'Beowulf,' 'Gangster' take hold

New entries launching run-up to overseas holiday season

As the major studios start to position high-profile films for the holiday season, two diverse films — Robert Zemeckis' pop-culture adaptation of the Old English epic poem "Beowulf," and Ridley Scott's crime thriller "American Gangster" — jumped to the forefront at the start of the year-end international boxoffice race.

"Beowulf," from Warner Bros. Pictures International, grossed an estimated $17.3 million in its opening weekend from 2,500 prints in 13 markets, while "Gangster" pulled in $14.3 million from 1,477 screens in 14 countries.

In several key markets in which both films opened simultaneously, the films were close competitors. In the U.K., "Gangster" came in at No. 1 with $5.3 million from 410 screens, followed by "Beowulf" with $4.5 million from 454. In Germany, "Gangster" also topped the boxoffice chart with $2.7 million from 357 screens, with "Beowulf" copping the No. 2 spot with $1.9 million from 667.

On its own in Korea, "Beowulf," showing in some markets in Imax and digital 3-D, arrived at No. 1 with $3.8 million (including previews) from 148 prints, topping the third-weekend take of local smash hit "Le Grand Chef," which tallied $2.7 million from 330 screens for a market cume to date of $13.1 million. "Beowulf" entered Italy at No. 3 with $2.1 million from 667 screens, lorded over by two local contenders — the opening of "Matrimonio Alle Bahamas" ($4.4 million from 431 screens) and the second weekend of "Come Tu Mi Vuoi" ($2.4 million from 367).

"Beowulf" was particularly strong in Asia, dominating Taiwan with an 80% market share of the top five films, and 81% in Thailand, and debuted at No. 1 in Hong Kong ($539,000 from 45 prints).

Bowing in France without competition from "Beowulf," "Gangster" grabbed the No. 1 spot with $3.6 million in five days from 365 screens and picked up $604,997 in Belgium from 57 screens.

In the wings as the holiday season approaches, Disney's "Enchanted" is ready to take off this coming weekend in Spain, Russia, Israel, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Colombia and Ecuador.

Two Bollywood films that roused international markets the previous weekend seemed to have mysteriously fallen from the boxoffice radar. Moreover, a number of boxoffice experts have seriously questioned the initial figures that were released with considerable fanfare by the distributors of "Saawariya" and "Om Shanti Om," both of which were either greatly subdued or silent this past weekend. According to Sony Pictures Releasing International, "Saawariya," Sony's co-production with India, plunged to only $650,000 from 687 screens in 13 markets for a cume of $17 million after announcing last weekend that the film had opened to a whopping $15.4 million from 899 screens in 13 markets, with most of it coming from India. Eros International, the distributor of "Om Shanti Om," did not respond to requests for boxoffice information relating to the film. In the U.K., "Om Shanti Om" is in the No. 8 position at its second weekend, taking in $512,243 from 51 screens for a market cume to date of almost $2 million.

"Lions for Lambs," the 20th Century Fox International release for United Artists, failed to recover from its disappointing 45-country launch a week ago, adding $5.6 million from 2,700 screens in 53 markets to raise its cume to $19.5 million after opening in six smaller markets, including Argentina and Greece. The star power of Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep and Robert Redford (who also directed) appears to have connected only in Spain, where "Lions" held second place at its second weekend ($1.3 million from 300 screens), second to local hit "The Orphanage," which was No. 1 in the market for six weeks in a row, making it the fourth-highest-grossing local film of all time, with a gross of $30.8 million.

Disney/Pixar's "Ratatouille" is expected to reach $400 million in international gross this coming weekend after picking up $5.8 million from 2,902 screens in 21 markets for a cume to date of $396.5 million. It will become the sixth title in Disney history to reach the $400 million mark.

With 10 new countries coming aboard, "The Heartbreak Kid" hit $51.2 million in foreign gross as it took in $6.8 million over the weekend from 1,611 screens in 29 countries. "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" added five markets for a weekend score of $5.8 million from 1,579 screens in 12 markets to reach a cume to date of $21.8 million.

"Bee Movie," still operating in five small markets, took in $2.1 million from 517 screens to lift its cume to $11 million before it makes its big splash for the holiday season.

More weekend action: "Resident Evil: Extinction," an estimated $3.8 million (cume: $84 million); "Stardust," $3.6 million (cume: $88.9 million); "Superbad," $1.3 million (cume: $45.2 million); "Surf's Up," $2.5 million (cume: $80.1 million); "Die Hard 4.0" (cume: $297 million, after opening in China to $1.1 million); "The Bourne Ultimatum," $1.9 million (cume: $195.3 million); "Atonement," $1.1 million (cume: $28.9 million); "Michael Clayton," $1.9 million (cume: $24.5 million); and "Saw IV," $3 million (cume: $37 million).

"In the Valley of Elah" took in $836,000 from 380 screens in six markets to provide an early cume of $3.5 million. "Eastern Promises," No. 3 in France after a second weekend, has a market cume to date of $4.1 million from 282 screens.