‘Mamma Mia!’ still singing overseas

Universal film has grossed $281.5 mill abroad

Talk about holding a note.Universal’s musical “Mamma Mia!” topped the international box office on the first weekend of fall, grossing $16.3 million from 4,768 playdates for a stunning foreign cume of $281.5 million. That’s more than double the $136.4 million domestic gross for the film, already a solid number. Worldwide take is $418 million.

In the U.K., the Meryl Streep-Amanda Seyfried musical held on to the second spot in its ninth frame with a three-day haul of $2.5 million. The pic, which has shown remarkable durability, dropping only 8% off its previous weekend, has now brought in a show-stopping $101 million in the U.K. alone, grossing more than Warner Bros. goliath “The Dark Knight,” which has cumed $82.7 million there.

“Mamma Mia’s” foreign cume is even ahead of U’s adventure-actioner “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor,” which came in second for the weekend of Sept. 5-7. Pic grossed $12.7 million in foreign coin for an overseas cume of $257.2 million.

“Dark Knight” placed No. 3 for the frame, grossing $12.3 million from 2,377 for a foreign gross of $438 million. Coupled with a North American cume of $512 million, “Dark Knight’s” worldwide total is now at $949 million.

Two toons — Disney-Pixar’s “Wall-E” and DreamWorks Animations/Paramount’s “Kung Fu Panda” took spots No. 6 and No. 7, respectively, proving the exceptional lasting power of family pics overseas.

“Wall-E” grossed $6.8 million from 2,234 runs for a foreign cume of $184.7 and a worldwide total of $404 million. “Panda” grossed $6.7 million from 2,436 runs for a foreign cume of $397.3 million and a worldwide total of $611.6 million.

Two male-skewing pics came next, U’s Angelina Jolie-James McAvoy actioner “Wanted” and Fox’s “Babylon A.D.”

“Wanted” grossed $6.1 million from 3,852 for a foreign cume of $147.7 million; “Babylon,” $5.2 million from 2,530 for a pleasing foreign total of $18 million in its second frame.

In Europe, the box office was livened up by the release of two limited openers, Steven Soderbergh’s Che Guevara biopic “The Argentine” and Brit helmer Guy Ritchie’s tough-guy pic “Rocknrolla.”

Fox’s Spanish-language “The Argentine,” the first of Soderbergh’s two “Che” pics toplining Benicio Del Toro, debuted to an encouraging $2.5 million in Spain with a tidy per-location average of $7,683. Che is a widely admired figure in Spain.

“It’s substantially more than expected,” one booker says.

Alvaro Longoria, of Spain’s Morena Films and the pic’s co-producer, says there are several reasons for the pic’s successful bow: Che’s popularity, Del Toro and Soderbergh. There also was a forceful marketing campaign by Telecino and Fox.

Warner Bros.’ “Rocknrolla” shot itself to the top of the box office chart in the U.K. Pic grossed a healthy $2.75 million in its opening frame from 362 playdates, beating “Mamma Mia” and the opening of Keira Knightley starrer “The Duchess.”

Pic marks a commercial and critical return to form for Ritchie, off the back of duds “Swept Away” and “Revolver.”

“Duchess” scored a solid, if unspectacular, $2.4 million bow to take third spot in the U.K. over the frame. That the pic, about 18th century aristocrat Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, failed to dislodge the appeal of “Mamma Mia” among femme auds may cause some concern for distrib Pathe, which invested substantial coin in marketing.

Pathe’s strategy of paralleling Knightley’s character with Princess Diana caused controversy in some circles, although it did help raise the pic’s profile in the run-up to its opening weekend.

Ali Jaafar in the U.K., Emilio Mayorga in Spain, Nick Vivarelli in Italy and David Hayhurst in France contributed to this report.