Studios bank on summer b.o. abroad

Foreign grosses solid so far, short of spectacular

For Hollywood, the 2009 summer so far has been solid but short of spectacular in international markets, where studios count on the support of foreign moviegoers to justify the massive bets on tentpole franchises.

Offshore performance thus far shows “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” “Star Trek” and “Angels and Demons” generating impressive grosses outside the United States, but not quite hitting out of the park. If the Hollywood majors are going to match their $4.5 billion summer record for foreign grosses, they’ll need even bigger performances out of such entries as “Terminator Salvation,” “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” “Up” and “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.”

Here’s the scorecard so far:

— “Wolverine” opened with an eye-popping $73 million on the first frame in May and had reached $146 million in foreign cume as of May 19. But the final take will be well short of the $225 million from “X-Men: The Last Stand” three years ago.

— “Star Trek” launched the following frame with $35.8 million and — aided by positive reviews — had cumed $72 million overseas as of May 19. Compared to other tentpoles, that figure’s not particularly strong but within the “Trek” franchise, it’s by far the best foreign cume, far ahead of “Star Trek: First Contact” which did $57.4 million internationally.

— “Angels and Demons” opened with a heavenly $102.1 million at 10,468 playdates during the May 13-15 weekend as Tom Hanks reprised his role from “The Da Vinci Code.” It was the biggest foreign launch since “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” a year ago and the 11th-largest international opening of all time … but it was also $53 million short of the 2006 launch for “The Da Vinci Code.”

The May 22-24 frame will see a day-and-date launch for “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” with about 8,100 playdates in 93 territories. The original “Night at the Museum” became a blockbuster after opening over the Christmas holiday in 2006 drawing $250.9 million domestically and $323.6 million overseas.

But “Terminator Salvation,” handled by Sony internationally, will be held back until the May 29-31 weekend in Asia and until the first June frame in most major markets. The delay avoids direct competition with “Angels and Demons.”

Disney’s “Up” will open only in Russia and the Ukraine despite massive positive notices as the Mouse House opts for a staggered rollout — reflecting the belief that going with a saturation day-and-date release makes sense only for the widely recognized “pre-sold” tentpoles that don’t require nurturing.

Paramount’s second “Transformers,” which opens June 24, falls into the pre-sold category after the original grossed a surprisingly strong $380 million in 2007. That label also applies to Fox’s third “Ice Age,” which goes the following weekend, given that the second “Ice Age” astounded with $450 million in foreign coin three years ago.

Warner’s sixth Harry Potter will be the final day-and-date pic of the summer with a July 14 launch and may be the highest grosser of the year. All five Potter pics have been golden overseas, with each grossing over half a billion dollars outside the United States.

Paramount’s “G.I. Joe” will see some foreign markets go day and date during the first August but most other major summer titles — such as “Public Enemies,” “G Force,” “The Proposal,” “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3,” “The Ugly Truth” — will be handled with gradual rollouts as studios hope for a surprise breakout like “Mamma Mia!” last summer.

U’s “Mamma” wound up with an astounding $458 million overseas, or 76% of its worldwide gross of $602 million.

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