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CANNES — Sacha Baron Cohen’s world travels appear to be paying off, with his new comedy The Dictator posting a promising $4.2 million from nine markets as it began to roll out overseas on Wednesday, including $1.6 million in the U.K.
The Paramount picture is expected to fare notably better internationally than domestically, where it opened to a softish $4.2 million on Wednesday, including $650,000 in Tuesday midnight runs and select 9 p.m. Tuesday runs. The R-rated comedy also earned a disappointing C CinemaScore.
Box-office observers now expect the film’s five-day debut in North America to fall in the $20 million to $23 million range, less than Baron Cohen’s Borat or Bruno earned in their respective three-day openings.
Overseas, where Dictator will roll out in 32 markets, the forecast is calling for a debut north of $30 million.
On Wednesday, Baron Cohen — dressed in character as Admiral General Aladeen — was in Cannes to woo the international press with several antics, including mounting a camel in front of the historic Carlton Hotel and pretending to throw Italian beauty Elisabetta Canalis off a yacht in a body bag (that stunt was captured by paparazzi stationed at the Hotel du Cap).
Paramount and Baron Cohen have been on a two-week road tour of Europe promoting Dictator, including a premiere in London.
In addition to the U.K., Dictator opened Wednesday in Australia, where it did a pleasing $795,000. It also earned $450,000 in German previews.
In the U.S., tracking for The Dictator has been soft among moviegoers older than 30, who might be skittish about what boundaries Baron Cohen will cross in the film.
The Dictator reunites Baron Cohen with Borat and Bruno director Larry Charles. Borat was a worldwide phenomenon, grossing $133.1 million internationally and $128.5 million in North America after opening to $26.5 million in November 2006.
Bruno was considered a disappointment in comparison, opening to $30.6 million domestically in July 2009 but topping out at $60.1 million. The film earned $78.8 million overseas.
The Dictator cost $65 million to produce and was shot on a bigger scale than Borat and Bruno because of the storyline, which centers on a Middle Eastern dictator who goes to New York and essentially is defrocked. Part of the movie was shot on location in the Middle East before the production moved to Manhattan.
Paramount originally intended to open the R-rated comedy May 11 opposite Dark Shadows but pushed back the release until May 16 because of Avengers and Dark Shadows, which ended up having a heavy comedic tone.
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