'Bourne' bucking o'seas trends

Rare late-summer launch provides punch at int'l b.o.

As August quickly drags summer away, the overseas boxoffice faces a quirky period of film releases during the final weeks of what is being hailed as the most successful summer in industry history.

Traditionally, the final days of school holidays are a precursor to the fall, when, starting in September, the major studios begin placing more serious adult offerings in the international distribution pipeline. But in fact August is a catch-all period that mainly offers foreign fans a mixed bag of movies that include holdover tentpoles from the major studios, American also-rans, homegrown films and non-U.S. imports.

High-profile films are seldom launched in late August, a period more noted for the playoffs of the sizzling blockbusters of June and July and perhaps a trickle from such May stalwarts as this year's "Spider-Man 3," from Sony Pictures, and "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," from Walt Disney Pictures.

But one late-summer tentpole, Universal Pictures' "The Bourne Ultimatum," which opens today in the U.K. after starting out this month in Hong Kong, Indonesia and South Africa, is making a big key-market thrust in the last weeks of the moviegoing vacation period. In addition to the U.K., the sequel starring Matt Damon will invade Spain, Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand as well as a number of smaller territories this month; Japan and Italy are scheduled to get the film in November.

Universal's earlier tentpole offering, "Evan Almighty," has late-August dates in France, Hong Kong and Spain.

Scattered here and there around the globe as the month wanes will be a number of independent entries, especially New Line Cinema's "Rush Hour 3," which has a number of key dates lined up for this month beginning this weekend. New Line's "Hairspray" and "Next" are among a few other indie titles that have dates.

The holdover summer tentpoles, based on the international boxoffice charts, have the best chance to draw the bulk of the business as the season comes to a close. A rundown of the charts in key territories shows such biggies as "The Simpsons" "Transformers," "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," "Ratatouille," "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Surfer" and "Die Hard 4" holding strong in follow-up sessions in many key markets.

August business differs from country to country. The U.K., the No. 1 international market for U.S. films, remains especially lively with the school vacation period at its height. Italy, on the other hand, is in the doldrums until September.

The U.K., an avid moviegoing country, tends to provide a No. 1 welcome to each new major film. "Rush Hour" took top honors last weekend, "Bourne Ultimatum" is expected to do so this weekend and "Knocked Up" will make its bid starting Aug. 24.

Holes in the overseas release schedule also emerge in August, providing the major distributors an opportunity to squeeze in some of their more modest product. Titles that might pop up include "License to Wed," "No Reservations," "The Lookout," "Year of the Dog," "Daddy Day Camp," "Are We Done Yet?" and "I Think I Love My Wife," among others.