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‘Inception’ tops overseas box office

'Toy Story 3' places second, as two pics dominate

Mirroring its Stateside returns, Warner Bros.’ “Inception” continues to top the overseas box office, but Disney/Pixar 3D toon “Toy Story 3” is offering heady competition in major international markets.

“Inception” posted $55 million over the July 31-Aug. 1 weekend, lifting foreign totals to a dreamy $171.5 million. Pic now is playing in 51 markets, with only a few key countries yet to fall, including Spain and Brazil this weekend.

In Germany, “Inception” opened to a chart-topping $7.3 million, enough to outrank “Toy Story 3,” which claimed the territory’s No. 2 spot, with $4.5 million. “Inception” debuted there to critical praise, while “Toy 3” got off to one of the slowest starts for a Pixar film. The toon underperformed during matinee showings and was impacted by warm weather, as most families opted for outdoor activities.

Still, one Disney exec pointed to the toon’s overall potential in Germany, noting, “It’s marathon, not a sprint.”

Overall, “Toy Story 3” claimed No. 2 spot internationally, earning $39.1 million from 48 territories. Toon’s overseas cume stands at $452.2 million as of Aug. 3, and ranks as the second-highest grossing toon for Disney on the international front, behind “Finding Nemo” ($528.2 million in 2003). Currently the sixth-highest grossing toon worldwide, Disney expects “Toy 3” to climb three ranks this weekend.

The head-to-head competish between “Inception” and “Toy 3” also translated to holdover markets, where the toon was No. 1 in the U.K. and Japan.

In Blighty, “Toy 3” was down only 30% in its soph sesh, charming $12.4 million on 868 screens. With a boffo cume there of $61.4 million, the pic now stands as the territory’s third-highest grossing toon. Japan followed with $7.1 million, up a resilient 7% over its third frame, with Spain contributing $3.3 million in its second outing.

“Inception” maintained its top perch for the second consecutive week in Australia and France, totaling $5.4 million and $3.8 million, respectively. Pic’s take in Oz dropped only 19% from its opening weekend and represented more than one third of the market’s weekend box office. Australian cume reached $14.4 million, while France cume was $15.2 million.

Meanwhile, Sony added a handful of flagship territories for “Salt,” including South Korea, Russia and Japan. The thriller, starring Angelina Jolie, took in a healthy $24.5 million from 29 markets, raising its cume to $32.8 million.

The studio went day-and-date with “Salt” in mostly smaller southeast Asian markets on July 23 and will add Spain — a territory where action pics usually perform well — Aug. 20.

Still, some insiders suggest the decision to hold “Salt” in Spain could prove costly. “Whenever you’re holding a big action movie for several weeks in big markets, especially markets like Spain, piracy does come into play,” noted one B.O. observer.

According to the Congressional Intl. Anti-Piracy Caucus (IAPC), legislation is in place to crack down on Internet piracy in Spain, which cost the biz $6.3 billion in lost revenue from all intellectual property — films, TV shows, vidgames, etc. — during the second half of 2009. Spain recently was listed on the IAPC’s 2010 priority watch list.

Russia, which also landed on the org’s watch list, turned in a healthy $5.5 million for “Salt” on 706 screens. Pic’s take ranks there as the second-highest opening for a Jolie starrer, behind Universal’s 2008 hit “Wanted,” from Russian helmer Timur Bekmambetov.

In Japan, “Salt” bowed with $3.9 million, ahead of similar actioners like “Quantum of Solace” (9%) and Casino Royale (27%). Meanwhile, in smaller Asian markets, including Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines, the film debuted in the top spot, becoming Jolie’s top opener in each territory. Pic adds Mexico next weekend.

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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