‘Horton’ hears healthy returns overseas

Film the only pic to hit eight figures during frame

With tentpole season nearing, Hollywood’s been warming up by putting its muscle overseas behind family-oriented pics that can travel to multiple markets.

Fox’s “Horton Hears a Who!” has underlined that strategy in recent frames, racking up back-to-back wins in the international arena during the final March weekend and the first April sesh. Despite Horton being mostly an unknown entity outside the United States — like the rest of the Dr. Seuss characters — the CGI toon’s headed well past the $100 million mark.

“Horton” was the only pic to hit eight figures during a mild April 4-6 frame.

And only seven other films — French spoof “Disco,” Chinese epic “Three Kingdoms,” French megahit “Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis,” fantasy adventure “The Spiderwick Chronicles,” caveman actioner “10,000 BC” and dance sequel “Step Up 2 the Streets” — went past the $5 million mark during the frame.

“Horton” turned in a decent $3.3 million French launch and showed respectable traction in holdover markets. The toon has topped studio expectations with a $90 million foreign cume and several key markets such as Italy, South Korea and Japan yet to open.

“Horton” has totaled $221 million worldwide so far, underscoring the ongoing strength of high-profile well-promoted CGI animated fare. The last entry from Blue Sky Studios, “Ice Age: the Meltdown” grossed well over $400 million from international markets, as did last year’s “Shrek the Third” and “Ratatouille.”

The last major animated entry, “Bee Movie,” totaled $286 million worldwide, including $160 million overseas.

Local films took the next three slots, led by Fabien Onteniente’s much-hyped laffer “Disco” with $9.3 million in a “Saturday Night Fever” spoof for Studio Canal. Onteniente was re-united with French comic Franck Dubosc for the first time since the 2006 hit “Camping.”

“Three Kingdoms — Resurrection of the Dragon” followed with $8.1 million on less than 900 screens in China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan with a beefy per-location average of $9,026. The star cast, including Maggie Q, Andy Lau and Sammo Hung, helped propel the pic to a strong start throughout the region.

Pathe’s “Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis” continued to amaze, with $8 million at less than 1,000 sites in France, Belgium and Switzerland. Dany Boon’s comedy about the French-Belgian border region has become a phenomenon over the past six weeks, with a $180 million cume from only three markets.

“Ch’tis” has now totaled 17.5 million viewers in Gaul — smashing the previous record for a French-made pic, set by helmer Gerard Oury’s 1966 laffer “La Grande Vadrouille.” Only “Titanic” has ever sold more tickets in Gaul, at nearly 20.8 million.

Par’s “Spiderwick Chronicles” conjured up $7.15 million at 3,477 to lift its foreign cume to $59 million — or $11 million short of the domestic total. The fantasy’s worldwide total has hit nearly $129 million for a decent rather than spectacular performance.

Warner’s “10,000 BC” hunted down another $5.9 million at 4,900 in 62 markets and raised its international total to $154 million — 63% of the worldwide total. Although other titles such as “I Am Legend,” “National Treasure: Book of Secrets,” “Enchanted” and “The Golden Compass” have all topped the $200 million mark, “10,000 BC” is the top performer so far this year in terms of offshore coin among Hollywood’s 2008 titles.

“Step Up 2 to the Streets,” handled by Summit and Universal, kicked in a decent $5.2 million at 1,580 in 29 markets. The sequel has totaled $61 million overseas, $11 million better than the original and $4 million ahead of its domestic cume.

Fox’s “Jumper,” Hollywood’s only other 2008 title to top $100 million overseas, came in a shade under $5 million to lift its foreign cume to $131.7 million. One other pic topped $4 million — Sony’s “Vantage Point” with a moderate $4.2 million at 2,225 for a foreign cume of $67.7 million, nearly matching the domestic take.

In Germany, the ninth frame of documentary “Earth” remained an impressive performer with $1 million to lift its Teuton cume to $29 million. Pic’s already taken in another $40 million from other territories including France and Japan.

(David Hayhurst in France and Patrick Frater in Hong Kong contributed to this report.)

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