Christmas early for 'Madagascar'


As Paramount/DreamWorks "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" and Fox's "The Day the Earth Stood Still" delivered a one-two punch at the overseas boxoffice during the weekend, the major studios were focusing on Christmas week, the top moviegoing period of the year.

The animated "Madagascar 2," which took command of the international boxoffice with a $36.6 million weekend, will have almost 6,000 screens working in 43 markets this week, while the reimagining of "Earth," which dropped to second place with $21.3 million, will offer about 7,800 sites in 92 territories.

The anticipated clout of the two tentpoles, however, is not stopping other hopefuls from eyeing a piece of the holiday business. Chief among them is Fox's Baz Luhrmann's Western-style epic "Australia," set to take off on Christmas Day in 45 markets, including the U.K., Germany, France, Spain and Mexico; and Disney's Adam Sandler starrer, "Bedtime Stories," booked in 15 territories, including the U.K., Germany, France and Australia.

Other Christmas openings include "Bolt" (China, Chile, Turkey, South Africa), "Marley and Me" (Brazil), "Seven Pounds" (Brazil), "The Tale of Despereaux" (Russia, Mexico, Hong Kong, Norway), "Frost/ Nixon" (Australia, New Zealand), "Yes Man" (U.K.) and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Australia).

Australia, considered the most active moviegoing country during the Christmas-New Year period, will welcome six new films aimed at a wide range of audiences. New offerings include "Bedtime Stories," "Earth," "Button," "Frost/Nixon," Woody Allen's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," and the French-language "I Loved You So Long."

In toppling "Earth" from first place, "Madagascar 2" opened No. 1 in Italy ($6.5 million from 463 screens), Australia ($4.4 million from 267), New Zealand ($415,000 from 76) and Hong Kong ($465,000 from 43). In Germany, it held the No. 1 position for a third weekend, with $4.8 million from 742 locations for a market cume of $26.6 million. Market cumes to date include $21.6 million from France, $18.7 million from the U.K. and $12.1 million from Mexico. Overall, foreign gross has reached $221.6 million.

Third place for the weekend went to teen-appeal vampire pic "Twilight," which registered an estimated $11.1 million from 3,140 screens in 27 countries, lifting its international haul to about $64.6 million. The Summit Entertainment release came in first in the U.K. with $3.7 million from 446 screens and tallied $1.2 million from 319 in Brazil, where it arrived second to "Madagascar 2."

New Line's "Four Christmases," which will be around during the holiday season, pulled in a festive $6.3 million from 2,282 screens in 38 territories, raising its international cume to $24.8 million. It was No. 3 in the U.K., where it has taken in $12.6 million in four weeks.

Disney's "Bolt" barked to $4.8 million from 2,300 screens in 12 countries, raising its cume to $35.8 million. It opened No. 1 in Mexico ($1.6 million from 700 screens) and took in $467,000 from 73 in Ukraine, hailed as the biggest-ever opening for a Disney pic in the market.

Two holiday business seekers entered the fray during the weekend — Warner Bros.' Jim Carrey comedy "Yes Man," which grossed an estimated $3.6 million from 676 screens in six markets, led by Spain's $1.3 million and Korea's $1.2, and Universal's"The Tale of Despereaux," which tallied $1.6 million from 791 dates in the U.K., Spain and Portugal.

Disney/Pixar's "WALL-E," making its final overseas stop, earned $3 million from 450 screens in Japan for a three-week market cume of $17.4 million and an overall foreign gross of $283 million.

The Coen brothers' "Burn After Reading" hit $83.6 million after picking up $2.7 million from 944 screens in about 20 markets.

Clint Eastwood's Angelina Jolie starrer "Changeling" reached a cume of $26.7 million after a weekend take of $3.2 million from 1,060 screens in 10 countries.

"Australia" raised its cume to $14.6 million after a weekend score of $1.1 million from 485 screens in four markets.

Sony's "Quantum of Solace," out of the top five for the first time in about six weeks, raised its cume to $372 million after earning $2.9 million from 2,730 screens in 68 markets.

Universal's release of the Mexican film "Rudi y Cursi" debuted with $1.4 million from 409 dates. (partialdiff)