‘Hairspray’ in top 5 overseas

Musicals often problematic in foreign markets

Through the decades, musicals have had such a spotty time overseas that there’s a famous tale about a South African distrib who, upon receiving “The Sound of Music,” cut out all the songs.

This take-it-or-leave it attitude on the part of international auds has never fully abated, although in recent years, some titles have been able to hit the high notes, notably “Chicago.” The 2002 film grossed a healthy $136 million overseas, and $171 million domestically.

Now, there’s another musical crooning sweetly — New Line’s “Hairspray,” which has been steadily amassing a respectable overseas gross. Through the weekend of Sept. 14-16, the title has cumed $42.5 million internationally, and has yet to open in several key markets, including Japan.

Toplining Nikki Blonsky and John Travolta, “Hairspray” has grossed $116.4 million domestically, becoming a surprise hit and one of the few musicals to cross the $100 million mark at the box office. It seems international auds are likewise impressed by the feel-good bigscreen adaptation of the Broadway musical, in turn based on John Waters’ movie.

Over the Sept. 14-16 frame, the film placed No. 5 on the overseas charts, a nifty feat considering its nine weeks in release. For the weekend, the musical racked up $5.6 million from 2,033 playdates, led by a successful Australia launch of $2.9 million and even a South African launch of $780,045.

“Hairspray” was last seen in the top five when it debuted overseas on July 20 in the U.K., where, at a cume of $29.2 million, it has amassed much of its gross.

It’s not clear how much song “Hairspray” has left in it overseas, but it should still be able to belt out a few good numbers. Pic, set to open in Brazil over the weekend of Sept. 21-23, unspools in Japan and Italy later this month, and in Russia in October, among other territories.

Other recent tuners weren’t as fortunate: DreamWorks-Paramount’s “Dreamgirls” grossed $51.2 million overseas, and $103.4 domestically. Universal’s “The Producers” — a disappointment both in the U.S. and overseas — grossed $18.6 million overseas and $19.4 million domestically.

At the top of the heap for the Sept. 14-16 frame were Universal’s “The Bourne Ultimatum” and 20th Century Fox’s “The Simpsons Movie.”

“Bourne” grossed $20.8 million from 4,333 playdates in 46 markets for an international cume of $125 million. “Simpsons,” which has far outpaced expectations, grossed $10 million at 3,000 for a cume of $322.5 million.

With summer over, more room is opening up for local fare.

Japanese film “Hero,” based on a hit Fuji TV series, came in No. 3 overseas for the weekend of Sept. 14-16, grossing $7.1 million from 475 runs in its Japan opening.

Pic, distributed by Toho, is a courtroom drama-cum-romancer about a rebel prosecutor. Toho was so ebullient, it predicted the film could outperform the highest-grossing pic of the year to date in Japan, “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” which has accumulated roughly $88 million.

Two South Korean pics made the top 20 overseas list for the weekend. Cinema Service’s “Mission Possible: Kidnapping Granny K” came in No. 17, grossing $2.2 million from 420 runs in its Korean debut. Showbox’s dramedy “2 Faces of My Girlfriend” placed No. 20, grossing $1.7 million in its debut.

After “Bourne,” “Simpsons” and “Hero,” DreamWorks Animation-Paramount’s “Shrek the Third” came in No. 4, grossing $5.7 million from 1,445 runs for a cume of $459.3, and including a $938,000 launch in Greece, where it set an opening-day record for an animated pic.

With “Hairspray” coming in No. 5, Disney-Pixar’s overseas hit “Ratatouille” came in No. 6, grossing $5.4 million from 3,092 runs. Warner Bros. “No Reservations,” New Line’s “Rush Hour 3” and U’s “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry,” came in No. 7, No. 8 and No. 9, respectively.

Coming in No. 10 over the Sept. 14-16 frame was Sony’s toon “Surf’s Up,” which grossed $3.2 million for an overseas cume of $43 million. Pic, one of the summer’s few washouts, grossed $58.9 domestically. Its overseas run is largely done, so the worldwide cume of $101.8 million probably won’t budge much.

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