'Solace' has license to thrill

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The old adage about the movie business being recession proof was certified — at least for now — over the weekend as the international market greeted a new James Bond entry well above even the wildest expectations.

"Quantum of Solace," the 22nd installment in the 007 saga, pulled in an amazing $107.1 million from 9,870 screens in 58 markets, lifting the Sony-MGM entry to a two-weekend cume of $161 million following last week's kickoffs in the U.K., France and Sweden. The overseas action augurs well for Friday's domestic blastoff.

With the exception of Turkey, where it was edged by a local film, "Solace" easily took the No. 1 spot in all the markets it played, setting all kinds of new records along the way. It represented the second-biggest international opening of 2008, coming in behind the $146.5 million registered by Warner Bros.' "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."

All films currently reporting international grosses are earning about 15%-20% less — depending on the territories now playing — because of the strengthening of the dollar against local currencies. It's estimated, for example, that "Solace's" weekend take might have reached $118 million under the weaker dollar of several weeks ago.

Over the weekend, Germany was Bond's biggest fan, grossing $14.9 million from 1,109 screens. China grossed $9.6 million from 1,251 screens, hailed as the second biggest non-Chinese opening ever behind Sony's own "The Da Vinci Code." India grossed $3.5 million from 570 screens for the country's biggest non-India opening ever, according to Sony International. And Switzerland grossed $3.9 million from 172 screens for the biggest opening weekend in the market's history.

"Solace" still has 13 markets to play, opening this weekend in Mexico, Hungary and Vietnam, followed by Australia on Nov. 19 and Spain on Nov. 21. The overseas run ends Jan. 24 in Japan.

Other distributors of new high-profile titles seemed pleased by how the business is going at this point. Disney International is among them thanks to the ship-shape performance of "High Musical 3: Senior Year," which brought in $14.6 million from 4,530 screens in 31 markets for a cume to date of $110.3 million. Disney noted that "HSM3" became the studio's fifth film to cross $100 million this year in the international market. In its third week in Italy, the telefilm franchise-turned-feature musical has taken in $9.4 million in 10 days; the U.K. delivered $32.1 million in three weekends; Germany, $13.1 million; France, $12 million; and Spain, $9.6 million.

Despite its appearance in only a few smaller markets, Paramount/DreamWorks' "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" rang up $40.2 million after a $9.2 million second weekend from 818 screens in just four countries. The Central Park zoo animals who have returned to their jungle habitat are having a great time in Russia, where they tallied $35.8 million in 11 days. Over the weekend, "Madagascar 2" scored $662,000 from 28 screens in Hungary and $621,569 from 130 in the Philippines. The animated sequel roared off to $63.5 million in its weekend domestic debut.

Warner Bros.' "Body of Lies," the Ridley Scott thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe, picked up some steam after a slow start, grabbing fourth place with $5.3 million from 1,220 screens in 13 markets, lifting its cume to $16.5 million. In France, "Lies" found truth with a No. 2 bow behind "Solace" ($2.4 million from 428 screens).

"Saw V" continued to saw away satisfactorily to take fifth place for the weekend. The horror serial reached an international cume of $23 million after taking in an estimated $5.1 million from about 2,000 screens in 31 territories.

The Coen brothers' "Burn After Reading," a split-rights overseas release between Universal and its specialized affiliate Focus Features, picked up a combined $3.4 million from 1,800 screens in 21 markets to raise its international gross to $62 million.

More weekend action: "Nights in Rodanthe," $2.4 million (cume: $25.3 million); "Mamma Mia!," $1.7 million (cume: $418 million); "WALL-E," $1.7 million (cume: $262 million); "Eagle Eye," $1.6 million (cume: $70.1 million); "Max Payne," $1.2 million (cume: $26.6 million); "Hellboy II: The Golden Army," $1.2 million (cume: $78.6 million). (partialdiff)
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