Bigger's better for o'seas rally

Fewer films grossed $100 mil in '06, but overall take grows

Six high-profile U.S. films, led by 20th Century Fox's "Night at the Museum" with $48.9 million, collected more than $134 million at the overseas boxoffice as the final weekend of the festive season came to a triumphant close and cemented 2006 as the Year of the Comeback after 2005's Year of the Slump.

Although 19 films topped the benchmark $100 million in 2006 compared with 23 in the depressed 2005, there was an amazing crop of bigger-than-ever grossers in 2006.

Buena Vista International, the Walt Disney Co.'s overseas distribution arm, set a company record as "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" brought in $642 million from offshore movie houses. With $1.06 billion, the Johnny Depp starrer became the third film in industry history to hurdle $1 billion at the worldwide boxoffice, following 1997's "Titanic" ($1.83 billion) and 2003's "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" ($1.12 billion).

Other weighty overseas scorers in 2006 included Sony's "The Da Vinci Code" with $539.1 million, Fox's "Ice Age: The Meltdown" with $452 million and Sony Pictures' "Casino Royale" with $338.3 million.

Surpassing the $200 million plateau in 2006 were UIP/Paramount's "Mission: Impossible III," BVI's "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" ($453.5 million for an '05-'06 foreign total), Fox's "X-Men: The Last Stand" and BVI's "Cars." Two films topped $190 million, one surpassed $180 million and eight exceeded $100 million.

The overall '06 offshore boxoffice also was bolstered by a batch of $90 million-plus achievers, among them BVI's "Chicken Little"; UIP/Paramount's "World Trade Center"; UIP/Universal's "Inside Man" and "The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift"; Sony's "Click" and "Open Season"; and Summit Entertainment/Constantin's "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer."

As has been a recent trend, a greater percentage of films are bringing in more from abroad than from North America ? for example, "Dead Man's Chest's" $642 million compared with domestic's $423.3 million; "Da Vinci's" $539.1 million compared with $217.5 million; "Ice Age's" $452 million compared with $195.3 million; and "Casino's" $338.3 million compared with $154.9 million.

And the international market frequently helps to bail out big-budget contenders from total disaster. "Poseidon's" meager $60.7 million from domestic release was somewhat salvaged by foreign's $121 million take. The family entry "Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties" picked up only $28.4 million domestically while bringing in $112.2 million overseas.

Other high rollers in the final boxoffice weekend of 2006 were 20th Century Fox's "Eragon," with $20.6 million, Warner Bros. Pictures' "Happy Feet" ($20.5 million), "Casino Royale" ($16.6 million), Sony's "The Holiday" ($16 million) and Buena Vista International's "Deja Vu" ($10.1 million).

Over the weekend, "Night at the Museum" played on 4,859 screens in 30 countries and reached an international cume of $70 million after two weekends. The Ben Stiller comedy pulled in $15 million (including previews) from holiday crowds in the U.K. attending at 479 screens. Australia delivered $5.1 million from 365 screens; Germany ($6.2 million from 852); Mexico ($7.4 million from 927 ? hailed by Fox as the third-biggest all-time opening in the market); Korea ($3.8 million from 368); Taiwan ($2.6 million from 162); and Russia ($1.9 million from 427).

Family fantasy "Eragon" lifted to $105.7 million in its third weekend in release, opening at No. 1 in Brazil with $1.5 million, called the third-biggest opening of the year in the territory. The second weekend in France increased 24% to $5.4 million for a market cume of $11.7 million. Germany took in $10.3 million in three weekends, Italy, $8.8 million in two, and Spain, $10.4 million in three.

The animated "Happy Feet" jumped to $114.2 million after picking up $20.5 million from 6,100 screens in 58 markets.

The romantic comedy "Holiday" did better than it did during the Christmas weekend, drawing $16 million from 3,400 dates in 40 territories and raising its international gross to $70 million.

James Bond fans turned out in droves for "Casino" over the holiday weekend, delivering $16.6 million from 5,285 screens in 61 territories to hoist the international gross to $338.3 million.

The Denzel Washington thriller "Deja Vu" hit a cume of $51.6 million after picking up $10.1 million from 2,903 screens in 33 countries.

Overseas Foreign Domestic

Film distributor '06 '06

Pirates of the Caribbean: BVI $642.0 $423.3

Dead Man's Chest

The Da Vinci Code Sony 539.1 217.5

Ice Age: The Meltdown Fox 452.0 195.3

Casino Royale Sony 338.3 154.9

Mission: Impossible III UIP/Paramount 263.0 133.4

The Chronicles of Narnia:

The Lion, the Witch BVI 253.1* 66.0*

and the Wardrobe

X-Men: The Last Stand Fox 224.4 234.4

Cars BVI 217.7 244.1

The Devil Wears Prada Fox 195.2 124.7

Superman Returns WB 191.0 200.1

Over the Hedge UIP/DreamWorks 180.0 155.0

Poseidon WB 121.0 60.7

The Departed WB 116.8 120.5

King Kong UIP/Universal 115.8** 43.6**

Happy Feet WB 114.2 178.3

Borat Fox 113.4 125.8

Garfield: Fox 112.2 28.4

A Tail of Two Kitties

Eragon Fox 105.7 59.1

Miami Vice UIP/Universal 100.3 63.4