Sequels dominate international box office

'Spider-Man,' 'Shrek,' and 'Pirates' speak revenue

The third time really has been the charm so far this summer at the international box office.

Three franchises in their third iteration — Sony’s “Spider-Man,” Paramount’s “Shrek” and Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” — have combined for an eye-popping $1.5 billion in overseas revenues. Each has led the foreign markets for three weekends.

Most importantly, the trio has managed to meet studio expectations — even though the bar for each was set at an impressively high level. And the three pics have goosed overall foreign biz for the first six months of 2007 for Hollywood studios by 13% over the same period last year.

“Spider-Man 3,” with $550 million in foreign coin, managed to beat its predecessors by an impressive 24%; “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” is on track to match the final international gross of $642 million for “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”; and, as of July 2, “Shrek the Third” was already well over halfway to matching the $479 million mark for “Shrek 2,” even though it hasn’t yet launched in Italy and Scandinavia.

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“Shrek the Third” completed the trifecta during the June 29-July 1 frame, thanks largely to a boffo Brit launch of $33.6 million in the biggest opening by an animated pic in the territory, beating “Shrek 2” by $1 million. “Shrek 2” went on to an $88 million final cume in Blighty.

Brits appeared unfazed by last weekend’s terrorist incidents as “Shrek the Third” notched the third biggest opener of all time in the U.K. behind the first two “Harry Potter” pics. Persistently rainy weekend weather across the British Isles pushed patrons toward indoor activities and helped drive box office.

“You can’t do numbers like that unless there is a huge appetite for the film,” notes Chris Hedges, managing director of Paramount Pictures U.K. He points out that the toon sequel managed to rack up impressive numbers on July 1 against the televised “Concert for Diana.”

“Shrek the Third” had already shown decent traction in other major markets such as France with nearly $30 million in three frames. Even after three weeks, the green ogre’s $5.4 million frame matched the combined grosses of the next three pics — the second weekend of “Ocean’s Thirteen,” the launch of local title “Persepolis” and the sixth frame of “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

Shrek has been a monster everywhere else — Australia with $23 million in four weekends; Russia with $22 million in seven; Mexico with $21 million in six; and Spain and Germany had cleared $17 million and $15 million, respectively, through their soph seshes.

The only sour spot came in Japan, where “Shrek the Third” launched in third place with $2.98 million — far behind the “Die Hard 4” opening and the sixth frame of “Pirates.”

Perhaps most notably, “Shrek the Third” has racked up solid figures in one of the most competitive periods in memory. The June 29-July 1 frame saw five other films — “Transformers,” “Live Free or Die Hard,” “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer,” “Ocean’s Thirteen” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” — combine for a beefy $110 million in international coin.

And the weekend offered a sharp contrast with the same frame of 2006, when the top three films — “Superman Returns,” “Cars” and “Over the Hedge” — combined for a mere $45 million as soccer’s World Cup held down moviegoing outside the U.S.

Recent stellar returns also bode well for socko biz on the foreign front with “Transformers” and the fourth “Die Hard” at the start of their international runs. And overseas biz should receive another jolt on July 11 when “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” opens with a powerful pedigree that’s seen the four previous “Potter” pics generate $2.4 billion in offshore grosses.

Paramount slotted “Transformers” into 10 foreign markets a week before its Stateside launch in order to distance itself from “Phoenix” and take advantage of local holidays. That strategy worked especially well in South Korea, with $14.75 million in its first five days, and in Australia with $7.6 million.

In Italy, the toy-based vehicle easily took the top spot with $4.07 million in its first five days, giving energy to an otherwise flat frame. The Michael Bay actioner caused a 31% rise in Italo grosses compared with the previous weekend.

“Transformers” also rocked in mid-tier Asian markets with beefy five-day cumes of $3.5 million in Taiwan, $2.5 million in the Philippines, $2.1 million each in Singapore and Thailand and $1.77 million in Malaysia.

Three other sequels — “Live Free or Die Hard,” “Ocean’s Thirteen” and “Silver Surfer” — generated respectable rather than spectacular numbers. The bar’s set fairly high for each in terms of matching the final foreign cume of the previous iteration: $265 million for “Die Hard With a Vengeance,” $237 million for “Ocean’s Twelve” and $175 million for “Fantastic Four.”

The latest “Die Hard” incarnation — dubbed “Die Hard 4” in most foreign markets — opened solidly with over $30 million, led by Germany and Japan with more than $7 million each. The Japanese launch put an end to the five-week winning streak by “Pirates,” which has cumed nearly $75 million in that market.

“Thirteen” had gone past $124 million as of July 1, with the U.K. by far the best performer with $22.7 million, followed by Germany with nearly $13 million.

“Surfer” had cumed more than $81 million internationally as of July from four dozen territories but Fox opted for clearer windows by waiting until August for releases in France, Korea and Spain.

Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof” pulled in $11.5 million from 17 markets, led by $4.3 million in France and $2.8 million in Italy; “Hostel: Part II” opened in fourth in the U.K. with $1.3 million and has cumed $8 million from 15 territories.

Archie Thomas in London and Nick Vivarelli in Rome contributed to this report.

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