Comedy 'Borat' new o'seas king

20th Century Fox shock offering grabs $18.6 mil at kickoff

20th Century Fox emerged as the overseas market's boxoffice champion for the fifth week in a row as its offbeat entry, British shock comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's "Borat," took top international honors away from the studio's four-week leader "The Devil Wears Prada."

In a surprise opening round, "Borat! Cultural Leanings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," as the film is officially titled, brought in a remarkable $18.6 million from 995 screens in 17 countries, led by homegrown fans in the U.K., which alone delivered $11.8 million (with previews) from 427 screens.

Of the 17 weekend bows, 11 topped their local boxoffice charts, five came in at No. 2, and Puerto Rico, a mixed Spanish- and English-speaking market, greeted "Borat" in the No. 3 spot. In addition to the U.K., many of the areas strongly supporting "Borat" — Holland, Scandinavia and parts of Eastern Europe — have a tradition of employing English as a second language.

In Germany, "Borat" could not unseat the local-language hit "Seven Dwarves," which clung to first place for a second week with $4.8 million from 800 screens (market cume: $14.7 million), but the Brit comedian's unconventional antics did arouse $2.7 million from 234 screens.

How "Borat" will fare in strong local-language territories like France, Spain, Italy and especially Japan, where it may be difficult to translate some of the tomfoolery, remains up in the air. Japan, and most of Asia, are not noted for being big on comedies.

But judging from the acceptance of Fox's "The Devil Wears Prada" in South Korea, fashion is a cultural phenomenon accepted around the world. "Prada" held the No. 1 spot for a second weekend in Korea, a market that has eschewed Hollywood offerings for weeks, scoring $1.3 million from 222 screens for a market cume of $5.5 million. The Korea action helped trigger a weekend total of $11.1 million from 3,814 screens in 48 markets for an international gross to date of $151.1 million. Holdovers continue to play a big part in "Prada's" overseas success, with the U.K. providing $23.8 million in five weeks; France, $15.6 million in six; Italy, $15 million in four; Australia, $11.6 million in six; Spain, $7.7 million in five; and Russia, $6 million in five.

Family animated films are getting a chance to shine around the world as school or local national holidays kick in at this time of the year.

Sony's "Open Season" was the chief Pied Piper over the weekend, extracting $8.4 million from 3,095 screens in 43 countries, with the U.K. contributing $12.3 million in four weeks; France, $9.5 million in three; and Russia, $5.6 million in two. Germany, Austria, Spain and Sweden will welcome "Season" this coming weekend.

Paramount/Nickelodeon's "Barnyard" crowed to $3 million at 1,910 screens in 17 countries (cume: $21.8 million). DreamWorks/Paramount's "Flushed Away" opened in five markets — Malaysia, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan and the Ukraine — to $960,000 from 492 screens. DreamWorks/Paramount's "Over the Hedge" moved up to an international cume of $175.2 million following a $2.3 million weekend from 892 screens in 16 countries.

At the same time, 1993's "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas," which has been updated to a 3D version, pulled in $180,000 at 15 theaters in Australia. As part of the Disney strategy to release the 3D rendering on 50 screens in seven countries for year-end runs, "Nightmare" has picked up $264,000 in three weeks at three theaters in Japan. The U.K. and Mexico get the 3D version Nov. 17.

A Japanese homegrown thriller, "Death Note: The Last Name," released in the market by Warner Bros., ranked a strong No. 1 as it opened to $10.2 million from 346 prints, including sneak previews on Friday. It serves as another example of the new power of local-language films to dominate the home markets. In addition to "Seven Dwarves" in Germany, there were No. 1 and No. 2 openings in France of "Prete-Moi Ta Main" and "Ne Le Dis a Personne," respectively.

The action-thriller-horror market was well represented over the weekend by "The Departed," "Saw III," "The Guardian" and "The Prestige."

The Martin Scorsese crime drama "Departed" grossed an estimated $7.3 million from about 2,100 screens in 30 markets, lifting its cume to $49.3 million. "Saw III," which is being released in Latin America by Buena Vista International, scored $6.8 million over the weekend from 1,118 screens in 10 markets, contributing No. 1 openings in Australia, Argentina and Brazil. "The Prestige" took in an estimated $3.3 million from 11 markets, lifting its cume to date to $6.3 million. Clint Eastwood's "Flags of Our Fathers" grossed $3.1 million from eight markets, with a No. 3 bow in Australia delivering $552,000 from 214 prints. "The Guardian" ruled over $2.6 million from 28 countries to raise its international gross to $20.2 million.

Summit Entertainment's "Babel" delivered $1.5 million from 380 screens over the weekend. Its "Step-Up" rose to $24.6 million after a $2.5 million weekend.

Cume updates: "World Trade Center," $81.9 million; "Seven Dwarves," $18.6 million; "You, Me and Dupree," $48.4 million; "Fearless," $41.9 million; and "Volver," $64.2 million.