Disney leads summer box office overseas

Studio's 'Toy Story 3' is No. 1 title of season with $606.1 mil

Foreign box office was hurtling along at a record pace for the year's first half but took a bit of a holiday during the summer.

International audiences were distracted by the June 11-July 11 World Cup soccer tournament in South Africa. The quadrennial event turned out to be one of history's most-viewed sporting events.

Hollywood majors also had to grapple with a strengthening greenback that depressed dollar amounts when weaker local currencies were converted into U.S. dollars for repatriation. Small wonder that half the studios reported drops in seasonal box office from a year ago.

Still, distributors remain on track to log another record year on the foreign theatrical circuit. All except Sony are logging year-over-year foreign box-office increases from January-August.

Leading the pack during the summer was Disney, which rocketed 232% past 2009's seasonal overseas box-office total with $1.09 billion, largely on the backs of the summer's No. 1 title, "Toy Story 3" ($606.1 million), "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" ($244.3 million) and "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" ($103.2 million). For the year's first eight months, Disney is up 210% compared with 2009, at $1.96 billion. During that same period, the six major distributors drew a combined overseas box office of $9.07 billion, nearly 30% more than last year.

With Marvel's "Iron Man 2," DreamWorks Animation's "Shrek Forever After" and "The Last Airbender" in release, Paramount logged $972 million in foreign coin during the summer -- 27% more than last year -- and generated slightly more than $1.5 billion in the January-August period, up 22%.

Paramount International president Andrew Cripps said the studio's overseas film operation is pacing 14% ahead of its 2009 total. Paramount has drawn $470 million foreign lucre from the latest "Shrek" from DreamWorks Animation, and the "Iron Man" sequel finished its offshore run with $310 million, with Paramount handling most of the territories.

No. 3 during the season was Warner Bros. International, which reported box office of $808 million, down 7% compared with summer 2009. But this year through August put Warners at an estimated $1.73 billion in offshore action, which represents a 20% increase compared with last year's first eight months.

"We are thrilled to have set a new studio record in the first eight months of the year," said Veronica Kwan-Rubinek, Warners president of international distribution.

The big seasonal hit for Warners was "Inception," director Christopher Nolan's sci-fi thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio, which has captured $391 million since its July 15 offshore release and is still running. "Sex and the City 2" finished its overseas run with $193 million, down $70 million-plus from the original "Sex and the City" in 2008.

Fox logged the worst summer performance of the Big Six but is the year's overseas box office leader thanks to James Cameron's behemoth "Avatar."

Fox registered box office of $433.5 million from May-August, down 60% from the comparable 2009 period, which totaled $1.1 billion on the strength of such hits as "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" ($641.6 million), "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" ($234.5 million) and "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" ($167.3 million).

The studio's biggest film this summer was "Knight and Day," an action comedy starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz that has compiled $151.6 million in foreign box office since beginning its overseas runs June 23, with openings in Japan and Italy still ahead. That is a respectable number and the biggest foreign gross for a Cruise film since 2006's "Mission: Impossible 3" ($264 million), but the "Knight" tally is far below the number registered by the actor's top foreign box-office smash, 2005's "War of the Worlds" ($357.5 million).

Fox took perhaps the summer's biggest gamble in opening its expensive action title "The A-Team" on June 11, just as the World Cup was revving up in South Africa and male audiences were glued to TV sets. "A-Team" has tallied only $96 million overseas.

Year-to-date, Fox's industry-leading box office stands at $2.33 billion, up 45% compared with the first eight months of 2009.

Universal eked out a 3% gain to $408.5 million during the summer thanks to the solid foreign performance of "Robin Hood." The Russell Crowe starrer did $105 million domestically but found a more cordial reception abroad, with a foreign take of $205.6 million.

Sony's seasonal gross was $416.5 million, versus $694.1 million in summer 2009, when its overseas roster boasted heavyweights including "Angels & Demons" and "Terminator Salvation." The remake of "The Karate Kid" is the studio's top summer title, running an overseas tab of $146 million to date.

Summit International is riding big international grosses for "Eclipse." Since opening overseas June 30, the "Twilight" sequel has generated $388 million in offshore box office, nearly $90 million more than the melodrama grossed in North America.

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