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Animated films remain reliable o’seas

'Wall-E,' 'Panda' near $700 million combined

Despite the world’s financial crisis, kids and their parents remain a reliable demographic at international multiplexes showing animated fare.

Paramount’s “Kung Fu Panda” and Disney’s “Wall-E” have already combined for nearly $700 million in foreign grosses so far, and Par is already well on its way to proving the power of animated pics with “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa.”

The “Madagascar” sequel’s been launched in a staggered release to coincide with local holidays and had cumed $73.7 million as of Dec. 2 from two dozen markets, including $13.4 million at 2,364 playdates during the Nov. 28-30 frame. More than half of the international total has come from the red-hot Russian market — where it launched a week ahead of the U.S. opening — with $41 million after five weeks.

With release of the sixth Harry Potter pic delayed from November until next summer, Par’s sitting pretty, looking to tap into the same massive family audience that supported the original “Madagascar” with $339 million outside the U.S. three years ago.

In Spain, “Escape 2 Africa” dominated biz, grossing $5.8 million off 580 for a boffo screen average of $9,915 — the best opening for an animated pic in Spain this year, comfortably outstripping “Kung Fu Panda” ($4.9 million) and “Wall-E” ($2.5 million). “Escape 2 Africa” is the third-biggest bow of the year in Spain, behind “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” ($9.7 million) and “Hancock” ($7.2 million).

“It’s a very strong opening, some 15%-20% above our projections,” commented a Spanish booker.

Support for “Escape 2 Africa” was solid enough to help push down the soph sesh of “Quantum of Solace” by an uncharacteristically high 57%.

With holidays approaching, the family market will offer increasing competition for “Escape,” with Disney’s “Bolt” opening in a gradual rollout. The dog toon debuted with $7.9 million at 1,417 playdates in Italy, Russia and Poland.

With openings coming during the Dec. 5-7 frame in France, Germany and the U.K., “Escape 2 Africa” should become the dominant December entry along with Fox’s “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” which goes day and date during the Dec. 12-14 sesh.

That pair of pics figure to follow in the footsteps of “Quantum of Solace,” which won five straight weekends at the foreign box office and closed out November with $340.6 million in international coin.

“Solace” took in $20.6 million during Nov. 28-30 and managed a second-place finish in the U.K., where holiday pic “Four Christmases” won with a solid $3.4 million at 434, including more than $600,000 from Wednesday and Thursday previews. Clint Eastwood’s “Changeling” got off to a decent start in Blighty in third with $1.8 million (including $400,000 in previews) at 351 via Universal.

“Solace” held top spot in Germany for the fourth weekend running. The Bondpic slipped 44% to $2.3 million to push its Teuton cume to $35.1 million, surpassing “Mamma Mia!” to become Germany’s top grosser of the year.

“Twilight” continued to dazzle in Italy with its second straight first-place finish, with $3 million, off 43%, for a tasty $9.8 million Italo cume. “Bolt” opened at No. 2 with $2.1 million, in line with expectations.

In France, “Transporter 3” knocked the stuffing out of the weekend competish, raking in a tidy $4.7 million on 535 in its first five days for EuropaCorp. Result came in 77% better than “Transporter 2.”

The second frame of “Mesrine: Public Enemy Number One” stayed solid for Pathe in Gaul and has cumed $7.9 million. It bowed a month after “Mesrine: Death Instinct,” still sitting pretty in eighth after six frames.

Archie Thomas in London, Andrew Horn in Berlin, Emilio Mayorga in Madrid, Nick Vivarelli in Italy and David Hayhurst in Paris contributed to this report.

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