Christmas: The gift that keeps giving

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As 2008 comes to a close, early estimates indicate that the MPAA companies' year at the overseas boxoffice will come close to 2007's all-time record of $9.4 billion.

This year's Christmas week, the busiest moviegoing season of the year, saw the industry maintain its overseas clout as big boxoffice numbers poured in. And with school holidays continuing for another week in most international markets, movies have a chance to pick up more coin before 2008 fades away.

Paramount/DreamWorks Animation's "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" and Fox's "Australia" and "The Day the Earth Stood Still" led the holiday charge, with the Central Park Zoo escapees caroling to $36 million from 5,650 screens in 41 countries to lift the pic's foreign gross to $283 million.

"Madagascar 2," which began its slow rollout at the end of October in Russia (where it has grossed $40.6 million to date), depended mostly on holdovers to maintain its leadership of the international market. Italy provided $9.8 million for a market cume of $21.1 million; France took in $5.1 million for a total of $31.2 million; Germany, $4.3 million for a cume of $34.2 million; and the U.K., $1.7 million for a cume of $23.7 million.

After adding 45 markets on Christmas Day, Baz Luhrmann's homegrown Western epic "Australia" lassoed a strong $27.2 million from 5,410 dates in 51 territories for an international gross-to-date of $48.1 million. According to Fox International, it was the biggest Luhrmann opening in most markets. It arrived at No. 1 in Spain with $3.7 million from 510 screens; No. 2 in Germany with almost $4 million from 700; and No. 3 in the U.K. with $1.9 million from 452.

Meanwhile, "Earth" maintained a dependable pace, picking up $20.4 million from 6,691 screens in 62 markets and topping the $100 million ($105.2 million) benchmark after three weeks of overseas release. The overall weekend, down just 5% for the sci-fi remake, was bolstered by a big No. 2 opening in Korea ($5.7 million from 465 screens).

Disney's Adam Sandler family offering "Bedtime Stories" found $13.5 million worth of readers at 2,164 sites in 15 countries, while Warner Bros.' Jim Carrey starrer "Yes Man" grossed an estimated $9.4 million from 1,335 screens in 14 markets.

"Stories" took in $3 million from 517 in Germany, $2.4 million from 463 in the U.K., $1.8 million from 300 in Australia and $1.5 million from 335 in France. "Yes Man" debuted at No. 1 in the U.K. ($3.5 million from 434).

Disney's "Bolt," backed by its 3-D opening in China ($1.3 million from 136 screens), pulled in $8.3 million from 2,426 screens in 21 markets, good for a cume to date of $48.2 million.

Summit Entertainment's teen vampire story "Twilight" reached an international cume of $83.7 million after a weekend take of $8 million from 2,750 screens in 34 territories.

The holiday weekend was marked by the limited exposure of several high-profile films. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" — released overseas by Warner Bros. (Paramount has domestic rights) — opened at No. 1 in Australia with $2.2 million from 251 screens. Sony's Will Smith starrer "Seven Pounds" opened at No. 3 in Brazil with $1.3 million from 300 screens, while Fox's "Marley & Me" snatched the country's No. 1 spot with $1.4 million from 174. Universal's "Frost/Nixon" made its foreign debut in Australia and New Zealand with a gross of $279,488 from 59 playdates. Openings in the rest of the world are set for the next three months.

Disney/Pixar's "WALL-E," holding strong in Japan for four weeks in a row, tallied $2.1 million from 454 screens for a market cume of $24.2 million and an overall gross of $289.4 million.

Other holiday activity saw Universal's "The Tale of Despereaux" gross $4.2 million from 1,780 dates in 10 countries, while its "Changeling" brought in $3 million from 10 markets (cume: $30 million). New Line's "Four Christmases" took in $4.1 million from 2,216 screens in 41 markets (cume: $32 million), and the studio's "Inkheart" brought in $2.6 million from 1,141 screens in six countries (cume: $11.6 million).

Fox's "Mirrors" opened in Japan to $860,399 from 169 screens, while Lionsgate's "Saw V" went up to $46 million after a $233,000 weekend. Sony's "Quantum of Solace" hit $376.6 million after a $2.2 million weekend. (partialdiff)
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