'Shrek 3' leading summer frenzy

More tentpoles joining crowded international market

As "Shrek the Third" dominated the international market for a second weekend in row, a historic battle of summer blockbusters appears to be shaping up this coming weekend.

At the starting gate are such high-profile megabuck contenders as Paramount/DreamWorks' "Transformers," Disney/Pixar's "Ratatouille" and 20th Century Fox's "Live Free or Die Hard." The new entries will run up against key new dates for "Shrek 3," "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" and the slow rollout in selected territories of "Evan Almighty" as well as the holdover steam of "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," "Ocean's Thirteen" and "Spider-Man 3."

The continuing tentpole barrage witnessed another vigorous overseas weekend, with the early boxoffice results indicating that this summer may well set an all-time overseas record.

With nine new openings over the past weekend, including Germany, "Shrek the Third" pulled in $44.6 million from 4,831 screens in 34 markets to lift its international gross to $167.8 million, according to a boxoffice report from foreign distributor Paramount Pictures International.

It's uncertain whether the official PPI figures include a preview in the U.K., where the jolly green ogre took in a mighty $10.4 million from 536 screens. Industry policy usually excludes the listing of preview results, preferring to add the figures to the official opening totals. The preview alone made "Shrek 3" the No. 1 film in the U.K., followed by the second weekend of "Silver Surfer," which collected $4.3 million from 478 screens for a market total to date of $15 million. In Germany, DreamWorks Animation's offering topped the market with $7.8 million from 851 screens. It was also No. 1 in Spain with $7.3 million from 663 and No. 1 in France for a second weekend with $7.4 million from 850, providing a two-session market cume of $21.5 million. In addition, it has taken in $20.2 million over three weeks in Australia and $1 million for two in Taiwan.

"Surfer" caught the waves that brought it to $22.3 million over the weekend from 5,121 screens in 44 countries, raising its international cume to $56.9 million. Major support came from No. 1 openings in Mexico ($5.7 million from 1,070 screens), Australia ($2.4 million from 343) and South Africa ($466,000 from 85). As part of two-weekend holdovers, the U.K. delivered $15.6 million; Italy, $6.1 million; and Russia, $3.1 million. This coming weekend will see openings in five Latin American countries.

Warner Bros. Pictures' "Ocean's Thirteen" reached an estimated international cume of $100 million by nabbing $21.3 million over the weekend from 5,700 screens in 49 markets. The Steven Soderbergh-helmed crime caper entered France at No. 2 with $4 million from 755 prints, enjoying some action from the first day (Sunday) of France's annual Fete du Cinema promotion. The film's Brazil bow, also at No. 2, recorded $1.1 million from 217 prints nationwide.

"At World's End," still holding strong in its fifth week in international release, added $20 million from 10,838 screens in 104 territories to lift its record-setting cume to $584.6 million. At this point, "Pirates 3" has become the seventh-most-popular picture ever released in the international market, according to overseas distributor Buena Vista International.

The running battle between "Spider-Man 3" and "Pirates 3" for top bragging honors has not let up. "Spidey 3" expects to take over the record for the No. 10 all-time international gross as it reached $546.8 million after taking in $1.6 million from 2,850 screens in 73 markets over the weekend. Sony expects that "Spidey 3" will top "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring's" $546.9 million by Wednesday.

Universal Pictures International's summer siren "Evan Almighty" began a staggered rollout in two markets day-and-date with the domestic debut, taking in $1.5 million from 329 screens in Russia, said to be 10% better than the opening of "Bruce Almighty," and $178,000 from 64 screens in the Ukraine, said to be 11% better than "Bruce." New openings are set for July 5 in Greece, Aug. 3 in the U.K., Aug. 9 in Germany and Aug. 15 in France.

Sony's animated "Surf's Up," in a staggered release plan extending to December, took in $771,000 from 354 screens in four markets for a cume to date of $5.7 million. Singapore scored $331,000 from 33 screens and Malaysia took in $109,000 from 27.

At its 13th week of overseas release, "Mr. Bean's Holiday" grossed $300,000 from 690 screens in 25 territories to hoist its cume to $183.7 million. China is set to open July 27 and Korea on Aug. 16.

Among other films in the weekend mix of vying blockbusters were "Blades of Glory," $2.2 million (cume: $19.8 million); "Zodiac," $2 million (cume: $41.1 million); "Hostel: Part II," $1.5 million (cume: $4.9 million); and "Hot Fuzz," $1 million (cume: $52.4 million).

Cume updates: "Shooter," $47.3 million; "Bridge to Terabithia," $43 million; "The Number 23," $39.1 million; "Fracture," $32 million; "The Last Mimzy," $3.3 million; "Next," $19.6 million; and "300," $242.1 million.
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