Batman on top of the world again

'Dark Knight' wins overseas as it passes $400 million

Without any high-profile new films in sight, the blockbusters of summer, led by the mighty "The Dark Knight," continued to dominate the overseas market during the weekend as the busy moviegoing season began to slow with the end of the holiday period.

The Warner Bros./DC Comics franchise, never an overseas star in five previous efforts, has reversed that image the sixth time around. "Dark Knight" hit an international gross of $417 million after a $19.2 million weekend at 6,500 screens in 63 territories. The Caped Crusader, despite a drop of 41%, held on to first place for a third week in a row and fourth altogether after giving way to "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" for two sessions.

"Mamma Mia!" the surprise musical hit starring Meryl Streep, sang on lustily to another $11.9 million from 3,073 playdates in 31 countries, lifting its foreign gross to $256.3 million. Other strong summer holdovers maintaining large screen counts include DreamWorks Animation/Paramount's "Kung Fu Panda," which hauled in almost $9 million from 3,176 screens in 30 markets for a cume of $384.7 million; Disney/Pixar's slow rollout "WALL-E," $8 million from 2,182 sites in 32 markets (cume: $174.9 million); Universal's "The Mummy," $7.1 million (including Toho-Towa's release in Japan (cume: $239 million); "You Don't Mess With the Zohan," $7.7 million from 2,330 screens in 36 markets (cume: $69.5 million); and "Hellboy II: The Golden Army," $7.2 million from 1,421 sites in 17 markets (cume: $43.9 million).

Sony's Will Smith starrer "Hancock," on hiatus for several weeks, returned to the top five with an $8.7 million weekend, fueled by a $7.7 million bow in Japan at 454 screens for a total of 1,445 sites (cume: $353.7 million).

Warner Bros.' animated "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" pulled in $4.6 million from 4,156 screens in 35 markets, raising its international gross to $22.5 million.

At the two-third mark (Jan. 1-Aug. 31) of 2008, Paramount, Fox, Warners and Universal have each topped $1 billion in overseas boxoffice revenue, and Disney and Sony appear on track to reach the industry benchmark soon. Two films topped $400 million, two surpassed $300 million, four went over $200 million and five exceeded $100 million. Early estimates place the year-to-date boxoffice take at about 5% below last year's record take of about $7 million for the span.

A key new opening during the weekend saw Sony's Will Ferrell-John C. Reilly comedy "Step Brothers" open at No. 1 in the U.K. with $3.3 million from 362 screens, with new dates starting Sept. 5, when a staggered rollout begins until the end of October. "Babylon A.D.," a split-rights contender, earned $1.3 million from four markets, including the U.K., handled by Fox, and $346,000 from 33 screens in Belgium via Universal Pictures International. Expanding to nine markets, Paramount's Ben Still comedy "Tropic Thunder" took in $3.6 million from 879 screens to advance its early foreign gross to $14.2 million. Another newcomer, Universal's "The Strangers," opened No. 3 in the U.K. ($2.2 million from 280).

As "Knight" climbed past $400 million, it remained No. 1 in France for a third consecutive week, generating $3.2 million from 784 screens for a market gross of $21.3 million. It also ranked No. 1 in Germany for a second weekend, tallying $4.6 million from 955 screens for a market cume of $17.7 million. Five weekends in the U.K. has delivered $90.3 million; six in Australia, $41.4 million; six in Mexico, $25.1 million; four in Korea, $21.4 million; five in Brazil, $20 million; five in Italy, $14.6 million; three in Spain, $14.1 million. Japan contributed $12.6 million in four weekends and Russia $8 million in three.

Top markets for "Panda" included the U.K. ($38.7 million in eight weeks); $27.3 million from France in seven; $24.4 million from Germany in eight; $24.7 million from Australia in nine; and $28.6 million from Korea in nine.

"WALL-E" opened No. 1 during the weekend in Singapore ($851,000 from 70 screens), Norway ($740,000 from 65) and Denmark ($585,000 from 65). Seven weeks in the U.K. has brought in $32.2 million; five in France, where it holds the No. 2 position, $22.8 million; and five in Spain, $13.8 million.

The market continues to be as crowded as ever despite the expected slowdown. The weekend action included "Wanted," $3.2 million (cume: $138.1 million); "Get Smart," $2.6 million (cume: $87.4 million); "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian," $1.9 million (cume: $273 million); "Taken," $1.9 million (cume: $13.8 million); "Death Race," $1.1 million (cume: 2.5 million); "Meet Dave," $1.2 million (cume: $29.9 million); and "Mirrors," $1.2 million (cume: $5.2 million).