Clint mints overseas box office

International auds along for Eastwood's 'Torino'

The love affair between overseas auds and Clint Eastwood continues as “Gran Torino” speeds its way to becoming his top-grossing film of all time at the international box office.

Only now rolling out in major European markets, Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow’s “Gran Torino” even beat the opening of superhero pic “Watchmen” in France and Spain over the weekend.

“Watchmen” easily topped the international box office chart in its day-and-date release in most major territories, grossing $28.6 million in what most foreign distribs described as a solid, but not spectacular, launch. Pic opened to $55.2 million domestically.

Through March 8, “Gran Torino’s” foreign cume was $34 million. Warners is already predicting that the pic will eclipse the $127 million earned at the foreign B.O. by “Million Dollar Baby.”

The films Eastwood either toplines or directs have long been popular internationally, but in more recent years the overseas take has often eclipsed that in North America.

“Changeling,” released in the fall, cumed $75 million overseas compared with a domestic gross of $35.7 million.

Eastwood had previously courted Japanese audiences when making companion films “Flags of Our Fathers” and the Japanese-language “Letters From Iwo Jima.” In North America, “Letters” grossed $13.8 million; overseas, it grossed $55 million, with more than $40 million made in Japan alone.

Spain and France have long been strongholds for Eastwood, but other countries are proving just as amorous. “Gran Torino” scored the highest opening ever for an Eastwood film in the U.K., Australia and Argentina, in addition to Spain and France.

“Just as on the domestic side, people wanted to see him in the kind of role they’ve always loved him for,” Warners prexy of international distribution Veronika Kwan-Rubinek said.

Pic scored the highest second weekend for an Eastwood title in both France and the U.K.

In its Spanish launch over the March 6-8 frame, “Torino” grossed $2.7 million. Film nabbed the best per-location average — $11,421 — since “Hancock’s” $12,231 in July.

“A key factor has been the announcement by Eastwood that this was his last performance in a movie,” one distributor said.

“Watchmen” grossed $1.9 million in its Spanish launch, coming in No. 3 behind “Gran Torino” and Disney’s bow of “Bedtime Stories” ($2 million).

Disparity was more apparent in France, where “Torino” grossed north of $4 million, while “Watchmen” grossed $2.5 million.

“Watchmen,” distributed internationally by Paramount and domestically by Warners, faced the same hurdle overseas as it did in North America: its lengthy running time of 2:40. It also received the most restrictive rating it could in territories including the U.K.

An additional problem overseas was the film’s superhero storyline. Foreign moviegoers don’t always go for superhero films. Helmer Zack Snyder didn’t face the same challenge with “300,” which did bigger biz in its opening.

“Watchmen” topped the U.K. box office at roughly $4.6 million. It also placed No. 1 in Australia, Italy, Korea, Brazil and Mexico.

In Italy, Disney’s “Confessions of a Shopaholic” grossed $1.3 million, while “Watchmen” grossed $1.6 million. Still, “Watchmen” met expectations, as well as grabbing the top per-location average of the weekend at $4,357.

“Watchmen” came in No. 3 in Germany, where international distribution execs have reiterated that the audience is averse to comicbook pics. Twentieth Century Fox’s comedy “Marley and Me” placed No. 1 in its German launch, grossing $3 million. “The Reader” placed No. 2 at $2.9 million. “Watchmen’s” gross was $2 million.

(John Hopewell, David Hayhurst and Nick Vivarelli contributed to this report.)