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‘Simpsons’ spreads yellow fever o’seas

Fox's animated film takes over the world

Homer is a genuine jetsetter.

No one could have predicted how well 20th Century Fox’s “The Simpsons Movie” would do domestically — much less overseas.

In its debut over the July 27 frame, “Simpsons” raked in $96 million from 71 foreign markets, leaving Homer and his brood yukking it up and making more than Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter and Order of the Phoenix” and DreamWorks-Paramount’s “Transformers” combined.

Overseas bow marked a stellar launch for the “Simpsons,” which has yet to open in several key markets, including Japan, and just opened Aug. 1 in Mexico.

Stateside, “Simpsons” bowed at $74 million, nabbing the third highest opening for an animated pic after the last two “Shrek” installments.

Heading into the frame, international box office forecasters had suggested “Transformers” and “Phoenix” would give “Simpsons” plenty of competish in those territories where they were going head to head, if not beat the animated feature altogether.

The appeal of “Simpsons” overseas is a testament to the popularity of the irreverent skein, which is in syndication around the globe, as well as a savvy and aggressive marketing campaign by Fox.

International fan base for “Simpsons” extends far beyond just English-speaking territories.

Pic broke a number of records in some territories, including the highest opening day ever in Argentina, Columbia and Chile, as well as Australia. Among animated pics, “Simpsons,” nabbed the highest opening day in Belgium, Finland, Germany, New Zealand, Peru, Sweden, Uruguay and Venezuela.

“Simpsons” saw its biggest draw in the United Kingdom, where it made a hefty $25.6 million from 499 playdates. “Transformers,” also opening in that frame, couldn’t begin to keep up, making $17.6 million from 456 locations.

Germany was also sweet on “Simpsons,” ponying up $14.2 million in box office receipts from 754 runs of the toon. Australia came in at $11.3 million, while France posted $9.5 million from 716 locations. As in the U.K., “Simpsons” went up against “Transformers,” which made $6.7 million from 872 runs in its Gaul bow.

In its second week, starting Aug. 1, “Simpsons” opened in Mexico, along with Denmark, India and Poland. Pic won’t open in South Korea, Holland and Taiwan until later this month, followed by Italy and Brazil in September. Japan will wait for a 2008 launch for the toon hit.

With overseas grosses for Hollywood fare exceeding domestic box office receipts, “Simpsons” could ultimately make as much as $350 million overseas.

Fox’s other summer contenders, Bruce Willis starrer “Live Free or Die Hard” and “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer,” have also performed solidly in overseas markets.

Through the weekend of July 27, “Live Free” has pulled in $177 million overseas and $125.4 million domestically, for a worldwide cume of $302.4 million.

“Surfer,” which has yet to open in several territories, including France, Germany and Japan, has made $109.4 million internationally and $129.9 million domestically for a worldwide cume of $239.3 million.

After “Simpsons,” the weekend of July 27 was a match-up between “Phoenix” and “Transformers.”

“Phoenix” took second place with a respectable $50 million on 12,000 copies for a foreign cume of $450 million — only $90 million short of “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” the only other Potter pic to bow in the summer.

Warners did hit an important milestone over the July 27 frame — combined, the five Potter pics have made nearly $4.24 billion in worldwide ticket sales, making it the second-highest-grossing global franchise after the 22 Bond pics, and edging out the six “Star Wars” Films.

“Transformers” made $42 million from 5,362 runs, including launches in the U.K., France, Hong Kong and Belgium. Pic sweetened its pot in South Korea by $1.6 million for a cume of $48 million. It’s the top foreign pic of all time in South Korea. Overall foreign cume is $246.5 million.

Simmering at No. 3 was Disney-Pixar’s “Ratatouille,” which made $10 million at 1,560 runs in 18 markets. Toon, which is rolling out slowly overseas, launched in Japan at $4.2 million. Over the weekend of Aug. 3, the pic launched in France — where the toon is set — Spain, Hong Kong and Benelux.

Still seeing plenty of action was Fox’s “Live Free,” which took No. 5 overseas with $8.5 million from 4,000 runs.

Hollywood’s summer run overseas continued to be far more bountiful than last year, with foreign grosses for major studios 15% ahead of last year’s record-setting pace.

And, as of July 31, Paramount Pictures Intl. became the fifth studio to take in more than $1 billion at the foreign box office. Par joins Sony, Warner Bros., Disney and Fox.

It’s the first time in history that five studios have crossed the $1 billion boundary in a calendar year.

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