'Ghost' rides to No. 1 overseas

Robust early b.o. action augurs possible record for 2007

Positive signs that the overseas boxoffice may be on its way to a record 2007 came again over the weekend as new and holdover films continued to find strong favor from international moviegoers months before the start of the industry's summer tentpole assault in May.

Opening in 25 offshore markets as part of a day-and-date bow with North America, Sony's "Ghost Rider," starring Nicolas Cage as a Marvel Comics character, vaulted to the weekend's No. 1 position with $16.4 million from 1,870 screens. At the same time, 20th Century Fox's "Night at the Museum," the overseas champion for six of seven of the past weekends, eased to second place with a stalwart $14.1 million from 3,984 screens in 45 countries to lift its cume to $250.1 million.

And a surprise newcomer entered the top-scoring ranks as Universal's "Hot Fuzz," a Working Title-Studio Canal crime comedy, soared to the No. 1 spot in movie-happy U.K. with $11.5 million from 422 playdates, hailed as the biggest opening in the market this year by beating the $7 million opening of "Rocky Balboa" and "The Pursuit of Happyness' " $4.9 million.

The Oscar-tinted Leonardo DiCaprio starrer from Warner Bros., "Blood Diamond," mined another $8.5 million, while Sony's long-running Will Smith starrer, "The Pursuit of Happyness," pulled in another $7,8 million and the Hugh Grant-Drew Barrymore romantic comedy, "Music and Lyrics," which opened No. 1 in the U.K. a week ago, came back with $6.8 million from 1,000 prints in eight countries. Quietly but steadily, "Charlotte's Web," the family film based on the classic children's book, continued to move ahead, picking up $5.2 million from 32 markets. In the U.K. at its second weekend in release, "Web" tallied $3.7 million for a market cume of $12 million.

Other holdover plus new-market dates included "Dreamgirls" ($3.6 million for a cume to date of $19.1 million) and "Rocky Balboa" ($3.4 million with a cume of $61.1 million).

Because of Presidents Day in the U.S. and holidays in many Asian markets, boxoffice reports for certain markets, including Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong, were not complete.

Full results for Dino DeLaurentiis' "Hannibal Rising," being released internationally via independent territorial distributors, were not available on Monday. Figures available indicate that the Peter Webber-directed horror entry, which opened a week ago to an estimated $12 million, opened No. 3 in Germany with $1.3 million from 520 and pulled in $1.5 million from 368 in its second weekend in Italy for a market cume of $5.5 million.

More boxoffice action in a crowded overseas market saw "Notes on a Scandal" write up $2.2 million from 10 markets (cume: $8.8 million). "Epic Movie" took in $2. 4 million from 11 markets (cume: $12.8 million). "The Good Shepherd" started out with $1.7 million from 383 screens in four markets. "Letters From Iwo Jima" reached a cume of $43.1 million following a $1.5 million weekend from 560 screens in 19 countries. "The Good German" grossed $447,000 over the weekend in France and Switzerland from 142 prints.

Cume updates: "The Departed," $146.7 million; "The Holiday," $123.9 million; "Happy Feet," $170 million; "Deja Vu," $103.8 million; "Flags of Our Fathers," $30.9 million; "Flushed Away," $110.5 million; "Babel," $34.6 million; and "Children of Men," $29.4 million.

In France, local films dominated the market, with "Taxi 4," a popular French franchise, arriving No. 1 with a mighty $13.2 million from 867 screens, followed by "La vie en rose" with a sturdy $9.6 million from 675 playdates.

In Italy, a romantic comedy geared for Valentine's Day swept the market with $7.6 million from 604 screens, while in Germany, "Wild Bunch 4," the local-language comedy released by Buena Vista International, held second place on its third weekend with $1.3 million from 716 screens for a market cume of $10.1 million. Total gross from Germany, Austria and German-speaking Switzerland came to $12.1 million.

Key markets embracing "Ghost Rider" included Russia ($4.1 million from 401 screens), Spain ($3.1 million from 415), Mexico ($2.1 million from 403), Australia ($1.9 million from 208) and Taiwan ($1.4 million from 120).

For "Museum," China was the main provider over the weekend with a solid $1.9 million from 300 screens. Other contributors included Hong Kong ($1.8 million from 46), said by Fox to be its second-highest opening gross ever in the market; Belgium ($886,000 from 85), Holland ($518,000 from 100) and Finland ($272,000 from 49). Eight weekends in the U.K. has brought in $40.5 million; four in Spain, $14 million; three in Italy, $12.3 million; and two in France, $8.4 million.

Holdovers kept up the search for "Blood Diamond," which saw the U.K. generate $11.8 million in four weekends; France, $7.3 million in three; Spain, $4.3 million in two; Australia, $5.9 million in seven; and Italy, $5.2 million in four.

"Happyness" joined the $100 million brigade, as it reached an international gross of $104.3 million after taking in $7.8 million over the weekend from 2,930 prints in 50 markets.
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