‘Knight’ mighty in overseas launch

Bat raises hell at foreign box office

The box office Batfrenzy swooped into international markets as “The Dark Knight” launched brightly with $40 million at 4,500 playdates in only 20 territories.

Meanwhile, Universal’s “Mamma Mia!” continued singing sweetly overseas with $26.8 million at 2,407 in 21 markets, turning in the best per-screen average among major pics with $11,134. Brit biz led the way with a tuneful $9.3 million, off only 11% in its second frame, while the pic opened in first Germany at $5.9 million and saw No. 1 launches in Holland, Austria and Hungary — all notching records for the best launch of a musical.

“Mamma Mia!” has cumed $72.6 million internationally in 11 days with 35 markets left. The feel-good musical looks likely to remain a counterprogramming player along the lines of “Sex and the City,” which has topped $225 million offshore.

As for “The Dark Knight,” Australia led the way with $13.1 million, the top launch weekend for a superhero pic in Oz, followed by Mexico with $6.6 million and Brazil with $4.3 million in that market’s best 2008 opening. Foreign Batgross should soar next weekend with “The Dark Knight” winging into Holland, Italy and the U.K.

The socko foreign debut for “The Dark Knight” — which finished a close second to the third frame of “Hancock” with $44.8 million at 8,286 — portends blockbuster offshore biz. Warner Bros. noted that the openings in the same markets came in 36% ahead of “Hancock” and 39% above “Iron Man,” both which have topped $250 million internationally.

Should “The Dark Knight” enter that realm, it would soar above the previous five Batman pics. That quintet’s racked up respectable rather than spectacular foreign biz with a combined $700 million overseas, led by the $166 million from 2005’s “Batman Begins.”

Overall offshore biz remained robust for the third straight frame, with the top five pics combining for $155 million. With Warners waiting another week to open “Knight” in Europe, “Mamma Mia!,” “Hancock,” “Kung Fu Panda” and “Wall-E” all collected serious coin from those markets.

“Hancock” launched in Spain with $8.6 million and showed solid staying power with more than $4 million in France, Germany, Russia and the U.K., where it’s cumed $41 million after three weeks. International cume’s hit $253.5 million, and with launches coming in Italy and Japan, the Will Smith vehicle’s likely to eclipse the $327 million final foreign gross for “I Am Legend.”

A pair of family faves — Par’s “Kung Fu Panda” and Disney’s “Wall-E” — also showed plenty of traction with “Kung Fu Panda” putting its paws on $27.8 million at 6,525 in 58 markets as holdovers contributed the lion’s share. “Panda” has dug up solid biz everywhere, led by $41 million in the U.K. and $26 million in South Korea, for a foreign cume of $270 million to trail only “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” with $448.4 million, among 2008 releases.

“Wall-E” scooped up $14.4 million at 3,950 in 20 markets, mostly from an impressive $8.8 million launch in the U.K., where it was edged by “Mamma Mia!” The Pixar toon’s still early in its foreign run with $53 million in overseas coin.

A week after “Red Cliff” opened impressively in Asia, South Korea saw local pic “The Good the Bad the Weird” launch with a solid $14 million, while Japan’s Hayao Miyazaki cartoon “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea” debuted in first with an estimated $8.2 million.

Moviegoing was so robust that five other pics topped $5 million: U’s “Wanted” with $10.6 million at 2,959 for a foreign cume of $95.4 million and its “Hellboy II” with $9.1 million at 1,385; Disney’s “Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” with $7 million for a $230 million international total; Warner’s “Get Smart” with $6.6 million at 2,500; and “Journey to the Center of the Earth” with $5.5 million.

Fox’s “Meet Dave” represented one of the few slow spots in foreign biz with $3.3 million at 1,334 for an $8.5 million cume, mirroring its downbeat domestic performance.

(Mark Schilling in Japan and Han Sunhee in South Korea contributed to this report.)

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