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‘Shrek’ tops overseas box office

'Transformers' int'l release brings in $34.7 mil

The ugly ogre’s sitting pretty overseas as “Shrek the Third” dominated a robust weekend at the foreign box office with $69.6 million at 6,489 playdates in 52 markets.

But there was plenty of international green for tentpoles as “Transformers” debuted ahead of its U.S. launch with a stellar $34.7 million at 2,261 in 10 territories and “Live Free or Die Hard” shot down a solid $30.7 million at 3,583 in day and date openings in 35 markets.

And a trio of holdovers — “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer,” “Ocean’s Thirteen” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” — impressed with each grossing at least $14 million.

With the top six pics combining for $179 million, the frame dwarfed the year-ago weekend when “Superman Returns” led with $20 million amid a chill in moviegoing due to soccer’s World Cup. And it highlighted the strong performance so far this year of Hollywood films in foreign markets, well above 2006’s record-setting pace.

The tentpoles are mostly meeting studio expectations that each sequel can match its previous iteration, underlining the strategy of focusing on easily recognized franchises that can perform throughout the world. The third “Pirates of the Caribbean” became only the seventh pic to cross the $600 million mark in international grosses and trails the final “Pirates 2” foreign cume by only $33 million after six weeks; “Shrek the Third” has already grossed $259 million overseas, more than halfway to matching “Shrek 2.”

Paramount’s “Shrek the Third” grabbed an eye-popping $31 million at 537 in its U.K. launch, including $12.7 million in previews in an indication that Brits were undeterred by the latest wave of terror threats. Minus previews, the opening came in 5% ahead of “Shrek 2,” which went on to gross $88 million in Blighty.

French patrons stayed supportive in the third frame as Shrek declined only 29% to $5.3 million for a $29.2 million cume while Spanish biz remained beefy with a 37% fall to $4.8 million. And the ogre turned monstrous in Poland, smashing the launch record with $4.1 million at 88, and set the second-highest opening mark in South Africa with $921,000.

“Shrek the Third” opened more moderately in Japan — where American animated pics have a mixed record — with $2.8 million at 542, trailing the launch of “Live Free or Die Hard” and the sixth frame of “Pirates 3.” Still, that was 42% ahead of “Shrek 2,” which went on to gross $22 million in Japan.

Paramount also saw stalwart numbers from “Transformers,” which logged the top per-location average with $15,351, as the disrib opted for playing into local holidays plus distancing itself from Warner’s mid-July launch of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.” South Korea sparked to “Transformers” in the fourth biggest launch ever with $12.4 million at 549 while the Michael Bay pic posted the best 4-day launch ever in Singapore with $1.7 million.

“Transformers” led in all 10 of its markets, including Australia with $6.7 million, Italy with $3.6 million, Taiwan with $3 million and the Philippines with $2.1 million; in eight of those, it topped “War of the Worlds,” which rang up a stellar $357 million overseas in 2005. “Transformers” moves into a dozen more markets next weekend, including Russia, Spain and Scandinavia.

“Live Free or Die Hard,” known mostly by the “Die Hard 4” moniker internationally, turned in its top numbers in Germany with $7.6 million at 873 and in Japan with $7.2 million at 735 in the first appearance of the Bruce Willis franchise in a dozen years. Fox Intl. co-topper Paul Hanneman asserted the performance met internal forecasts — geared to matching the $265 million international cume for 1995’s “Die Hard With a Vengeance.”

Fox’s “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” also showed enough traction to remain on track to equal the international performance by its predecessor, which took in $175 million two years ago. “Surfer” landed with $15.2 million at 6,200, pushing the cume to $81.2 million, as Mexico kicked in $3.3 million in its second frame and Brazil launched with a beefy $2.9 million; it opens in August in France, Korea and Spain.

Warner’s “Ocean’s Thirteen” chipped in with $14.5 million at 5,700 in 51 markets to raise its foreign cume to $124 million — more than halfway to matching the final overseas figure for “Ocean’s Twelve” — as the studio sees respectable performance from counter-programming against fare aimed at the younger demo. “Thirteen” took in its best figures in its second French frame with $2.2 million, its fourth U.K. weekend with $1.9 million and its Mexican launch of $1.8 million.

BVI’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” followed with $14.1 million at 8,779, led by Japan with $3.9 million and France and the U.K. with $1.4 million each — all with impressive holds, falling less than 28%. It’s now sixth highest in foreign grosses at $608.9 million and ninth in worldwide at $904.7 million.

BVI also saw decent numbers from its limited day and date opening of “Ratatouille” with $4.7 million at 520 in half a dozen markets, mostly from Russia with $3.3 million. The Pixar pic moves into Brazil and Mexico next frame and will launch gradually over the rest of the summer and early fall as the distrib tries to take advantage of strong reviews.

Sony’s “Spider-Man 3,” which fulfilled forecasts as it jump-started summer biz overseas, ensnared $1 million to become the 10th largest international film with $548.9 million and the 11th biggest globally with $883 million.

Other notable pics during the frame included Sony’s “Hostel Part II” with $2.2 million, Warner’s “Zodiac” with $1.2 million and U’s “Evan Almighty” with $900,000.

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