France keeps ‘Mamma’ singing

Universal musical benefits from French release

Universal’s unstoppable musical “Mamma Mia!” once again dominated the overseas box office over the Sept. 12-14 weekend as it jumped the $300 million mark, grossing $20.3 million from 4,303 playdates for a cume of $306.9 million.

That’s far and away the best foreign gross ever for a live-action musical. “Chicago” cumed just north of $136 million internationally.

“Mamma Mia’s” latest weekend take was led by its bow in France, where it grossed a wholesome $3.3 million on 462 in its first five days.

Even though summer is over, holdover Hollywood fare continued to enjoy strong business, and not just “Mamma Mia.”

Coming in No. 2 at the foreign box office for the weekend was Sony’s Will Smith tentpole “Hancock,” which grossed $10.5 million from 1,534 runs for an international cume of $375.9 million.

Universal also took the No. 3 and No. 4 spots with “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” and Angelina Jolie-James McAvoy actioner “Wanted,” respectively.

“Dragon Emperor” grossed $9.4 million from 3,745 for a cume of $269 million (no one could have predicted that “Mamma Mia” would outperform the “Mummy” three-quel). “Wanted” captured $8 million from 2,132 locations for a foreign cume of $158.4 million.

Warner Bros. Batman sequel “The Dark Knight” placed No. 5 for the weekend, grossing $6.9 million from 4,100 theaters for a foreign total of $449.1 million.

While “Mamma Mia” came in No. 1 in France, “Wanted” shot to the top in Spain, “Hancock” flew high Italy, “Pineapple Express” lit a fire in the U.K. and “The Dark Knight” continued to rule in Germany.

“Mamma Mia” wasn’t the only new offering in France. Twentieth Century Fox’s “Mirrors,” from Gallic horror helmer Alexandre Aja, made a pleasing showing at $1.66 million on 246. Warner Bros.’ “Get Smart” had a solid first week in a nation where auds never seem to tire of spy spoofs. “Get Smart” grossed $1.43 million from 447 runs.

Off in France by only 25% in its second frame, local dramedy “Commes les autres” (Baby Love) is a success for Mars, having cumed $2.84 million on 301 — up 50 prints from opening day.

Universal’s “Wanted” placed comfortably in the top spot in Spain, nabbing $3.4 million from 430 and establishing a nice copy-average of $7,429. Coming in second place was Fox’s “The Argentine,” the first part of Steven Soderbergh’s Spanish-language “Che” biopic. Showing that it’s not a one-weekend wonder, “Argentine” added $1.7 million in its soph sesh for a $6 million cume.

Spain is the first territory where “Argentine” has bowed.

“Spain is a barometer for ‘Che’s’ international performance,” one booker notes. “The question is whether you can extrapolate Spain’s results to another country — Che was a legendary hero for many youngsters during Francisco Franco’s dictatorship.”

Also in Spain, Manga’s “Spirit of the Forest” placed 10th, achieving a respectable $356,623. Surprisingly, BVI’s local thriller “King of the Hill” disappointed on its home turf, managing just $155,710. Pic has done well in terms of international sales, including going to the Weinstein Co. in the U.S.

In Italy, after a long, somnolent summer, the box office finally woke up — leaping 58% compared with the previous weekend as curtains closed on the holiday season. “Hancock” made most of the coin, grossing a whopping $7.2 million in its first frame. The meaty total came off 613 screens, for an $11,813 average for Sony Pictures.

“Pineapple Express” scored a first-place finish in the U.K., with a decent $2.5 million launch, followed by “Mamma Mia!,” which continued to do sensational biz, off just 25% to $1.9 million and a $116 million cume.

Warner’s tough-guy drama “Rocknrolla” stayed solid in its second frame with $1.7 million for a $6 million total, while Holocaust drama “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” debuted smartly for Disney with $900,000 at 168 for the best per-location average in the top 10.

“The Dark Knight” continued to strike fear in its rivals as it cleaned up at the German box office for the fourth weekend running. Dropping 38%, the Batman sequel nabbed $2 million on its way toward a boffo $25.2 million total.

“Gomorrah,” Matteo Garrone’s uncompromising look at the Camorra underground in Naples, opened in eighth with $312,971 from 65 via Prokino/Fox for a decent per-location-average of $4,815.

The only other new entry to squeeze into the top 10, Sony’s “Step Brothers,” failed to tickle Teutonic moviegoers, taking only $278,541 from 100.

Michael Day in Italy, David Hayhurst in France, Emilio Mayorga in Spain and Dave McNary in the U.S. contributed to this report.