'Compass' points to int'l power

Fantasy holds top spot as 'Legend' bows strongly in Asia

Related story: Where there's a Will, there's a $76.5 million way

The holiday blockbuster season internationally grew more crowded and more robust over the weekend as "The Golden Compass" hung on to its No. 1 spot for the second consecutive frame while "I Am Legend," starring Will Smith, rolled up huge returns from a debut in just eight Asian markets.

Overall, the weekend was stronger than last year's comparable frame, a trend reflected in broader numbers.

According to a studio source, international boxoffice from January through November for the big six Hollywood studios -- Warners, Universal, 20th Century Fox, Disney, Paramount and Sony -- is tracking a full 16% ahead of 2006's comparable period. Even discounting the fall of the U.S. dollar against other world currencies, indications are that 2007 looms as a strong if not record boxoffice year for the majors overseas.

Spurred by a pre-opening publicity blitz with Smith touring key Asian territories, "Legend," which opened No. 1 domestically, tied for No. 2 on the weekend with an estimated $20 million gleaned from more than 1,300 screens. In Japan, the tally was an estimated $6.4 million from 426 locations for a per-screen average of $15,024.

The sci-fi horror outing released by Warner Bros. International drew $6.3 million from 267 situations in Korea, for an average of $23,596 per site. In Taiwan, the per-screen average was $19,200 thanks to a gross of $2.4 million from 125 prints. "Legend" also had lucrative bows in Thailand, India, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Tied with "Legend" for the No. 2 spot on the weekend was DreamWorks/Paramount Pictures International's "Bee Movie," which also grossed $20 million. But that tally was drawn from 44 territories, half of them new. The biggest of the fresh territories were the U.K., which provided an estimated $4.4 million from 436 sites, and France, which chipped in $3 million from 646 screens. "Bee Movie's" overseas cume now stands at $58 million.

The international cume for New Line Cinema's "Compass" is $90 million thanks to an estimated second-weekend gross estimate of $29 million from about 6,900 prints working in 44 territories. The title, which finished third domestically, remained No. 1 in the U.K., drawing an estimated $6.3 million from 497 sites for a market cume of $25.2 million.

"Compass" opened on 450 screens in Italy and 700 in Mexico, drawing an estimated $2.3 million from each territory. It held No. 1 spots in Germany, where it grosses $3.3 million from 990 screens for a cume of $9.2 million, and Spain, grossing $3 million at 500 sites for a market cume of $11.5 million.

Disney's "Enchanted," which ranked No. 4 domestically on the weekend, finished No. 3 overseas with an estimated $16 million from 3,450 screens in 28 markets, lifting its cume to $54.9 million ($147.2 million globally) and thus snaring the No. 3 international ranking. The musical fantasy opened in seven new territories including the U.K., where it finished second to "Compass" in the market with an estimated $5.2 million from 457 situations.

20th Century Fox's "Hitman," based on a video game, finished fourth with an estimated $7.4 million from 1,800 screens in 51 markets, raising its overseas cume to $35 million. WBI says its release of "Beowulf," the weekend's No. 5 title, has hit the $100 million mark overseas, thanks to an estimated $4.5 million on the weekend from 3,200 sites in 58 markets.

Universal International's "American Gangster" opened in Russia and the Ukraine and scored a weekend tally of $3.5 million from 1,764 locations in 21 territories, pushing the early overseas total to $52.5 million. The film has 34 markets yet to play.

DreamWorks/PPI's "The Heartbreak Kid" with Ben Stiller drew an estimated $3 million from 1,577 screens in 53 markets, for an overseas total of $84 million. WBI's Christmas-themed "Fred Claus" also grossed $3 million from 1,600 prints working in 26 markets, lifting the overseas cume to $18 million.

In France, Disney's acquisition of "Le Renard e l'enfant" (The Fox and the Child), produced by Bonne Pioche, drew an estimated $2.3 million from 320 screens, enough to rank this saga about a young girl's friendship with a fox No. 3 in the market. Meanwhile, Disney's "Ratatouille" has accumulated $409.5 million internationally and will in the coming week surpass "Spider-Man 2" as the 27th top overseas hit ever.

Joe Wright's "Atonement," which fielded seven Golden Globe nominations, raised its overseas cume to $32 million thanks to a $200,000 weekend at 220 screens in eight markets. UI is holding the bulk of the title's 35 territory openings until the end of the month or early next year.

UI opened "We Own the Night," a crime drama starring Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg and Robert Duvall, in the U.K. for an estimated $910,000 from 265 locales. The distributor also opened Ang Lee's "Lust, Caution" in Spain for an estimated $480,000 from 126 situations.

Fox opened "The Simpsons Movie" in Japan for an estimated $69,000 from 66 screens. Its overseas cume, though, stands at $342.4 million. Fox's "Alvin and the Chipmunks" opened at 298 screens in 10 mostly small markets for an estimated gross of $2 million.

Other overseas cume updates: UI's "The Bourne Ultimatum," $213.5 million; Mandate International/Lionsgate's "Saw IV," $53.5 million; UI's "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," $36 million; and Sony's "Surf's Up," $86.3 million.