'Avatar' wows 'em worldwide

Global tally clocks in at $625.9 million

"Avatar" surprised no one by taking the No. 1 spot on the foreign circuit for the second weekend in a row.

But director James Cameron's mega-budget epic raised eyebrows with its overseas boxoffice staying power, grossing $152.8 million -- a mere 7.6% drop from its opening weekend -- from 14,686 screens. It did well in its second week in the U.S. as well

With Sunday business surprisingly strong, "Avatar's" $145 million weekend estimate provided Sunday had to be revised upward. As a result, overall per-screen average offshore topped the $10,000 mark ($10,404), exceptionally strong given the saturation nature of the foreign blitz.

Triple-digit opening grosses usually decline substantially in the ensuing weekend. A drop of less than 50% is considered positive by the industry. Distributor 20th Century Fox said "Avatar's" relative miniscule decline "is even more impressive given theater closures in many markets on Dec. 24 and/or Dec. 25."

The film's offshore cumulative total stands at $413.2 million. Worldwide tally clocks in at $625.9 million.

Not coincidentally, Fox reported yesterday that its 2009 overseas boxoffice set a new industry record -- an estimated $2.28 billion, the highest of any Hollywood studio ever "with four more days to go." (Warner Bros. previously held the foreign b.o. record set in 2007 of $2.24 billion.)

"Avatar's" Japan opening generated $14.5 million from 749 screens while its Poland bow registered $1.8 million from 235 sites. Fox said the film finished No. 1 in 107 of the 108 territories it played on the weekend. It ranked No. 2 in India after a local language title.

The most receptive market is France where "Avatar's" second weekend gross was $21.8 million from 1,114 sites for a per-screen average of $19,581. France cume stands at $51.7 million.

Fox says "Avatar" is after 10 days the studio's best-grossing title ever in Korea (cume $23.4 million), Malaysia ($3.5 million), Indonesia ($2.9 million) and Vietnam. Notable are the numbers posted in some of the bigger markets: Spain ($12.5 million from 800 sites, cume $28.8 million) and Germany ($12.8 million from 1,138 screens, cume $34.2 million). The weekend U.K. gross was $6.1 million from 496 locations for a market cume of $28.4 million.

No. 2 title on the weekend was Fox's "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel," with the singing chipmunks generating an animated $37.1 million from 5,479 screens in 42 markets. The distributor said that the sequel to 2007's "Alvin and the Chipmunks" has "earned 215% of (the original's) opening."

"Squeakquel" finished second in at least 20 markets, and generated particularly strong numbers in the U.K. ($8.6 million from 489 screens). The comedy/fantasy has 25 foreign markets yet to play.

No. 3 was Warner Bros. "Sherlock Holmes," an updating of the Arthur Conan Doyle literary detective with Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as faithful assistant Dr. Watson. The film's international launch began at 2,603 screens in 17 markets for a weekend tally of $26 million. Strongest market was Italy where the gross was $6.7 million from 451 sites for a $14,856 per screen average.

No. 4 was Disney's Animation's "The Princess and the Frog," which pushed its foreign take so far to $29 million thanks to a $8.9 million weekend from 2,500 sites in 17 territories. Disney said the title drew especially well in Italy where its weekend tally -- $2.9 million from 519 locations – was up 178% from the prior weekend's take.

No. 5 was "Disney's A Christmas Carol" with Jim Carrey as Ebenezer Scrooge, which registered $7.2 million on the weekend from 3,800 screens in 44 markets. Cume stands at $173.8 million making, according to Disney, the title from director Robert Zemeckis "the biggest Yuletide-themed release ever outside of North America."

"The Twilight Saga: New Moon" registered a weekend tally of $5.8 million from 4,233 situations in 67 territories. International cume over five frames stands at $389.3 million.

Opening overseas in 11 territories was writer-director Nancy Meyers' romantic comedy "It's Complicated" costarring Meryl Streep, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, which drew $5.5 million overall from 1,034 screens. Worldwide tally is $27.6 million.

France debut produced a No. 4 ranking in Paris, and $1.6 million from 363 sites in the market. Spain did better with $2.1 million drawn from 318 locations, enough for a No. 3 ranking. "It's Complicated" will play 52 markets in the coming months with openings in the Middle East set for next weekend.

Sony's "2012" pushed its foreign cume to $583.7 million thanks to a $5.1 million weekend at 4,300 screens in 75 markets. The disaster epic from director Roland Emmerich remains No. 1 in Argentina with a market cume of $3.3 million over four rounds.

Sony's "Did You Hear About the Morgans," costarring Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker, got off to a lame offshore start in Australia by generating $1.1 million from 208 screens.

Paramount released on Boxing Day (Dec. 26) "The Lovely Bones," the crime drama/fantasy directed by Peter Jackson and costarring Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz, in Australia and New Zealand for a total of $730,000 from 93 locations.

"Zweiohrkuken," Warner Bros.' local language German co-production drew a combined $3.7 million on the weekend from 811 locations in Germany and Austria. Germany cume for the romantic comedy directed, co-written and starring Til Schweiger was $29.7 million over four frames, while the Austria cume was $2.5 million.

"Old Dogs," the Disney comedy with John Travolta and Robin Williams, nudged its overseas cume to $19.7 million thanks to a $3.1 million weekend at 1,500 screens in 18 territories.

France's top-grossing local language title remains EuropaCorp. Distribution's release of director/co-writer Luc Besson's English-language animation hit, "Arthur e la vengeance de Maltazard." Fourth weekend generated a No. 2 market ranking with $3.4 million drawn from 925 situations for a France cume of $28.3 million.

It's official: "Up" with a $417.2 overseas total to date has surpassed 2007's "Ratatouille" (cume of $414 million) to become the second highest-grossing Pixar/Disney title ever, trailing only 2003's "Finding Nemo" ($527 million). Weekend action for "Up" in Japan, it's final overseas market, was $2.7 million from 650 screens, hoisting its territorial cume to $31.7 million over four stanzas.

Three newcomers within the weekend's top France 10 where all imports. Opening at No. 5 was Le Pacte's release of "Rec 2," a Spanish horror-thriller from co-directors Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza, which grabbed an estimated $1.6 million from 251 locations.

Finishing No. 8 was the British-Czech coproduction "Solomon Kane," director Michael Michael Bassett's adventure/fantasy released by Metropolitan Filmexport. Opening tally was an estimated $1.1 million from 310 sites.

Finishing outside the top 10 in France was Francis Coppola's "Tetro," a mystery-drama with Vincent Gallo. The Memento Film's release opened to an estimated $600,000 from 200 screens.

Other international cumes: Focus Features/Universal's "A Serious Man," $7.8 million; Sony's "Zombieland," $21.5 million; Mandate Int'l.'s "Saw VI," $33.6 million; Universal's "Couples Retreat," $50 million; Studio Canal's "R.T.T.," $6 million in three rounds, France only; The Weinstein Co./Universal's "Inglourious Basterds," $198.4 million; Sony's "Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs," $79.4 million (thanks to a $3.8 million weekend at 1,085 screens in 26 markets); and Focus Features' "Love Happens," $8.9 million.

Also, Paramount's "Law Abiding Citizen," $9.1 million; Pathe's "Loup," $5.9 million over three rounds in France only; Focus Features/Universal's "9," $15.4 million; Universal's "Public Enemies," $114.8 million; Paramount's "Celda 221," $12.7 million over eight rounds in Spain only); Gaumont's "Le dernier vol," $2 million over two rounds, France only); Universal's "Invention of Lying," $13.6 million; and Toei's "One Piece Film: Strong World," $31.9 million over three rounds, Japan only.