Good o'seas start for 'Compass'

$51 million launch makes up for lackluster domestic bow

At $51 million from 5,263 screens in 25 territories, New Line's "The Golden Compass" had a "very good" opening and is off to a "good start" in the international market. But the kickoff results leave undecided whether the family fantasy adventure budgeted at a reported $180 million can provide the franchise the studio is seeking to replace the extraordinary "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

Based on the $51 million takeoff — lowered from the $55 million Sunday estimate — overseas distribution experts believe that the film starring Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig and newcomer Dakota Blue Richards can ring up more than $200 million at the international boxoffice. "Compass," they point out, can look forward to extended playdates and key openings during the lucrative holiday season as well as a March 1 date in Japan.

The foreign bow more than made up for the disappointing domestic debut of $26.1 million.

The weekend estimate of $18 million in five days from 950 screens in the U.K. dropped to $11.9 million from 505 after a final count. The adaptation of the first of British author Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy took top boxoffice honors in the U.K., France, Germany, Spain, Scandinavia, Taiwan, Thailand and Singapore.

France delivered $5.8 million in five days from 776 screens; Germany, $4.8 million from 994 in four days; Spain, $8 million in five days from 505; and Russia, $3.8 million from 525 in four days.

Italy and a batch of Eastern European countries greet "Compass" this weekend.

Disney's fairy tale "Enchanted" continued to charm family audiences, bringing in $11.4 million during the weekend from 2,803 screens in 21 countries to lift its international gross to $36.3 million. It opened at No. 1 in Italy with $3.4 million from 446 screens, recorded $9.8 million in France in 12 days after a second- weekend take of $3.5 million from 660 screens and took in $8.4 million in three weekends in Spain after tallying $1.5 million from 352 in its third session.

DreamWorks/Paramount's "Bee Movie," stepping up its openings as the year-end holiday approaches, pulled in $10.5 million over the weekend from 1,908 screens in 19 markets. Australia greeted the Jerry Seinfeld animated concept at the top of its boxoffice chart with $2.2 million from 363 screens. The 10 new openings this past weekend will be followed by 24 this weekend, markets that include the U.K. and Germany.

"Beowulf," the market leader for a number of weeks, is climbing the $100 million ladder as its reached $91.5 million over the weekend after taking in $9.1 million from 5,000 screens in 61 markets. Key market cumes to date include the U.K., $13.6 million; Russia, $7.9 million; Spain, $6.2 million; Germany, $5.3 million; Italy, $5.1 million; and France, $3.7 million.

20th Century Fox's "Hitman" appears to be holding its own in the midst of family fare, scoring $8.2 million from 2,586 screens in 38 markets for an international cume to date of $24.5 million.

"The Heartbreak Kid" continues to make up for its domestic deficit, adding $4.8 million over the weekend from 1,978 screens in 42 countries to hoist its foreign cume to $79.2 million.

"American Gangster" grossed $4.3 million from 1,581 playdates in 20 territories, reaching an early cume of $47.2 million, with 36 territories set to open during the next three months.

Warner Bros. Pictures' "Fred Claus" grossed an estimated $4.3 million from about 1,450 prints in 18 markets, lifting its international cume to $13.6 million. The Christmas-themed film opened at No. 2 in Mexico behind the second weekend of "Bee Movie," grossing $697,000 from 300 prints.

"Saw IV" picked up another $2 million over the weekend to raise is overseas gross to $51 million. The horror film is at its fourth weekend on 113 screens in Japan, where it has taken in $4.8 million to date.

"Elizabeth: The Golden Age" grossed $1.3 million from 808 dates in 25 territories to raise its international cume to $33.9 million. According to Universal, the film is set to open in 31 markets in the next three months. It opens in France this coming weekend through Studio Canal, and in Belgium, Croatia, the Philippines and Taiwan through Universal Pictures International.

The Spanish-language "El Orfanato," released by Warner Bros. Spain, became the top-grossing film of 2007 in Spain with an estimated cume to date of $33.6 million. Over the weekend, it surpassed "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End's" $33.2 million, according to Warner Bros. International.

This weekend will witness another entry in the holiday sweepstakes as Fox's "Alvin and the Chipmunks" starts off in 10 small markets beginning with Turkey, Greece and Hong Kong.

Cume updates: "Ratatouille," $407.9 million; "Resident Evil: Extinction," $94.3 million; "Stardust," $95.6 million; "Atonement," $31.5 million; "The Bourne Ultimatum," $198.6 million; and "Evan Almighty," $72.7 million.
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