'Dark Knight' eyes world-beater status

Batman pic places second with only 20 openings

"The Dark Knight," the sequel to Christopher Nolan's 2005 "Batman Begins," showed over the weekend that the daddy of the comic book superheroes can stand up to recent upstarts, posting a lusty $41.3 million from 4,520 screens in only 20 markets.

The Caped Crusader's opening represents a major coup for the Warner Bros./DC Comics franchise in the international market. The $40 million opening take from a limited number of territories made the film a close second to non-comic book superhero "Hancock," which topped the overseas market for a third weekend with $45.2 million from 8,510 screens in 71 markets. At the same time, early signs indicate that Batman might improve its international appeal this time after languishing behind domestic in four of the five previous outings -- only 1997's "Batman & Robin" earned more internationally.

"Dark Knight" hits Italy, Holland and the U.K. this weekend and is booked in August for Korea, Japan, Spain, France and Germany.

The overseas boxoffice enjoyed another fabulous summer weekend, with a diverse batch of high-profile films attracting audiences of all ages. Favorites included "Mamma Mia!" ($27.6 million), "Kung Fu Panda" ($26.1 million), "WALL-E" ($13.6 million) and "Wanted" ($10.5 million).

Australia led "Dark Knight's" welcoming committee with an outstanding $13.5 million for five days from 473 screens, hailed by Warners as the fifth-highest opening in the market for the studio and the biggest opening weekend ever for a superhero film. Mexico debuted to $6.6 million from 1,433 screens, the 11th-biggest opening in the market; and Brazil took in $4.3 million from 548 screens for the biggest weekend opening of the year.

"Hancock" opened No. 1 in Spain with $9.2 million from 575 screens, 8% better than "Spider-Man 3" and 60% better than the recent Will Smith hit "I Am Legend." Germany has pulled in $30.6 million and the U.K. $41.4 million in three weekends, and two-weekend totals saw France deliver $16.8 million; Russia, $20.2 million; and Mexico, $10 million.

Feel-good musical "Mamma Mia!" reached an international gross of $73.3 million after a $27.6 million weekend on 2,384 screens in 21 countries. Universal is reporting strong holdovers and repeat business thanks to word-of-mouth for the film adaptation of the hit stage musical. Germany opened at No. 1 with $5.7 million from 608 playdates, Universal's biggest opening of 2008.

Paramount/DreamWorks animated summer hit "Kung Fu Panda," reached a stately $270.1 million as it earned $26.1 million from 5,358 screen in 38 markets. New openings saw Denmark collect $1.2 million from 79 screens; Norway, $1.2 million from 87; and Sweden, $842,981 from 136. The U.K. has grossed $27.5 million in 17 days, while Australia has brought in $23.2 million in three weeks.

Another heralded animated offering, Disney/Pixar's "WALL-E," pulled in $13.6 million from 2,639 screens in 17 markets for a cume of $52.1 million as it builds gradually overseas through its December opening in Japan. Over the weekend, it opened to $8.5 million from 503 screens in the U.K. -- No. 2 to the arrival of "Mamma Mia!'s" $9.1 million from 495. "WALL-E" opened No. 1 in Poland, earning $1.2 million from 140 screens.

Disney's family-friendly "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" raised its cume to $228.6 million as it registered $6.2 million from 2,888 screens in 33 countries.

Universal's "Wanted" is hovering around the $100 million mark as it tallied $10.5 million from 2,465 screens in 37 territories. At the same time, "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" grossed $8.5 million from 1,321 dates in nine territories for an international cume of $15.4 million.

New Line's 3-D offering "Journey to the Center of the Earth" unearthed $6.5 million from 11 markets to lift its overseas take to $12.7 million.

The Steve Carell comedy "Get Smart" tallied $6.8 million from 2,425 screens in 33 markets, lifting its cume $56.7 million. Eddie Murphy starrer "Meet Dave" scored $3.3 million from 1,283 screens in 25 markets, providing a cume of $8.1 million.

Cume updates: "Sex and the City," $227.9 million; "The Happening," $84.5 million; "The Incre-dible Hulk," $103.8 million; "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," $446.3 million.