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'Love' knocks 'Afterlife' from No. 1 o'seas

'Social's' foreign debut nabs $3.2 mil, 'Despicable' jumps to 2

By Frank Segers

After drawing relatively tame box office over nine weeks of foreign release, Sony's "Eat Pray Love" emerged center stage over the weekend on the overseas theatrical circuit, claiming the No. 1 spot with a $18.6 million gross collected from 4,295 screens in 56 markets.

Director Ryan Murphy's romantic drama has rolled up a box office total of $64.8 million since it opened overseas Aug. 12, and is rapidly closing the gap between its domestic cume of $79.9 million. The Julia Roberts vehicle was sparked by seven No. 1 market openings on the weekend, the best of which was Australia ($3.57 million at 328 locations).

Universal reported on Sunday that the weekend's No. 2 film, "Despicable Me," the studio's family-oriented 3D animation title voiced principally by Steve Carell, a drew $16.6 million from 35 overseas territories. But growing Saturday-Sunday business, particularly in Spain, boosted "Me's" actual weekend box office from 3,561 screens in 35 markets to $17.8 million and hoisting its offshore gross total (the film has 17 foreign yet to play) to $136.7 million.

According to Universal, "Despicable Me" opened No. 1 in France ($5.7 million from 655 locations), Spain ($3.5 million from 583 spots) and in Denmark. It also retained its No. 1 spots in holdover markets Germany, Austria, German-speaking Switzerland and New Zealand.

The distributor said Spain daily box office jumped 292% from Friday to Saturday and another 20% on Sunday. Continued strong business for "Despicable" is projected thanks to the Armed Forces Day holiday tomorrow in Spain and school holidays later this month in France and Denmark. Openings in nine markets including the U.K. and Italy are on tap this week.

While overall overseas action is generally anemic this time of year, the six major Hollywood studios are collectively surging to a foreign box office record in 2010.

According to studio figures, the six majors have realized January-September overseas box office of $9.85 billion, an increase of nearly 35% over 2009's nine-month total for the companies. (In calendar year 2009, the studios collectively logged a record $10.7 billion in offshore box office.)

Twentieth Century Fox and Disney have grossed more than $2 billion overseas so far this year, and Warner Bros. International will do so before the end of December thanks to its release of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" beginning in mid-November.

Paramount and Sony have already exceeded the $1 billion foreign box office mark while Universal expects to do so by mid-November.

Sony exceeded the $1-billion benchmark on Oct. 1. The company logged $1.030 billion through Oct. 3 on the strength of a muscular September on the foreign circuit -- $305 million in box office for the month, the best showing among the big six. (September action raised the company's nine-month box office total to $995.7 million.)

Top studio so far this year is 20th Century Fox, which tallied January-September box office of $2.42 billion, of which $96.3 million was logged in September. Other studios' respective nine-month totals and September returns: Disney, $2.060 billion and $99.4 million; Warner Bros., $1.9 billion and $175 million; Paramount, $1.592 billion and $83.6 million; and Universal, $882.1 million and $69.4 million.

Meanwhile, Sony oversaw weekend overseas openings of "The Social Network," director David Fincher's drama about Mark Zuckerberg and the founding of Facebook, at 448 locations in seven markets for $3.24 million, averaging slightly more than $7,200 per screen.

Warner Bros. weighed in with "Life As We Know It" in the U.K., where the romantic comedy costarring Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel opened at No. 2. with $1.57 million derived from 395 locations. Warners also handled the No. 2 France opening of "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" (being released in the U.S. via Sony Classics). Weekend for director Woody Allen's latest comedy with Naomi Watts, Josh Brolin and Anthony Hopkins generated $2.1 million from 406 screens.

No. 3 on the weekend was Warner's "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole," which opened in first place in Mexico and drew $11.7 million overall on the weekend from 4,500 situations in 38 markets. Cume for director Zack Snyder's animation fantasy stands at $26.1 million.
 

Fourth was director Oliver Stone's "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," which collected $10.8 million from 3,426 spots in 59 markets, pushing its overseas cume to $37.7 million. Top market was the U.K. (where the Michael Douglas vehicle took the No. 1 spot with $2.83 million from 450 locations) followed by Spain ($2.2 million from 330 screens).

Constantin Film's "Resident Evil: Afterlife," which had occupied the No. 1 spot for several rounds, slipped to fifth position with a weekend tally of $8 million, nudging its foreign cume to $197.2 million collected since opening offshore on Sept. 10. Sony, which is handling the Milla Jovovich action vehicle at 2,640 screens in 45 markets, provided $4.6 million of the weekend total.

Resurfacing on the foreign circuit with Japan and Italy openings was Fox's "Knight and Day," which grossed $7.23 million from a combined 1,002 locations. The action comedy costarring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz took a mighty $5.97 million drawn from 589 situations in Japan, a highly favorable market for Cruise films. Overseas cume stands at $161.6 million.

Opening smartly in Italy was Summit Int'l./Universal's "Step Up 3D," which drew $4.7 million on the weekend overall from 1,140 sites in 31 markets. Cume for the latest installment of the urban dance franchise stands at $113.5 million.

Remaining No. 1 in Italy was director Luca Miniero's comedy "Benvenuti Al Sud" (Welcome to the South), a re-doing of the French hit "Welcome to the Sticks." Second round for the Medusa Film release was an estimated $4.5 million from 472 locations for a market cume of $13.2 million. Warner's "The Town" from director-actor Ben Affleck generated $4.2 million from 1,350 screens in 12 markets for a cume of $19 million.

Sony's cop comedy, "The Other Guys," costarring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, raised its foreign cume to $28 million thanks to a $3.76 million weekend at 1,381 screens in 35 markets. Universal's "Charlie St. Cloud," a drama starring Zac Efron, opened No. 3 in the U.K. and grabbed a weekend total of $2.9 million from 1,515 sites in 19 markets. Overseas cume stands at $7.6 million.

Sony says "Grown Ups" is now Adam Sandler's best grossing title overseas after his latest comedy drew $2.55 million from 1,200 spots in 45 markets, pushing its foreign gross total to $102.5 million. Fox's horror spoof "Vampires Suck" drew $2.6 million on the weekend from 1,250 situations in 16 markets for a cume of $31.2 million.

Other international cumes: Disney's "Toy Story 3," $644.4 million; Fox's "Avatar: Special Edition," $2.018 billion; DreamWorks/Paramount's "Dinner for Schmucks," $10.6 million; Fox's "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," $10.3 million; Paramount's "The Last Airbender," $180.6 million (after a $2.1 million weekend at 1,189 locations in 27 territories); The Weinstein Co.'s "Piranha 3D," $43.4 million; Universal's "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World," $13.4 million; Mars Distribution's "Des homes et des dieux," (Of Gods and Men), $15.6 million over five rounds in France only; and Disney's "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," $149.9 million.

Also, DreamWorks Animation/Paramount's "Shrek Forever After" in 3D, $493.8 million; Warner's "Inception," $515 million; Focus Features/Universal's "The American," $16.4 million; Paramount's "Made in Dagenham," $2.85 million in the U.K. only; Universal's "Back to the Future" (reissue), $1.5 million in the U.K. only; Lionsgate's "The Switch," estimated $12.8 million; Universal's "Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang," $64.7 million; Fox's "Nosso Lar," $19.3 million over six rounds in Brazil only; Universal's "Devil," $11.4 million; Lionsgate's "Alpha & Omega," estimated $4.8 million; and Paramount's "Tomorrow When the War Began," $12.8 million in Australia and New Zealand.

Final international cumes: Fox's "Date Night," $54 million; Fox's "Fantastic Mr. Fox," $25.5 million; and Fox's "Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief," $138.5 million.