Box Office Report: 'World War Z' Opens Strong in Australia, South Korea

1:49 PM PST 06/20/2013 by Pamela McClintock
Paramount Pictures

The Brad Pitt zombie tentpole debuted to $1.2 million in South Korea, just ahead of "Man of Steel," and to $1.1 million in Australia, on par with "Inception."

Paramount's World War Z is scaring up strong business as it begins rolling out overseas, scoring stellar opening-day numbers in South Korea and Australia on Thursday.

The Brad Pitt zombie extravaganza took in $1.1 million in Australia, on par with Christopher Nolan's Inception, likewise an original tentpole. Inception posted a weekend opening gross of $6.7 million.

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In South Korea, World War Z grossed $1.2 million, just ahead of the $1.1 million earned a week ago by Superman tentpole Man of Steel on its way to an $8.6 million weekend. Inception's opening-day gross in South Korea was $941,000.

"These markets look great," remarked one top Paramount executive.

World War Z, directed by Marc Forster, begins rolling out in North America at 8 p.m. Thursday.

Paramount is predicting a domestic opening in the $40 million to $45 million range for World War Z, which is rated PG-13. But more bullish box-office observers with access to tracking believe the movie -- produced by and starring Pitt -- could open in the $50 million range, while holdover Man of Steel could earn anywhere from $50 million to $60 million in its second outing.

Disney and Pixar's Monsters University is widely expected to win the weekend with a $70 million-plus debut.

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Versus a big opening, Paramount and co-financing partner Skydance Productions are banking on World War Z to have a better-than-usual multiple, similar to other original tentpoles. Avatar debuted to $77 million in December 2009 on its way to cuming $760.5 million domestically, or 10 times its opening number. And in summer 2010, Christopher Nolan's Inception grossed $292.6 million, nearly five times its $62 million debut.

Paramount insiders point out that very few original event pics open to $50 million or more. And while Pitt may be one of the world's most recognizable stars, his biggest opening was the $50.3 million earned by Mr. and Mrs. Smith in summer 2005.

World War Z, based on Max Brooks' 2006 novel of the same name, is a sizable gamble for the studio, costing $190 million to produce after tax incentives. The budget was originally $150 million, but extensive reshoots bumped up the number (it was initially slotted to open in December 2010).

The apocalyptic horror pic is a passion project for Pitt, who produced the movie via his Paramount-based production company Plan B. In the film, he plays a retired U.N. employee who must return to work and stop a worldwide pandemic that is turning humans into zombies. The Killing's Mireille Enos stars as his wife.

World War Z, which has received generally positive reviews, is opening in a total of 26 foreign markets this weekend.

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