'Avatar' dominates int'l boxoffice

James Cameron movie rakes in $165.5 million overseas

Director James Cameron's "Avatar" commanded the international circuit on the weekend, soaring to No. 1 with boxoffice of $165.5 million in its opening five days from 14,604 screens in 106 territories.

"Avatar's" actual weekend figure on the foreign circuit was $6.3 million more than the $159.2 million reported on Sunday due, said distributor 20th Century Fox, "to the unexpected increase in boxoffice from Saturday to Sunday (about 3% overall)."

Fox said the much-anticipated futuristic 3D spectacle's worldwide gross total of $242.5 million ranks as the "highest-grossing nonfranchise, nonsequel opening ever." The overseas per-screen average was $11,334.

"We are off to a great start," said Paul Hanneman, co-president of Fox Theatrical International, who noted that "Avatar," while benefiting from solid reviews overseas, had to defy tough winter weather in many European markets. On the basis of favorable word-of-mouth, Hanneman predicts that "Avatar" grosses will hold relatively strongly in the coming weeks.
"We played 106 markets, and we were No. 1 in all of them," he added.
Markets generating weekend tallies of at least $10 million were, as per Fox: Russia ($20.8 million from 1,327 sites), France ($20.3 million from 1,083 locations), the U.K. ($14.1 million from 1,130 situations), Germany ($13.2 million from 1,128 screens), Australia ($11.9 million from 588 locations), South Korea ($11.4 million from 860 sites) and Spain ($10.9 million from 798 screens).

"Avatar" set all-time opening boxoffice records in Romania and the Dominican Republic. Opening records for a Fox-distributed title were chalked up in at least 15 territories, including South Korea, Spain, India, Hong Kong, Sweden, Denmark, Greece and Singapore.

Fox said that 25% of the total screens played were 3D locations (3,671), and those sites contributed 56% of the offshore weekend gross. As a result of the weekend action, Fox says it will exceed $2 billion in 2009 total overseas boxoffice by Monday.
With its reported production cost of some $280 million plus a $150 million marketing tab, "Avatar" very much needs to generate exceptionally strong offshore boxoffice. Cameron's sweeping romantic drama "Titanic" did precisely that, scoring overseas boxoffice of $1.25 billion, more than double the $601 million the 1997 title drew in North America.
The "Avatar" launch is by no means a record. Warner Bros.' "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" set the current record in July when it raked in $236 million over five days from 15,800 screens in 54 markets. The previous record-holder was Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," which opened in May 2007 to $218.4 million over five days.
Nonetheless, "Avatar's" opening offshore figure is impressive given that it is not a franchise title. Only seven films in 2009 have grossed more than $100 million in their opening foreign launches, and "Avatar" ranks No. 2 after "Half-Blood Prince."
Comparable in scope to "Avatar's" saturation launch was Sony's Nov. 11 break at 12,887 screens in 105 markets of director Roland Emmerich's disaster epic "2012," which opened to $165.2 million. So far, "2012's" foreign tally is more than 3 1/2 times its domestic gross.
Hanneman pointed out that "2012" opened in four markets (Italy, Poland, China and Uruguay) that "Avatar" did not. The Cameron epic will open in these markets plus Japan in the coming weeks.
"2012" pushed its overseas cume on the weekend to $572.8 million thanks to an $8.1 million weekend from 6,202 screens in 77 markets. It ranks No. 3 on the weekend.
No. 2 was Summit International's "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," which raised its overseas gross total to $381.9 million on the strength of a $11 million weekend from 6,202 situations in 67 territories. Worldwide cume stands at $656.5 million.
Fourth was "Disney's A Christmas Carol," starring Jim Carrey, which drew $7.2 million, hoisting its overseas cume to $159.8 million. Top markets for director Robert Zemeckis' 3D performance capture version of the Charles Dickens classic continue to be Italy ($1.7 million on the weekend; cume $16.5 milllion) and the U.K. ($1.6 million; cume $29.3 million).
Disney Animation's fairy tale "The Princess and the Frog," which finished No. 2 domestically, generated $5.4 million from 2,250 locations in 11 territories, to finish fifth overseas on the weekend. Its foreign cume stands at to $15.2 million.
Pixar/Disney's "Up" grossed another $4.2 million on the weekend, hoisting its overseas cume to $409.6 million. The animation title is expected by midweek to surpass 2007's "Ratatouille" (total overseas gross, $414 million) to become the second-biggest Disney/Pixar title ever.

In Germany and Austria, Warner Bros.' local-language German co-production "Zweiohrkuken," a romantic comedy directed, co-written and starring by Til Schweiger, ranked No. 2 in each market, drawing a combined $4.17 million from a total of 811 screens. Its German market cume over three frames stands at $24.1 million. Austria cume is $2 million.

The top local-language title in France was EuropaCorp. Distribution's No. 2-ranked "Arthur et la vengeance de Maltazard," director/co-writer Luc Besson's English-language, family-oriented animation title. Third weekend produced $3.9 million from 925 screens for a market cume of $22.7 million.

The low-budget horror-thriller "Paranormal," being handled offshore by IM Global via various licensees, rolled up an overseas cume of $43.4 million from 23 territories by Dec. 15 and added at least $2.7 million over the weekend from Brazil, France, the U.K., Australia, Argentina and Portugal.

Opening at No. 2 in the U.K. was Entertainment Film Distributors' "St. Trinians 2: The Legend of Fritton's Gold" from Ealing Studios, the latest title in a venerable film series of comedies about a school for wayward girls. Weekend tally was $2.6 million from 428 locations.
Newcomers in France included No. 5-ranked "Le dernier vol" (The Last Flight) from director Karim Dridi and starring Marion Cotillard. The Gaumont release about a woman searching for her husband after his plane disappears in the Sahara drew $1 million from 356 dates.
Opening at No. 8 was Haut et Court's animation release "Kerrity, la maison de contes," directed by Dominique Monfery and voiced by Jeanne Moreau, among others. Weekend gross was $801,129 from 215 situations.
Other international cumes: Warners' "Invictus," $567,000 (South Africa only); Disney's "Old Dogs," $15.9 million; Universal's "Public Enemies," $113.4 million; Sony's "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs," $75 million; Paramount's "Celda 221," $12 million (from Spain only); Universal's "Couples Retreat," $47.6 million; Paramount's "Capitalism: A Love Story," $1.5 million; and Fox's "Spanish Movie," $8.4 million (Spain only).
Also, Paramount's "Law Abiding Citizen," $8.9 million; the Weinstein Co./Universal's "Inglourious Basterds," $198.3 million; Studio Canal's "RTT," $4.3 million (France only); Universal's "The Invention of Lying," $13.4 million (from four territories); "Los Abrazos Rotas" (from Universal, Paramount and other distributors), $32 million; Pathe's "Loup," $3.95 million (France only); Focus Features/Universal's "A Serious Man," $3.2 million (Universal territories only); Warner Bros.' "Where the Wild Things Are," $10.4 million; and Warners' "Ninja Assassin," $19.3 million.