Clearing the decks for 'Pirates 3'

'Spidey 3' holds strong as Depp and gang get ready to pounce

Move over webslinger. The pirates are coming.

"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" takes over the global market starting Wednesday, when Johnny Depp and his henchmen storm France and Belgium; followed on Thursday by Australia, Germany and Sweden; on Friday by the U.K., Spain, Italy and Korea; and on Saturday by Japan and Taiwan. By Sunday night when opening weekend results are calculated by Buena Vista International, the third edition of the "Pirates" saga will have settled on 17,500 screens in 102 territories. The opening screen count beats "Spidey 3's" 16,700, according to BVI.

But "Spider-Man 3" is hardly going out as a lamb as it lifted its international cume to $467 million after picking up $50.8 million from 15,800 screens in 106 territories during its third offshore weekend, a drop of 40% from the second weekend.

Can the market support two megabuck tentpoles? How well will "Spidey 3" hold in the face of "Pirates'" onslaught? Those are questions that will be answered this coming weekend.

Meanwhile, the Sony Pictures Releasing International tentpole entry led the international market for a third week in a row, held the No. 1 position in 98 markets, and emerged as the 17th all-time international grosser, with hopes of moving up to 15th by the end of this week. In six markets — Mexico, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Ecuador — "Spider-Man 3" emerged as the biggest boxoffice draw ever, according to Sony.

As "Spider-Man 3" begins to wane and "Pirates 3" flexes its muscles, a third summer tentpole, DreamWorks/Paramount's animated "Shrek the Third," showed clear-cut signs of becoming a major international contender. Kicking off in only four markets — Russia, Ukraine, Romania and the Philippines — the jolly green ogre corralled $13.8 million from 689 screens. According to distributor Paramount International Pictures, Russia's $11.1 weekend launch set new records as the biggest animated opening of all time in Eastern Europe and the biggest opening ever for a non-Russian film. "Shrek 3's" start in Russia was 44% better than "Spider-Man 3," PPI said.

The Ukraine ($1.1 million), Romania ($119,000) and the Philippines ($953,000) were all hailed as setting new marks for the opening of an animated film.

"We started out there (in the four markets) due to holidays and to lessen the piracy impact from these markets," PPI president Andrew Cripps said.

"Shrek the Third" is set to open in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand on May 31 before gliding out in most foreign markets through June.

Warner Bros. Pictures' serial killer thriller "Zodiac" found sufficient screens and interest among moviegoers in 17 markets to bring in $9.5 million from 1,439 prints. The Divid Fincher-directed drama ranked No. 2 in France behind "Spider-Man 3" in its third weekend, taking in $3.3 million from 376 prints. The U.K. greeted the film in the No. 3 spot ($1.6 million from 227 locations) after Spidey's third weekend and the second weekend for "28 Weeks Later." It also was No. 2 to "Spider-Man 3's" third weekend in Spain ($1.1 million from 190), No. 2 to the webslinger in Australia ($944,000 from 182) and No. 2 in Italy ($874,000 from 223).

"Mr. Bean's Holiday" added another $3.5 million from 2,570 in 39 markets to raise its international gross to $176 million. According to Universal Pictures International, "Bean" showed a 9% increase from the previous week, a hike attributed to matinee business because of a Thursday holiday in a number of European countries.

The Juan Carlos Fresnadillo-directed sci-fi film "28 Weeks Later" from 20th Century Fox International raised its early international cume to $10.6 million after a $3.1 million weekend from 889 screens in 12 markets. It held the No. 2 spot behind "Spider-Man 3" in the U.K. with a $1.8 million second weekend from 401 screens for a market total of $6.7 million.

BVI's suburban biker comedy "Wild Hogs" pedaled to $2.8 million from 1,787 screens in 28 countries to provide a foreign gross to date of $74.8 million. The middle-aged crew of Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy has been particularly successful in Germany, where the film enjoyed a No. 1 standing for two weeks and No. 2 for three weeks. In its fifth weekend in Germany, it took in $1.3 million from 584 screens to raise its market cume to $10.9 million.

"Click," which has been playing in China for five weeks and has a market cume of $1.3 million, became the first Adam Sandler film to pass the $100 million mark in the international market, squeezing in with $100.1 million.

More weekend activity: "Fracture" debuted No. 3 in Germany with $1.2 million from 204 screens, helping to raise its foreign gross to $15.1 million. "Bridge to Terabithia" delivered $1.3 million from 748 screens in 12 markets to hoist its cume to $37.5 million. "Next," via Paramount, opened in Korea to $1.8 million from 157 screens. "The Hills Have Eyes 2" (cume: $11.5 million) registered $1.5 million from 888 in 15 countries. "Shooter" (cume: $41.4 million) delivered $1.5 million from 1,200 in 40 markets. "Blades of Glory" (cume: $15 million) also found $1.5 million from 867 screens in 16 territories.

Cume updates: "The Number 23," $35 million; "The Last Mimzy," $15.1 million; "The Reaping," $35.1 million; "Music & Lyrics," $94 million; "300," $231 million; "Blood Diamond," $114 million; "Disturbia," $8.6 million; "Freedom Writers," $5.9 million; "Hot Fuzz," $48.8 million; "The Good Shepherd," $19.2 million; and "The Holiday," $141 million.