'Compass' more golden o'seas with $55 mil bow

Holidays help 'very solid' start

The holiday season kicked into high gear internationally the previous week and through the weekend as New Line Cinema's "The Golden Compass" opened in 25 markets for an estimated boxoffice gross of $55 million from about 5,500 screens. That's roughly $10,000 per screen.

"The numbers are very solid, very strong," said Rolf Mittweg, president and COO of New Line Worldwide Distribution and Marketing. "(The opening surge) bodes very well for a very successful run throughout the holiday season. It's all about longevity at this point."

The special effects-laden adaptation of the first of British children's author Philip Pullman's three "His Dark Materials" novels — about a 12-year-old girl battling an evil empire — began its opening surge overseas Dec. 5-7, with "weekend" figures covering as many as five days in most key markets. It is the No. 1 title internationally for the period.

With a production budget of about $180 million, "Compass" —a family-oriented film co-starring Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Sam Elliott and newcomer Dakota Blue Richards as the girl — is New Line's most expensive movie ever. Combined with its $26.1 million opening and No. 1 finish domestically, its worldwide tally is $81.1 million.

"Don't forget, we are at the beginning of the holiday season, no school holidays yet," Mittweg said.

Mittweg also "sort of" confirmed the size of "Compass' " production budget, saying that New Line "always mitigates on the downside" via foreign presales. "Once we know more about the final boxoffice tallies, and how they will end up, I think we will decide to embark on the second film" based on the second novel of the trilogy, he said.

The biggest market for "Compass" was the U.K., where New Line said it drew an estimated $18 million over five days from 950 screens (other sources put the figure at $12 million-$13 million).

France (770 screens), Germany (1,000 screens) and Russia (550 screens) each provided about $5 million, the distributor said. Results in Spain — an estimated $10 million from 536 screens — benefited from a national holiday Thursday.

Finishing in second place during the weekend is Disney's musical fantasy "Enchanted," which drew an estimated $11.6 million from 2,594 screens in 18 territories, lifting its overseas cume to $35.8 million (and $119.7 million worldwide). A big contributor was a No. 1 bow in Italy that garnered $3.4 million from 400 screens. A Greece opening produced $735,000 from 50 sites for a lofty per-screen average of $14,700.

Buoyed by openings in 10 markets, DreamWorks/Paramount Pictures International's "Bee Movie" finished No. 3 overall with an estimated $10.1 million from 2,050 locations in 21 markets. The overseas cume for the Jerry Seinfeld animation vehicle is $32.7 million.

Australia led the 10 new territories with a No. 1 opening gross of $2.8 million from 261 spots, a per-screen average of $10,728. "Bee Movie" also finished No. 1 in Brazil, Argentina and New Zealand. It opens this weekend in another 11 markets, including the U.K., France and Germany.

After three weekends at No. 1, Warner Bros. International's "Beowulf" slipped to fourth place with an estimated $9.2 million from about 5,000 screens in 60 territories, raising its cume to $91.6 million (and $167.6 million worldwide). Finishing at No. 5 was 20th Century Fox International's "Hitman," which grabbed an estimated $7.5 million from 2,675 screens in 38 markets, hiking its international cume to $23.5 million. The video game-based actioner opened at No. 2 in Australia ($1.2 million from 172 sites).

Universal International's "American Gangster" is expected to surpass the $50 million overseas cume mark this week after grossing an estimated $5 million during the weekend at 1,710 screens in 20 territories, good for a total of $47.9 million. DreamWorks/PPI's "The Heartbreak Kid" raised its cume to $79 million after a $4.8 million weekend at 2,025 screens in 51 markets.

Warners' "Fred Claus" laughed all the way to $4.3 million from about 1,400 screens in 18 markets for an overseas cume of $13.6 million. It opened at No. 2 in Mexico ($741,000, including previews from 300 sites) and finished second in the U.K. ($2.8 million from 445 sites). Debuts in Holland and Spain are due this weekend.

Lionsgate/Mandate International's "Saw IV" scared up $1.9 million from 27 markets, lifting its cume to $51 million. Universal's "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" raised its cume to $34 million thanks to a $1.4 million weekend at 811 screens in 26 markets.

Disney's "Ratatouille" raised its cume to $407.6 million on the strength of a $1.2 million weekend at 2,327 screens in 24 markets. Once this animation hit passes the $410 million gross mark, it will become the 27th-biggest overseas smash ever.

Other overseas cume updates: Fox's "Lions for Lambs," $31.2 million; Universal's "The Kingdom," $36.8 million; Paramount's "Stardust," $95.5 million; Universal's 'The Bourne Ultimatum," $211.6 million; Sony/Summit Entertainment's "Resident Evil: Extinction," $94.3 million; Universal's "Atonement," $31.5 million; and Sony's "30 Days of Night," $20.2 million (including all other European distributors).