Foreign Box Office Preview: 'Rio' Opens Overseas Ahead of U.S.

Courtesy of 20th Century Fox Film
"Rio"

Opening a full week before it debuts in the U.S., the animated film -- voiced by Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway -- could clear $45 million in its international debut.

Signaling the might of the international box office, Fox’s 3D toon Rio is opening in most of the world this weekend, a full week before it debuts in the U.S. And if projections are right, it could easily be the top grossing title of any film anywhere.

Rio — voiced by Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway — goes out in 46 markets, including major territories Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, the U.K., Germany, Spain, India and China. Conservative estimates show the animated family film clearing at least $45 million, if not more. [Read The Hollywood Reporter's review here.]

Historically, Hollywood studios have always unspooled their films at the domestic box office first. But that’s changed with the rapid growth of the international market. Now, event films and animated pics often make far more overseas.

Rio was tailor-made for international audiences. The movie, directed by Brazilian filmmaker Carlos Saldanha, is about a domesticated Macaw named Blu who is afraid of flying. His life takes an adventurous turn when he travels from the U.S. to Rio to mate with the last female of his kind.

Rio is based on an original story by Saldanha and was nurtured by Fox Animation Studios president Vanessa Morrison.

The voice cast also includes Jamie Foxx, George Lopez, will.i.am and Wanda SykesRio is the sixth film from Fox partner Blue Sky Studios.

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In opening first overseas, Fox wanted to capitalize on kids getting out of school in Europe and other regions for spring break. In the U.S., only about 20% of kids are now out of school.

Rio could make life difficult for Universal’s CGI/live-action hybrid Hop, which opened last weekend in the U.S. and in a number of territories, including the U.K., Germany and Italy.

Hop overperformed in the U.S. but saw a softer bow internationally. Part of the problem could have been good weather in Europe, which kept families outside. Some box office observers suggest the pic’s uniquely American take on the Easter bunny could make it difficult to sell overseas.

Rio goes up against Hop in several major European markets as well as in Australia, where both films opens this weekend.

Rio bows in the U.S. on April 15.

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