'Simpsons' standing tall o'seas

Rings up $96 mil with record-breaking venue bows

Duplicating its No. 1 debut in North America, "The Simpsons Movie" opened on top internationally over the weekend, grossing an estimated $96 million — nearly $25 million more than its domestic tally — from 5,426 screens in 71 territories. Its worldwide boxoffice total stands at $167.9 million.

The Fox TV franchise, which has run 18 seasons and some 400 episodes, proved to be a No. 1 attraction as a feature film in just about every market it played, according to Paul Hanneman, co-president of 20th Century Fox International. Overall, the film's per-screen average overseas was a mighty $17,693.

Opening weekend tallies of "Simpsons" in Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay set film industry records. In Finland, it registered the biggest opening weekend ever for an animation title, as well as setting opening-weekend records for Fox in Bolivia, Puerto Rico and Venezuela.

The film's biggest single market was the U.K., where Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie hauled away an estimated $27.8 million from 500 situations for an eye-popping per-screen average of $55,600. "Simpsons" stands as Fox's second-biggest U.K. opening ever, after 2005's "Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith."

In Germany, "Simpsons" drew an estimated $14.2 million from 912 sites, the third-biggest market opening for an animation title. In Australia, the tally was $10.7 million from 443 screens, which Hanneman believes is the biggest market opening ever for an animation title.

The debut in France provided an estimated $9.3 million from 716 situations. The Spain bow, also Fox's second-biggest on record after "Sith," came in at $9.7 million from 675 screens.

Hanneman noted that "Simpsons" opened in eight of the top 15 international markets on the weekend, with playdates in the remaining top markets spread out over August and September.

The mighty opening gross was the result of "an incredible campaign put on in all these markets around the world," Hanneman said. "It shows in many markets where we have (Fox parent) News Corp. subsidiaries how well a major corporation can pull together and work toward something like this."

No. 2 overseas on the weekend was "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," which in its third stanza out internationally crossed the $450 million mark thanks to an estimated $50 million weekend from about 12,000 screens in 59 markets. The Warner Bros. International release, which had been No. 1 overseas for the last two weekends, has grossed $691.8 million worldwide so far.

Finishing third was DreamWorks/Paramount Pictures International's "Transformers," which took in an estimated $42 million from 5,362 screens in 48 markets. Its overseas cume stands at $246.5 million.

By far, the biggest of the five new markets for "Transformers" was the U.K., where it bowed to an estimated $16.6 million from 459 screens. In France, the tally was $6.3 million from 675 screens, which is 6% ahead of the opening gross in the market for last year's "Mission: Impossible III."

In fourth place is Disney/Pixar's "Ratatouille," which charmed an estimated $10 million from 2,560 situations in 18 territories; its international gross total stands at $52 million. The film bowed in four markets over the weekend, of which Japan (with an estimated $4.2 million from 500 screens) and Korea ($2 million from 250 sites) were the biggest. Openings in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, Holland, Hong Kong and Taiwan are scheduled through the coming week.

No. 5 is Fox's "Die Hard 4," the latest in the Bruce Willis action series, which grossed an estimated $8.5 million from about 4,000 situations in 51 markets. Released domestically as "Live Free or Die Hard," the film's international total stands at $175 million, with a slew of key overseas markets to play in August through October.

DreamWorks/PPI's "Shrek the Third" snared an estimated $6.2 million on the weekend from 4,196 screens in 54 markets, lifting its international gross to $397.5 million. Universal International's "Knocked Up" registered an estimated $3.1 million from 535 sites in four markets, benefiting from a $1.9 million bow in Russia at 246 situations. The film's cume stands at $13 million.

New Line's "Hairspray" registered an estimated $3 million in two markets. It is holding nicely in the U.K., with an estimated $2.8 million from 357 screens in its second weekend, enough to place No. 4 in the market and bring its cume to $11.1 million. "Hairspray" also opened July 26 at an unspecified number of screens in Israel.

Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" grossed an estimated $2 million from 3,021 screens in 37 territories, pushing its international gross to $644.5 million, making it the fourth-biggest overseas grosser of all time. Worldwide, "At World's End" ranks No. 5 all-time with a cume of $950 million.

Universal International opened the Kevin James-Adam Sandler comedy "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry" in Greece, the Netherlands and Taiwan for an estimated $1 million from 107 screens. In ranked No. 1 in Greece.

Other overseas cume updates: Universal's "Hot Fuzz," $55 million; WBI's "Ocean's Thirteen," $159.3 million; Universal's "Evan Almighty," $6 million; Fox's "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" (which has eight major markets still to play), $110 million; and Universal's "Mr. Bean's Holiday" (which bows domestically on Aug. 24), $186 million.
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