'Ghost' in cruise control at top


As the overseas boxoffice performs soundly in a usually down part of the year -- it's running about 8% ahead of the same period of 2006 -- the comic book-based "Ghost Rider," starring Nicolas Cage, topped the international market for a third straight weekend, and the Will Smith starrer "The Pursuit of Happyness," in offshore release for eight weeks, remained strong in international holdovers.

"Ghost Rider," despite lukewarm reviews, brought in $16.7 million from 3,570 screens in 50 markets, lifting its international gross to $61.6 million, while "Happyness" reached a cume of $124.8 million after taking in $6.6 million over the weekend from 2,700 screens in 56 markets.

"Ghost" at opened No. 2 in the U.K. with $3.6 million from 342 screens, No. 4 in Japan ($1.1 million from 256), No. 1 in Brazil ($1.9 million from 303) and at the top in Central America, Hungary and Croatia. It held the No. 1 spot in Germany for a second weekend with $1.4 million from 370 screens for a market cume of $4.2 million.

"Happyness" opened at No. 3 in Korea ($1.9 million from 140 screens), No. 1 in Taiwan ($419,000 from 100) and No. 1 in Singapore ($228,000 from 26).

The comedy-romance "Music and Lyrics," starring Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore, sang to $6.5 million from 1,625 prints in 18 markets (cume: $32.1 million), while the Oscar-cited "Dreamgirls" sang to $5.9 million from 1,787 screens in 42 markets (cume: $37.7 million).

"Dreamgirls" was especially strong in the Paris metropolitan area, though its $1.5 million from 326 screens was only good enough for the No. 8 spot in a market dominated by local-language product. "Music and Lyrics" debuted in Korea with $2.1 million from 127 prints and bowed in Brazil with $465,000 from 140 screens, opening No. 2 behind "Ghost Rider."

In France, seven of the top 10 films were of local origin and three hailed from the U.S. "Dreamgirls" came in at No. 8, "Ghost Rider" at No. 5 and the Jim Carrey starrer "The Number 23" at No. 6. "La Mome," aka "La Vie en rose," currently at the top of the French chart, has grossed $27.6 million in three weekends, and "Taxi 4," at No. 2, has racked up fares totaling $29.5 million, also in three weeks.

The long-running Ben Stiller starrer "Night at the Museum" continued to please family audiences, taking in another $6.3 million to hoist its international gross to $279 million. To date, the Fox release has brought in $40.8 million from the U.K., $22.7 million from Germany, $19.8 million from Mexico and $18.9 million from Australia.

Universal's U.K.-centric "Hot Fuzz" dominated the home market for a third weekend, scoring $4.5 million from 442 screens for single market cume to date of $30.8 million.

The Leonardo DiCaprio starrer "Blood Diamond" maintained a steady pace, adding another $4.3 million over the weekend from 2,550 prints in 55 markets, with Spain delivering $7.1 million in four weeks; the U.K., $13.8 million in six; France, $9.5 million in five; and Australia, $6.2 million in nine.

"Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" returned to action after an early surge, picking up $3.5 million from 566 screens in eight countries, with Italy supplying an opening total of $3.1 million from 419 sites. The international cume is now at $125.4 million.

New entry "Bridge to Terabithia," a family fantasy under the overseas distribution wing of indie Summit Entertainment, picked up $3.6 million from 1,016 screens in four markets, with Spain greeting the Walden Media entry at No. 1 with $1.8 million from 289 screens. Germany, at No. 4, contributed $671,186 from 280 screens.

"Norbit," the comedy-romance from Paramount starring Eddy Murphy, held on to the No. 1 spot in Australia for a second weekend, scoring $860,082 from 225 screens for a market total of $2.6 million. Overall, "Norbit" brought in close to $2 million over the weekend from 636 screens in six markets (cume: $9.1 million).

The final round of Sylvester Stallone's boxing saga, "Rocky Balboa," sparred to another $2.2 million from 1,425 screens in 23 rings to raise its international cume to $74.9 million.

Dino De Laurentiis' Hannibal Lecter prequel, "Hannibal Rising," reached a cume of $31.3 million following a $2 million weekend in eight smaller markets.

Clint Eastwood's "Letters From Iwo Jima" brought in $1.8 million over the weekend from 850 prints in 49 markets, bringing the international cume to $50.6 million.

Thanks to China, "The Devil Wears Prada," despite a mild reception, is expected to reach $200 million in international grosses as it took in another $421,000 from 211 screens in the market to lift its cume to $198 million.

Also ending up a China run is Sony's "Casino Royale, which gathered $11.6 million in five weeks to raise the James Bond film's cume to $425.9 million.

In a usually crowded market, a number of specialized films with Oscar branding are slowly making their way around the world, notably "The Last King of Scotland," which registered $2 million from 668 screens in 41 markets (cume: $19.9 million), and "Notes on a Scandal," $2.9 million from 968 screens in 33 countries (cume: $17.7 million).

More weekend totals: "Charlotte's Web," $2.4 million (cume: $55.5 million); "Barnyard," $1.5 million (cume: $39.9 million); "The Good Shepherd," $1.6 million (cume: $8 million); and "Wild Bunch 4," $1 million from three German-speaking markets. "Saw II" reached a cume of $76.5 million, with Germany providing $7 million in five weeks.