B.O. for 3-D catches eye of indies

Appetite for 3-D titles seen in Cannes, Europe

Even though its up against big Hollywood titles, little “Coraline” is smiling sweetly at the international B.O. And it’s smiling in digital 3-D.

The pic has even found a home on the top 10 foreign B.O. chart in recent days.

Most of the discussion around 3-D has centered on big-budget studio tentpoles such as Disney and Pixar’s “Up” or Fox’s “Avatar,” directed by James Cameron, but there’s a wealth of 3-D titles being shopped and announced along the Croisette as a roster of production companies jump into the game.

And it’s titles like “Coraline,” which was made outside the studio system, that are fueling their interest.

“Coraline” a Universal Pictures Intl. release, from Focus Features, has grossed $18.6 million at the international B.O., and it’s still early in its run. Domestically, it earned $75.1 million.

Reflecting the interest in 3-D at Cannes, StudioCanal has sold out nearly every territory for 3-D toon “Around the World in 50 Days.”

Newly announced projects for sale at the fest include 3-D fantasy epic “Legend of the Magic Bell,” from Terence Chang and John Woo’s Lion Rock Prods., and 3-D thriller “Dark Country,” repped at Cannes by Nu Image.

Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group holds domestic rights to “Dark Country” and intends to release the film theatrically in the U.S. through a third party.

Arclight Films and Australia’s Limelight Intl. announced at Cannes that they’re co-producing “Bait”, a 3-D shark movie.

Producers of genre titles are taking a cue from Lionsgate, whose 3-D horror title “My Bloody Valentine” has grossed $51.5 million domestically and $20.2 million overseas to date.

Nu Image prexy of international sales Christian Mercuri said foreign markets actually have an advantage over the U.S. in that new theaters are being equipped with digital screens — a prerequisite for installing 3-D projection systems — from the get-go.

“There are many, many screens coming on line every week,” Mercuri said.

Europe is becoming a hotbed of 3-D.

“Coraline” grossed $6.3 million in the U.K. alone in its first 10 days. Over the May 15-17 weekend, it saw such a big bump from Friday to Saturday that it ended up third for the weekend behind “Angels & Demons” and “Star Trek.”

DreamWorks Animation and Paramount’s spring 3-D toon “Monsters vs. Aliens” grossed north of $31 million in the U.K. alone. “Monsters,” which is still in its run, has grossed $143 million at the international B.O., with a substantial portion derived from 3-D showings.

Spain’s 3-D screen count is rising fast. From November to April, the number of 3-D screens mushroomed from 22 to 85. Screen Digest estimates a total 127 digital 3-D screens by the end of the year and more than 265 by the end of 2012, which would constitute more than 6% of the total screens in the country.

Spanish exhibs believe 3-D has the potential to get people into theaters and help reverse the B.O. slump. Exhibitors appreciate the competitive advantages of 3-D films: They’re a technological buffer against illegal downloads and a filmgoing experience that cannot be enjoyed at home.

Bowing April 3, “Monsters vs. Aliens” became Spain’s biggest 3-D opener to date, pulling in $4.5 million, with 3-D fare accounting for 38% of the total B.O. in Spain ($11.8 million) through April 26.

A day after StudioCanal announced its acquisition of “Around the World,” another Euro mini-major, Spain’s Filmax Entertainment, picked up international rights to Jordi Llompart’s “Magic Journey to Africa.”

It’s hard to walk anywhere along the Croisette this year without spotting a billboard or banner for a 3-D film. Cannes, in short, has a whole new dimension.