Overseas box office has record year

Sales up 10% in '07 at nearly $10 billion

It’s now official — the foreign box office posted a 10% increase for 2007, finishing with $9.52 billion for the Big Six studios.

With Warner Bros. still counting its coin, the final combined figure was nearly $1 billion better than 2006.

Warner’s final foreign number for 2007 was $2.24 billion — an all-time record that topped its previous high of $2.19 billion in 2004.

Studio disclosed the numbers as part of its announcement to tap Sue Kroll as new marketing czar in the wake of Dawn Taubin’s recent departure. Kroll, formerly international marketing maven for the studio, will now oversee marketing on a global basis.

Warner finished more than half a billion dollars ahead of Disney and Fox as it closed out the year in style with Will Smith actioner “I Am Legend.”

“Legend” easily won the year’s two final weekends and the first two frames of 2008. For the Jan. 11-13 frame, it pulled in stronger numbers than projected and wound up with $39.8 million on 4.6 million admissions from 5,100 prints in 47 territories, pushing the international cume $221.4 million.

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Fox closed out 2007 at $1.7 billion, with Fox seeing a bump in its grosses thanks to its Russian hit “Irony of Fate 2,” which had cumed over $44 million as of mid-January. Disney followed at $1.69 billion.

Par came in fourth at $1.59 billion, while Sony delivered $1.29 billion. Universal chipped in with $1.03 billion.

And it wasn’t just the Big Six doing major business overseas.

New Line’s “The Golden Compass,” handled by various distribs, hit $240.4 million overseas as of Jan. 13.

The “Compass” foreign figure represented a remarkable 78% of the worldwide gross of $307 million in one of the most prominent examples of a pic that worked much better internationally than in the U.S., where its domestic gross will probably top out around $72 million.

On the foreign front, “Compass” has begun running out of gas, grossing $8.2 million during the Jan. 13-15 frame. Still, the numbers remain impressive, with the picture finishing No. 2 for the weekend.

Most receptive foreign market for “Compass” has been the U.K. with $50.4 million, followed by France with $23.7 million, South Korea with $22.5 million, Germany with $20.5 million, Spain with $17.9 million and Australia with $10.6 million.

A small slice of “Compass” coin has shown up in Warner Bros. coffers, since it handled the pic in Germany and in most of Eastern Europe.

In another development showing the strength of the foreign market, the Weinstein Co. announced Jan. 15 that its 2007 slate of films grossed more than $210 million internationally, up 170% from its first year in business. President Glen Basner noted the hike was spread across a wide array of films.

Stephen King’s “1408” was the leader with $49 million, followed by “TMNT” (the fourth installment in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise) with $41 million and Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof” with more than $28 million.

Coming in No. 3 internationally for the Jan. 11-13 frame after “Legend” and “Compass” was Disney’s “National Treasure: Book of Secrets.” Nearly beating “Compass,” the Disney sequel grossed $14.7 million at 4,700 in 31 markets for an international cume of $127.5 million midway in its run.

“Book of Secrets” opened in the Philippines to a solid $1.2 million, and topped $1 million in its fourth frames in Span and Japan. Pic should have no trouble outperforming the $174 million international total for the original “National Treasure.”

Placing No. 4 for the frame overall was Fox sequel “Aliens vs. Predator — Requiem.” Pic scared up a respectable $13 million at 4,300 as the sequel debuted in Russia with $3.4 million and in Spain with $2.5 million. “AVP 2” has cumed $53 million offshore, in line with expectations.

Fox also took the No. 5 spot internationally with “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” which grossed $9.6 million at 4,000 in 50 markets for an international total of $81.4 million. A runaway hit domestically, “Alvin” has grossed more than $270 worldwide to date.

Andrew Horn in Germany, Emilio Mayorga in Spain, Nick Vivarelli in Italy and David Hayhurst in France contributed to this report.