Box Office Milestone: 'Life of Pi' Crosses $300 Mil Overseas, Nears $400 Mil Worldwide

1:41 PM PST 01/06/2013 by Frank Segers , Pamela McClintock

The fantasy-adventure grosses $59.3 million internationally for the weekend to edge past "The Hobbit"; Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty" makes its first stop overseas.

Marking veteran filmmaker Ang Lee's top-grossing film, Life of Pi has jumped the $300 million mark at the international box office for a foreign of $302 million through Sunday.

The 20th Century Fox film took in weekend earnings of $59.3 million from 64 foreign markets for the weekend, narrowly beating Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Hobbit, which had topped the foreign chart for three weekends, is certainly no slouch. The tentpole took in $58.6 million from 65 markets for an international cume of $562.8 million.

Many questioned whether Life of Pi, based on Yann Martel 2001 novel about a young Indian boy lost at sea with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, could be successfully adapted for the big screen. Costing north of $120 million to produce, the movie has earned $91.1 million domestically but is doing much bigger business overseas.

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Life of Pi made headlines when debuting first in Asia, grossing $90.8 million in China alone. Now, it's doing impressive business in Europe and Latin America, as well as Australia.

Lee's film opened at No. 1 in seven of eight new markets during the weekend, with Russia leading the pack with $14.2 million. In Australia, the movie opened to $8.3 million to come in No. 1 ahead of Hobbit and Les Miserables, which headlines Aussie star Russell Crowe.

Tiny New Zealand generated $1.2 million from 140 screens for a per-screen average of nearly $8,500. In Europe, Life of Pi has taken in $28.7 million in the U.K., while it has earned $14.6 million in Germany.

Life of Pi  held at No. 1 in Mexico over the weekend, putting its total there at $11.1 million.

"Pi is resonating with people of all cultures around the world," Fox president of international distribution Paul Hanneman said.

Meanwhile, Hobbit drew $6.1 million from 560 sites in its second weekend of play in Australia, lifting the market cume there to $29.7 million.  Biggest territory for the film remains Germany where the cume stands at $74.1 million.   

Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty made its first appearance at the international box office as it opened in Spain via Universal. The movie took in $1.3 million from 232 screens for a stand-out location average of nearly $5,700, the best of any film. The opening was 495% larger than for Bigelow’s 2008 Oscar winner The Hurt Locker.

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Opening in 15 markets over the weekend, including U.K. and France, Paramount’s Tom Cruise action pic Jack Reacher grossed $22.4 million from 47 countries for an overseas cume of $55.6 million.

Wreck-It Ralph, Disney’s 3D family animation title, boosted its total foreign take well past the $100 million mark ($132.7 million) thanks to a $19.5 million weekend in 56 territories. It has been playing for 10 stanzas on the foreign circuit. Worldwide, the film has grossed $311.2 million.

Universal’s Les Mis drew a weekend total of $14.4 million from a total of 1,667 venues in 17 markets, lifting its early offshore cume to $81 million. The musical continued to enjoy a strong run in Japan, where it has now grossed $24.7 million

And chip it in stone: Final 2012 figures received this week from the Hollywood major studios -- Fox, Disney, Universal, Paramount, Sony and Warner Bros. -- confirm that their recent string of consecutive yearly box office records set on the foreign theatrical circuit has been snapped. Collective 2012 takings total $13.5 billion, slightly less that the record of $13.6 billion record set in 2011.

Fox, which leads the six companies, scored a 26 percent jump in yearly foreign box office with a total of $2.71 billion registered this year. No. 2 was Sony, which set this year a foreign box office record for the company, coming up with a total of $2.67 billion overseas. (Sony’s previous best was $2.14 billion in 2009.) 

Warner Bros. came in third with $2.67 billion for the year, down seven percent from last year and nine percent from the company’s foreign b.o. record of $2.93 billion in 2010. No. 4 Disney recorded $2.09 billion in foreign box office, down 4 percent from 2011.  

Despite one or two high-profile disappointments, No. 5 Universal logged a record year overseas, taking in $1.79 billion in foreign box office -- 41 percent higher than 2011 and 4 percent more than the company’s previous record of $1.72 billion in 2008. With a contracted overseas release schedule, Paramount took a 51 percent tumble from 2011, grossing $1.57 billion offshore this year.

The biggest indie by far was Lionsgate, which collected $1.25 billion in foreign box office – up 280 percent from 2011 on the strength of Twilight: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2 (which drew $524.7 million offshore) and The Hunger Games ($284.8 million).

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