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Overseas bows are all over map

Global box office increasingly important

Is Tuesday the new Friday overseas?

Tuesday isn’t a traditional opening day in any market, but after Sony’s record-breaking launch of “Spider-Man 3” in 15 key territories on May 1, studios are wondering if that strategy will work for them with big summer tentpoles.

The answer is: Probably not. But there may be another lesson to be learned from Sony’s move.

In its first four days, “Spider-Man 3” raked in $63 million before its May 4 domestic bow.

One of the reasons is that May Day is a national holiday in those 15 markets where it opened, meaning that Tuesdays are not necessarily a boffo launch date.

However, rival studios are admiring the results from Sony’s overseas launches in advance of the pic’s North American bow.

Though the U.S. opening is still regarded as the key event in global box office, it’s becoming less so as distribs seek the best possible launch date.

For example, Paramount is launching “Transformers” on June 28 in Australia, Italy, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea — six days ahead of the domestic opening, to take advantage of local holidays.

Rival execs believe Par wants to get as much distance as possible between “Transformers” and the fifth “Harry Potter,” which launches July 11 overseas.

Sony had four days of intense openings with “Spider-Man.” But a more extreme example of this strategy comes from Universal, which has stunned the world with $170 million in foreign box office for “Mr. Bean’s Holiday.” It won’t open in the U.S. until the end of August.

Warner Bros. grossed more than $40 million in Japan last winter with “Letters From Iwo Jima” prior to the U.S. launch; Universal took in $50 million in foreign markets from “Hot Fuzz” this spring before opening domestically; and Fox’s sci-fier “Sunshine” has taken in $25 million overseas ahead of a fall launch.

“We always consider going early in some markets for the best possible dates, because the world’s not on the same cultural calendar,” notes Universal Pictures Intl. topper David Kosse. “We went two weeks earlier internationally on ‘The Interpreter’ in 2005, because we wanted to get out before ‘Kingdom of Heaven,’ which was always going to be much bigger internationally.”

Another exec noted it would easier if all films matched up overseas launches with the U.S. opening day of Friday, but added that will never happen: “That’s like saying it would be more convenient if we didn’t have to dub and everyone paid in dollars.”

The Tuesday sked that worked so well for “Spidey” isn’t likely to be copied very often. “Was it more complicated going on Tuesday?” asked Jay Sands, senior VP of Sony Pictures Releasing Intl. “The short answer is ‘yes.’ We had to alter our media buys, which was difficult in places like France, but it was also an enormous opportunity, because of the holiday and not because of the day of the week.”

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