Year of the Comeback at overseas boxoffice

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Six high-profile U.S. films, led by "Night at the Museum's" $48.9 million haul, collected more than $134 million at the overseas boxoffice as the final weekend of the festive season came to a triumphant close, cementing 2006 as the Year of the Comeback after 2005's Year of the Slump.

Other high rollers as 2007 loomed were "Eragon," with $20.6 million, "Happy Feet" ($20.5 million), "Casino Royale" ($16.6 million), "The Holiday" ($16 million) and "Deja Vu" ($10.1 million).

Although 19 films each topped the benchmark $100 million in 2006, compared with 23 in depressed 2005, there was an amazing crop of bigger-than-ever grossers in 2006.

Buena Vista International, the Walt Disney Co.'s overseas distribution arm, set a company record as "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" brought in $642 million from offshore movie houses. The Johnny Depp starrer became the third film in industry history to hurdle $1 billion ($1.06 billion) at the worldwide boxoffice, following 2003's "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" ($1.12 billion) and 1997's "Titanic" ($1.83 billion).

Other weighty overseas scorers in 2006 included Sony's "The Da Vinci Code," with $539.1 million, 20th Century Fox's "Ice Age: The Meltdown" ($452 million) and Sony's "Casino" ($338.3 million).

In the over-$200 million bracket for 2006 were UIP/Paramount's "Mission: Impossible III," BVI's "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" ($453.5 million for an '05-'06 foreign total), Fox's "X-Men: The Last Stand" and BVI's "Cars." Two films topped $190 million, one surpassed $180 million, and eight exceeded $100 million. The overall '06 offshore boxoffice also was bolstered by a batch of over-$90 million achievers, among them BVI's "Chicken Little," UIP/Paramount's "World Trade Center," UIP/Universal's "Inside Man" and "The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift"; Sony's "Click" and "Open Season"; and Summit Entertainment/Constantin's "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer."

As has been a recent trend, a greater percentage of films are bringing in more from abroad than from North America -- for example, "Dead Man's Chest's" $642 million compared with domestic's $423.3 million; "Da Vinci's" $539.1 million compared with $217.5 million; "Ice Age's" $452 million compared with $195.3 million; and "Casino's" $338.3 million compared with $154.9 million.

And the international market frequently helps to bail out big-budget contenders from total disaster. "Poseidon's" meager $60.7 million from domestic release was somewhat salvaged by foreign's $121 million take. The family entry "Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties" picked up only $28.4 million domestically while bringing in $112.2 million overseas.

Over the weekend, "Night" played on 4,859 screens in 30 countries and reached an international cume of $70 million after two weekends. The Ben Stiller comedy pulled in $15 million (including previews) from holiday crowds in the U.K. attending at 479 screens. Australia delivered $5.1 million from 365; Germany ($6.2 million from 852); Mexico ($7.4 million from 927 -- hailed by Fox as the third-biggest all-time opening in the market); Korea ($3.8 million from 368); Taiwan ($2.6 million from 162); and Russia ($1.9 million from 427).

Fox's family fantasy "Eragon" lifted to $105.7 million in its third weekend in release, opening at No. 1 in Brazil with $1.5 million, called the third-biggest opening of the year in the territory. The second weekend in France increased 24% to $5.4 million for a market cume of $11.7 million; Germany took in $10.3 million in three weekends; Italy, $8.8 million in two; and Spain, $10.4 million in three.

The animated "Happy Feet" jumped to $114.2 million after picking up $20.5 million from 6,100 screens in 58 markets.

The romantic comedy "Holiday" did better than it did over the Christmas weekend, drawing $16 million from 3,400 dates in 40 territories, raising its international gross to $70 million.

James Bond fans turned out in droves for "Casino" over the holiday weekend, delivering $16.6 million from 5,285 screens in 61 territories to hoist the international gross to $338.3 million.

The Denzel Washington thriller "Deja Vu" hit a cume of $51.6 million after picking $10.1 million from 2,903 screens in 33 countries.
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