Early-year o'seas b.o. sizzles

'Asterix' ($23 million) again leads international market

It's a year-round season. Everybody's going for it.

Major film suppliers have no fear in releasing summer-style offerings in the early months of a new year, as January and February activity at the overseas boxoffice continues at a sizzling pace. The latest sci-fi thriller to enter the early-year starting gate is 20th Century Fox's "Jumper," which is set to take off this coming weekend in 30 markets, including the U.K., Australia, Spain and Russia.

Europe and Asia also have joined the early-year parade. France's tentpole sequel, "Asterix at the Olympic Games," maintained the international lead for a second weekend, hauling in an estimated $23 million from some 3,400 locations in about 26 markets. (Pathe, "Asterix's" distributor, has not cooperated in issuing boxoffice figures in the way the U.S. majors do.) France, which opened to $26.2 million from 1,078 screens, dropped to $10.1 million on its second weekend. Spain greeted the third live-action adaptation of the popular comic strip at No. 1 ($2.6 million from 389 screens), while in Italy it opened at No. 2 ($1.9 million from 357), behind local film "Caos Calmo" ($2.2 million from 384).

"Cloverfield," the monster thriller that broke the ice as a large-scale action movie in the early season, moved ahead with 10 new dates, adding $12.8 million from 3,213 screens in 37 markets and reaching a cume of $56.2 million since it started out overseas Jan. 17. The Paramount Pictures International release opened at No. 2 in France with $3 million from 447 screens, and held third place in the U.K. after dropping from No. 1, taking in $3.2 million from 386 screens for a market cume to date of $13 million.

"National Treasure: Book of Secrets," a strong holdover from the year-end holiday period, reached an international cume of $183.2 million as it pulled in $10.2 million from 2,591 screens in 34 countries, opening at No. 1 in the U.K. to $4.8 million from 491 screens. The worldwide cume has advanced to $395 million. The last opening for the Nicolas Cage starrer will hit China in March.

"I Am Legend," the year-end smash hit that went on to greater glory in early 2008, picked up another $9 million from 3,400 screens in 57 markets to lift its cume to a towering $317.4 million.

Oscar contenders, led by Fox's "Juno," are entering the market in full force. The specialty comedy, which already has taken in $118 million in the domestic market, is starting to spread its wings overseas, collecting $8.3 million over the weekend from 1,111 screens in 14 countries for an early cume of $17.2 million. It opened at No. 2 in the U.K. with $3.9 million from 363 screens, No. 6 in France with $1.3 million from 149, and registered No. 1 in the Paris region. A second weekend in Spain brought in $1 million from 170 screens for a market gross of $2.4 million, and it held the second position in Australia at its fourth weekend for a market cume of $7.2 million.

Disney International launched the overseas run of "There Will Be Blood" on Saturday with two-day openings in the U.K. and Australia following its European premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival on Friday. The initial opening on 24 screens in the U.K. brought in $425,000, while Australia came up with $281,000 from 69. Disney, which has all foreign rights to the Miramax-Paramount Vantage co-production, is readying a March 15 rollout in Germany, Spain, Italy and Brazil, among other markets.

"Sweeney Todd" grossed $7.9 million from 2,200 prints in 31 markets, lifting its cume to $59 million.

Asia's contribution to early-season business is led by Sony's Stephen Chow-directed Chinese-language "CJ7," which tallied $6.8 million from 299 screens in seven countries. Malaysia provided the biggest opening in the country's history with $1.9 million from 90 screens. For Singapore, it was the biggest Chinese-language film opening ever with $1.4 million. In Hong Kong, the film went up 5% on its second weekend, scoring $2.2 million from 69 screens for a market cume of $5.3 million.

In Japan, Warner Bros. Japan brought in "Death Note 3" at No. 1 with $5.3 million from 398 prints. The film dominated the Japanese market with 65% of the top five market share.

Warner Bros. debuted "Fool's Gold" in three markets, taking in $2 million during the weekend from 254 prints, with Australia (No. 1) grossing $1.8 million from 192 prints.

"Definitely, Maybe" debuted in the U.K. and grossed $1.4 million from 332 screens, coming in at No. 6 but said to be positioning itself for Valentine's Day and the upcoming school holidays.

More weekend activity: "Charlie Wilson's War," $6.1 million (cume: $26.4 million); "Saw IV," $3.6 million (cume: $63.8 million); "P.S. I Love You," $5 million (cume: $57.3 million); "The Bucket List," $4.8 million (cume: $26.5 million); "American Gangster," $4.3 million (cume: $123.6 million); "Atonement," $2.1 million (cume: $63.4 million); "Alvin and the Chipmunks," $4.1 million (cume: $119.8 million); and "27 Dresses," $1.2 million (cume: $15.2 million).