‘Airbender’ takes on ‘Inception’ o’seas

Both pics top $20 million for the week

Overseas fanboys embraced Paramount’s 3D summer tentpole “The Last Airbender” in a big way over the Aug. 20-22 weekend, shelling out $20.2 million at 3,746 locations in 40 territories.

“Airbender” posted its highest-grossing weekend overseas so far since launching day and date with the U.S. on July 1.

Still, the pic’s sizable take wasn’t enough to topple Warner Bros.’ holdover giant “Inception” from its perch atop the international box office. “Inception” posted an additional $21.3 million in its sixth frame, bringing foreign totals to $357.5 million.

Top territory for “Inception” last weekend was France, which shelled out $2.4 million, down just 33% in its fifth frame, for a local cume of $31.4 million. The U.K., however, stands as the film’s overall highest-grossing market, contributing a solid $48.5 million in B.O. receipts. Blighty auds spent $1.7 million during the pic’s sixth weekend of theatrical release.

Meanwhile, “Airbender” debuted in 11 new markets, including Brazil, Germany and South Korea, the film’s top territory, where it grossed an outstanding $6.3 million on 415 screens. Cume to date stands at $94.9 million internationally for Par’s M. Night Shyamalan-helmed 3D offering.

In Germany, “Airbender” debuted with $4.1 million, 41% ahead of Disney’s fellow fanboy title “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” while in Brazil, “Airbender” totaled a gusty $2.7 million. Weekend takes were enough to top both markets.

To date, “Airbender” has cumed $225 million worldwide, an impressive take given the film’s lukewarm reception among moviegoers and critics. In fact, the film has become one of the summer’s biggest surprise hits, boosted by higher 3D ticket prices.

Par decided not to launch the film day and date in order to avoid competing with 3D toons “Toy Story 3” and “Shrek Forever After.” Both Disney and Par held their respective toons from markets like the U.K. and Germany until after the World Cup soccer tourney, timing their releases to coincide with tots on school holidays.

“Toy 3” has become Blighty’s fifth-highest grossing title ever, earning a boffo $99 million. With two weeks of school holidays still to go, the pic looks set to surpass Warners’ original “Harry Potter” pic.

Lionsgate’s “The Expendables” ended “Toy 3’s” five-week winning streak in the U.K, beating the 3D toon with a weekend take of $5.7 million for a cume of $6.5 million as of Aug. 24.

Helmer-thesp Sylvester Stallone’s macho dream-team pic has grossed an overall $39.8 million from 28 international markets. Along with the U.K., the film also debuted last weekend in France, where it posted a chart-topping $5 million, while Oz auds have contributed $5.5 million since the film’s launch there Aug. 12.

In smaller European markets like the Netherlands and Belgium, “Expendables” debuted with less-than-stellar results, as warm weather caused most auds to the spend the weekend outdoors.

Overall, “Expendables” added $15.3 million over the weekend, claiming the No. 4 spot behind “Inception,” “Airbender” and Sony’s Angelina Jolie spy-thriller “Salt,” which grossed a solid $17.8 million on 4,375 bases in 61 markets.

“Salt” added 10 territories to its overseas roster, topping the B.O. in five of them, including Australia and Spain, where free-to-air soccer took the edge off the Sony pic’s $2.4 million bow.

Sony went day-and-date with “Salt” in mostly smaller southeast Asian markets on July 23, before adding South Korea, Russia and Japan the following week. Now in its fifth week, the film’s international cume stands at $106.4 million for a worldwide haul of $216.7 million. “Salt” will go into Argentina and France this weekend, and spice up smaller European countries later this month.

Emilio Mayorga in Barcelona, Mark Schilling in Tokyo, Clifford Coonan in Beijing, Ed Meza in Berlin, Lauren Seligman in Paris and Nick Vivarelli in Rome contributed to this report.

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