue to pull people in,” one Italian booker mused. “It’s a film that people are talking and talking about and want to see. There wasn’t a TV station or magazine or newspaper that wasn’t talking about ‘The Da Vinci Code.'”

Among major markets, “X-Men 3” scored first-place finishes in the U.K., Australia, Brazil, France, Mexico and Russia and set launch records for Fox in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore. In Oz, Fox Intl.’s marketing efforts placed local star Hugh Jackman front and center, helping lead to a socko per-screen average of $12,418.

“X-Men 3” opened at about 3,500 fewer playdates than “Da Vinci” as Fox opted to wait in four key markets — South Korea, launching June 15; Taiwan, June 17; China, July 20; and Japan, Sept. 9.

“MI3,” which dominated foreign biz for the first two frames of May, remained a significant player, though its final foreign gross will probably fall short of its predecessors, which grossed $270 million and $330 million overseas. Its key remaining market is Japan, which opens July 8.

“MI3” has performed best in South Korea with $32 million as of May 30, followed by $26.7 million in the U.K. By contrast, German auds haven’t responded to the Tom Cruise actioner as the fourth frame tied for third in Germany with the eighth weekend of “Ice Age: The Meltdown” with $1.03 million.

“MI3” has cumed an unspectacular $9.2 million in Germany, while “Ice Age 2” is nearing $60 million in the market. “It shows that franchises based on popular films are no guarantee of success,” one German exhibitor opined.

Other titles saw mostly targeted releases such as Pedro Almodovar’s “Volver,” which finished third in Italy for the second frame in a row to push the Italo take to $3.2 million. Pic has grossed $11.6 million in a three-month run in Spain.

BVI’s “The Wild” finished a distant third in the U.K. with a decent $1.9 million, with bookers noting that the kidpic is the first to target family audiences since “Ice Age 2.” Blighty auds also supported Bollywood’s “Fanaa,” which notched sixth place at a mere three dozen sites.

UIP launched “Curious George” to moderate response with $2 million at 747 playdates in the U.K., Germany, Austria and Switzerland as of May 30. The distrib saw similar results from its second sesh of “Over the Hedge” with a cume of $1.75 million from 122 sites in Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore on the same date.

(Liza Klaussmann in France, Ed Meza in Germany, Archie Thomas in the U.K., Esther de Prado in Spain, Sheri Jennings in Italy and Michaela Boland in Australia contributed to this report.)

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