Bond readies to halt 'Borat' run

Shock comedy No. 1 for second week as 'Casino' sets sights

British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's mocumentary "Borat" dominated international screens for a second consecutive weekend, but the overseas market will determine whether the shock-dispensing shenanigans of a make-believe Kazakhstan newsman can stand up to suave action hero James Bond, whose "Casino Royale" opens in 31 territories this coming weekend.

"Borat's" crude antics continued to win over mostly European audiences, taking in $15.4 million from 1,147 screens in 20 markets for an international cume to date of $43.2 million.

How "Borat" will fare in language-conscious nations like France, Spain and Italy, and especially in Latin America and Asia, remains up in the air, but the general feeling is that the international buzz surrounding "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" will transcend any doubts about the film's boxoffice chances.

"Casino Royale," meanwhile, has the advantage of having in Bond a popular icon who usually scores better at overseas multiplexes than in North America. The Sony Pictures Releasing International entry is going out in three main waves, with the first rollout of 31 countries, including the U.K. with 1,000 screens, Russia with 632 and India with 500. The second sweep includes France, Germany and Spain, with Japan in line to greet 007 on Dec. 1.

Over the weekend, "Borat" came in at No. 1 in three smaller markets — Greece ($279,000 from 27 screens), Bulgaria ($44,000 from 10) and Serbia ($41,000 from four). Key holdovers saw "Borat" take the No. spot in the U.K. for a second week, dropping only 15% for a tally of $8.6 million from 430 screens for a market cume of $26.9 million. In Germany, the comedy showed a 4% increase on its second weekend, recording $2.7 million for a market cume of $6.3 million.

In addition to "Borat," 20th Century Fox's offbeat entry about a fashion magazine, "The Devil Wears Prada," maintained a solid holdover pace, taking in $7.2 million from 3,107 screens in 31 markets for a cume of $162.9 million, with a sole opening in the United Arab Emirates delivering $107,000 from 19 screens. Five-week totals include $25.5 million from the U.K., $19.3 million from Germany and $16.5 million from Italy.

With Warner Bros. Pictures International joining Fox, Sony and Buena Vista International among this year's over-$1 billion achievers at the international boxoffice, this year's overseas business may come close to or top 2004's all-time record. Sony is looking forward to new heights as "Casino Royale" enters the market; BVI appears on the verge of surpassing another industry mark; and Fox is riding high with the unexpected triumphs of "Prada" and "Borat."

Sony's animated "Open Season" continued to draw the family trade, coming in second to "Borat" in the international market with $9 million from 4,570 screens in 52 markets for a cume of $63.5 million.

DreamWorks/Paramount's new animated offering "Flushed Away" moved up to $6.2 million after a $1.6 million holdover weekend from four markets, while the company's earlier "Over the Hedge" reached $176.7 million following a $1.3 million weekend from 513 screens in 13 markets.

Paramount docu comedy "Jackass Number Two" opened No. 1 in Australia with $1.8 million from 198 screens, contributing to the weekend total of $2.2 million and a cume to date of almost $5 million.

Lionsgate's "Saw III," which BVI is releasing in Spain and Latin America, came up with a weekend total of $7.7 million from 1,436 screens in 16 territories, providing a cume to date of $26.7 million. The horror offering arrived No. 1 in Spain with $2.8 million from 295 screens and held the No. 1 spot in Brazil for a second weekend, dropping only 31% with a take of $715,000 from 204 screens for a market cume of $2.6 million.

Also among the top five weekend scorers was Warner Bros. Pictures' "The Departed," which took in $7.3 million from about 1,900 prints in 36 countries (including estimated tallies from non-Warners markets). The Martin Scorsese crime drama debuted at No. 1 in Brazil ($721,000 from 150 prints) and is holding well for a sixth week in the U.K., a fifth week in Australia, and a third weekend in Spain and Italy. The cume to date has reached $59.6 million.

Ridley Scott's languishing comedy-drama "A Good Year," starring Russell Crowe, made a bit of an impact thanks to expanding dates, picking up $4.7 million from 1,843 screens in 18 markets for a cume to date of $7.9 million. It entered Germany in the No. 5 spot with $1.1 million from 351 screens.

Warner Bros. Pictures' "The Prestige" reached $11.3 million after a $4.3 million weekend in 18 markets, highlighted by a $2.3 million opening in the U.K. and key holdovers in Spain and Korea. At the same time, Warners' "Flags of Our Fathers" took in $2.6 million in 11 markets from 1,360 prints, raising the cume to $13.4 million.

Summit Entertainment's release of "Step Up" collected $2.2 million over the weekend from 870 screens to hoist the film's cume to $27.8 million, while the indie distributor's "Babel" scored an estimated $2.8 million from 380 screens, with Mexico welcoming it in the No. 1 position with $1.7 million from 280 screens.

Local-language offerings kept up a hot pace. Germany's "Seven Dwarves 2" has a cume of $23.4 million following a $3.8 million weekend in four countries; Warners' release in Japan of local film "Death Note 2" continued as a strong No. 1 in the market, grossing $4.6 million from 346 prints for a market cume to date of $19.4 million; and Warners' release of the Spanish film "Pan's Labyrinth" grossed $766,000 from about 450 prints in Spain and Mexico, lifting the international gross to $11.6 million.