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‘Wanted’ a potent weapon overseas

Action film blows away foreign box office

Universal’s assassination actioner “Wanted” came out with both guns blazing overseas, easily winning the weekend with a surprisingly robust $33 million at 1,922 playdates in 22 territories.

With a socko $17,169 per-location average in its day-and-date launch, “Wanted” underlined the drawing power of action pics in the international market as it hunted down No. 1 finishes in almost every territory and looked to keep local pic pirates at bay.

The movie posted particularly boffo returns in the booming Russian market — $11 million at 612 — as it rode the popularity of local helmer Timur Bekmambetov, known for the Russian “Night Watch” movies. The figure represented U’s top launch and the best debut for an R-16 pic in that market.

Universal Intl. president David Kosse said the results exceeded internal forecasts and cited the pic’s “fresh” look plus the star power of Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman and James McAvoy.

“Wanted” opened with an impressive $8 million (including previews) in the U.K., matching the launch of Disney’s much-anticipated “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.” The Blighty take marked the third highest 18-rated film launch behind “Hannibal” and “Sweeney Todd.”

South Korea also saw boffo biz with $6.7 million at 240, representing U’s top launch in the market along with the best opening of an 18-rated Hollywood film. 

Except for the U.K., Universal aimed “Wanted” mostly at fast-burn markets due to the likely impact of piracy, which typically diminishes performance once a pic opens in vulnerable territories. Thailand took in $1.1 million, followed by Hong Kong and Singapore with $870,000 each, the Ukraine pulled in $833,000, Malaysia with $770,000, the Philippines with $746,000, Turkey with $508,000 and Poland with $484,000.

Kosse told Daily Variety that the pic’s performance was particularly impressive given that “Wanted” — based on a graphic novel — had been a largely unknown property with mainstream auds. Kosse acknowledged “Wanted” will face serious competish next weekend from Sony’s Will Smith tentpole “Hancock.” “I think ‘Hancock’ will do very well, but I think we’ve got a lot of momentum from this weekend,” he said.

“Wanted” opens next weekend in Italy, followed by a staggered international release over the next three months.

Unlike Universal, Disney opted for a smallish foreign day-and-date launch for “Wall-E.” The pic nonetheless tallied an impressive $3.1 million at 400 Latin American playdates in half a dozen markets. The toon led in Brazil with $1.6 million in the third biggest Pixar launch after “The Incredibles” and “Finding Nemo” and topped Chile with $525,000 and Colombia with $498,000.

“Wall-E” hits its first major foreign markets next weekend with launches in Mexico and Russia and will open gradually over the rest of the year to maximize local playability opportunities, following a pattern similar to that employed for “Ratatouille.” Given its pedigree and the strong market for CG toons, “Wall-E” could wind up as the best foreign performer this year, a list currently topped by Par’s “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” which has amassed $413 million to date, including $11.4 million over the weekend. “Finding Nemo” is the top international performer among Disney/Pixar titles with a $525 million foreign cume, followed by “Ratatouille” with $410 million and “The Incredibles” with $362 million.

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