France: new tentpole sequel power

'Asterix 3' leads international market with $31.5 million

Europe joined the tentpole sequel brigade as the third edition of the popular French comic strip "Asterix at the Olympic Games" swept through key local markets to earn the weekend's international boxoffice championship with an estimated $31.5 million from some 5,000 screens in eight markets.

The French-German-Spanish co-production, rated the most expensive French movie ever made at $113 million, pulled in $24.9 million from France alone, but apparently found little interest in the U.K., where it was reported to have opened on only three screens to $4,000. Exact figures about "Asterix's" weekend performance were not available. Pathe, the distributor, said it would issue a full report of the week's performance on Wednesday. Several markets, including Russia, where it was supposed to have opened on 900 screens, are not included in the weekend estimates.

At any rate, "Asterix's" takeoff again demonstrates the growing strength of the overseas market in the early part of a new year when new entries, year-end holdovers, and Oscar-nominated films are getting conspicuous attention. Distribution experts say that overseas is definitely becoming an all-year market as demonstrated by Paramount's release of "Cloverfield" at this time of the year. The monster film took in $18.1 million from 3,174 screens in 34 territories for an early cume of $35.5 million. France is set to open this coming weekend, leading to speculation as to how it will fare against the second week of "Asterix."

Meanwhile, the Johnny Depp starrer "Sweeney Todd" kept up a torrid pace, scoring $9.5 million from 1,750 screens in 19 markets to lift its international cume to $46.5 million. But the big story of the late 2007 to early 2008 carryover is the Will Smith triumph "I Am Legend," which crossed $300 million overseas, reaching $304 million as it brought in $8 million over the weekend from 4,300 screens in 54 markets.

"American Gangster," another 2007-2008 carryover, went up to $114.8 million after a weekend gross of $7.9 million at 2,120 dates in 37 territories, highlighted by a No. 1 opening in Japan of $2.3 million from 288 screens. Carryover "National Treasure: Book of Secrets" tallied $6.9 million from 2,759 screens in 33 countries to lift its cume $169. 6 million. Newcomer "Bucket List" called in $6.2 million from 1,500 prints in 15 markets for a cume to date of $12.9 million.

What about the Oscar hopefuls?

"No Country for Old Men" drew $4.2 million from 886 screens in 10 countries to reach a cume of $17.3 million. "Juno," an over-$100 million performer in the domestic market, tallied $2.6 million from 420 screens in seven markets for a cume to date of $7.9 million. The hit comedy is getting ready to make a major overseas pitch this coming weekend as it enters the U.K., France, Holland and Switzerland. "There Will Be Blood" makes its overseas debut this coming weekend via Disney International. Opening dates include the U.K. and Australia. "Atonement," out in the overseas market for some time, has reached $60 million, tallying $2.7 million over the weekend from 1,100 dates in 34 markets.

In addition to the No. 1 opening in France, "Asterix" came in No. 2 in Germany ($2.9 million), No. 1 in Belgium ($1.7 million), No. 1 in Austria ($579,000), No. 1 in Hungary ($267,000).

"Cloverfield" had good openings in Germany ($1.4 million from 343), Spain ($2.1 million from 362), Italy ($2.3 from 201) and Mexico (1.5 million from 344).

"Sweeney Todd's" second weekend in the U.K. generated $3.4 million from 482 prints, ranking No. 2 behind the opening of "Cloverfield."

Key market cumes for "I Am Legend " include the U.K. ($50.3 million), Japan ($38.1 million), France ($27.4 million), Germany ($22.6 million), Italy (20.2 million).

More weekend tallies: "Alvin and the Chipmunks," $5.1 million from 26 (cume: $113.4 million), "Enchanted" ($2.1 million from 31 markets (cume: $171.3 million), "Water Horse" ($1.6 million from 11 (cume: $10.4 million); "27 Dresses" ($1.7 million from 10 (cume: $13.4 million), "Alien vs. Predator, " $2.4 million from 29 (cume: $83.7 million), "Kite Runner," $2.1 million from 11 (cume: $16.4 million), "Bee Movie," $1.7 million from 34 (cume: $155.1 million), "Charlie Wilson's War," $2.5 million from 19 (cume: $19.4 million).

Updated cumes: "Elizabeth the Golden Age," $48.7 million; "Mr. Bean's Holiday," $195.4 million; "Die Rote Zora," $2.2 million from three Germany-speaking markets; "Rendition," $12.6 million; "The Golden Compass," $254. 8 million; "Eastern Promises," $4.8 million.

New weekend openings included "Over Her Dead Body," No. 3 in the U.K. with almost $2 million from 301 screens; "Penelope," No. 4 in the U.K with 1.5 million from 335; "Rambo," No. 2 in Spain with $2.4 million from 348; "Casandra's Dream" No. 2 in Italy with $2.6 million from 360.