'Ratatouille' No. 1 for 5th week

Toon faces challenge as new entries ready to storm market

Without a major challenge, Disney/Pixar's "Ratatouille" dominated the international market for a fifth straight weekend, cooking up $15.6 million from 4,142 screens in 30 markets and lifting its foreign gross to $374.9 million.

But the overseas boxoffice phenomenon of the early fall may be coming to an end as a new batch of high-profile films are at the November starting gate, ready to stake out positions for the year-end holiday run. This coming weekend will witness the blastoff in 45 countries of "Lions for Lambs," the first offering from the Tom Cruise-fronted United Artists. The war drama, starring Cruise and Meryl Streep and directed by Robert Redford, will be distributed overseas by 20th Century Fox International. Key international markets for the "Lambs" debut include the U.K., Germany, Spain, Australia, Mexico, Brazil and Russia.

In more gradual release patterns leading up to the holiday season, DreamWorks/Paramount's "Bee Movie" and Universal's "American Gangster" were introduced in Eastern Europe over the weekend. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld's entry into the animation field picked up a total of $3.3 million from 429 locations in Russia and the Ukraine, with Russia down for $2.7 million. "Gangster" took off on 23 screens in the four tiny markets of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and will move to big-time markets later this month. Also in the wings during November are Disney's "Enchanted," a comic turn on the classic fairytail, and Warner Bros. Pictures' action-fantasy "Beowulf."

In a lull period at the international boxoffice, films that made it to the forefront were those that could assemble a sizable number of screens, especially in key countries.

Following "Ratatouille's" strong hold, other films that caught the fancy of foreign moviegoers over the weekend included "Resident Evil: Extinction," with an estimated $10.6 million from about 2000 screens. "Saw IV" carved up an estimated $7.3 million from about 1,800 sites, while "The Heartbreak Kid" romanced an estimated $7.5 million from 1,591 screens and "Stardust" conjured up an estimated $7.3 million from 2,436.

As "Ratatouille" hit an international cume of $374.9 million, it became Disney's sixth-most-popular film ever released overseas and the studio's third-biggest animated title, after "Nemo" and "The Lion King." Over the weekend, it held the No. 1 position in seven of the 30 markets in which it is currently playing. The exploits of the French bistro rat-turned-cooking whiz has collected $40.2 million to date in five weeks in Germany, $61.4 million in 14 weeks in France, $41.6 million in three in the U.K. and $21.5 million in three in Italy.

Most of "Resident Evil's" weekend boxoffice income came mainly from markets handled by Sony International, which is sharing the foreign distribution with Summit Entertainment, whose markets include France, Germany, Russia and Korea. Under the aegis of Sony, which opened the film in 10 new territories, the sci-fi horror franchise opened No. 1 in Japan to $5.2 million from 325 screens and No. 2 in Spain to $3.3 million from 351.

In its second overseas weekend, Lionsgate's horror sequel "Saw IV" racked up $7.3 million from 22 markets to raise its international cume $26 million. In its second weekend in the U.K., it took in $2 million from 384 screens for a market cume to date of $10.1 million. A second weekend in Spain tallied $1.2 million from 299 screens for a market cume of $5.1 million.

"The Heartbreak Kid" has grossed $30.4 million after a weekend take of about $7.7 million at 1,528 screens in 19 territories.

"Stardust" continued to make up for a poor domestic run, reaching $73.2 million after a weekend score of $7.3 million.

Sony's animated "Surf's Up" continued to ride the waves, gliding to $5.7 million from 1,569 screens in 32 markets for an international gross of $72.2 million.

Universal's "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," getting under way for adult business during the holiday period, came in No. 3 in the U.K. with $2.7 million from 450 screens. Openings in other markets -- including Sweden, Norway and Portugal -- delivered a total of $7.8 million from 793 screens.

Local-language films continued to hold up strongly. "The Orphanage" (El Orfanato), distributed by Warner Bros. Spain, remained No. 1 in Spain for a fourth straight week, generating an estimated $3.3 million from 373 prints and reaching a cume to date of $26.1 million. Constantin's "Lissi & Der Wilde Kaiser" held the No. 1 spot in Germany for a second weekend with $4.7 million (market cume: $11.5 million), and France's "Le Coeur Des Hommes 2" held the top post in France with $3.4 million (market cume: $8.4 million).

New Line's "Rush Hour 3," starring Jackie Chan, hit a cume of $110.3 million following a $2 million weekend, becoming the top scorer of the franchise by overtaking "Rush Hour's" $103.1 million and "Rush Hour 2's' $102.8 million.

"Die Hard 4.0" remained No. 1 for a second weekend in Italy, taking in $3.9 million from the territory so far and lifting its international cume to $242.7 million.

More weekend scores: "The Kingdom," $4.5 million (cume: $243.6 million); "The Bourne Ultimatum," $4 million (cume: $189.8 million); "The Game Plan," $2.6 million (cume: $8.2 million); "Knocked Up," $1.7 million (cume: $68.7 million); and "The Brave One," $1.3 million (cume: $30.4 million).
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