'Ghost' riding overseas tempo

Leads strong market for No. 1; 2nd weekend with $16.9 mil

The international market is keeping up a steady pace, with many films in release continuing to do surprising holdover business. Early signs indicate that 2007 may emerge as an all-time record year, especially if the barrage of summer blockbusters starting in May perform as well as expected.

The MPAA companies are said to have grossed $1.4 million at the overseas boxoffice as of the end of February, compared with $1.3 billion for the same period a year ago.

Despite halfhearted reviews that predicted limited appeal, the comic book-based "Ghost Rider," starring Nicolas Cage, maintained the No. 1 position in offshore multiplexes for a second weekend, taking in $16.9 million from 3,039 screens in 43 territories to lift its foreign gross to $40.1 million.

At the same time, the Ben Stiller family comedy "Night at the Museum," a foreign favorite for six out of the past eight weeks, held firmly onto second place with $11.2 million from 3,462 locations in 23 countries to reach an international cume of $268.7 million.

In France, which is enjoying a major comeback for homegrown films, "La Mome" collected $8.1 million from 718 screens on its second weekend for a market total of $20.5 million, while "Taxi 4" rang up $7.5 million from 867 fares for a two-week cume of $23.4 million. In contrast, Sony's "Ghost Rider" came into the market at No. 3 with a convincing $3.4 million from 426 screens, and Fox's "Night at the Museum," in its third weekend, picked up $2.7 million from 667 for a market score to date of $12 million.

The weekend of the Academy Awards also saw "Hot Fuzz," the Working Title crime caper, hold on to first place in the U.K. with a second-weekend tally of $6.5 million from 432 screens for a two-weekend take of $23.3 million. In addition, several new and holdover films operated in the $6 million bracket over the weekend, including "Music and Lyrics" ($6.5 million from 12), "The Pursuit of Happyness" ($6.2 million from 54 markets), and "Blood Diamond" ($6.1 million from six).

"Dreamgirls," helped by a lasting promotional barrage and Oscar buzz, picked up $5.3 million from 1,503 screens in 35 markets as it bowed in mostly small markets, with Korea, the largest, throwing out a No. 3 welcome with $1.6 million from 120 screens.

"Charlotte's Web," No. 2 in the U.K. in its third weekend with $2.6 million from 491 screens (market cume: $17.6 million), had a weekend total of $4.3 million from 1,899 screens in 28 markets.

Also in the U.K., New Line's thriller "The Number 23," starring Jim Carrey, opened No. 3 with $2.4 million from 323 screens, leading the way to a $2.6 million opening weekend from 381 screens in four markets.

"The Good Shepherd" took fifth place in its U.K. bow, racking up $1.2 million from 339 screens, setting the pace for a $2.7 million weekend from 764 screens in six territories.

The Sylvester Stallone boxing sequel "Rocky Balboa" punched its way to another $4.2 million from 1,707 screens in 21 countries.

The Eddie Murphy comedy "Norbit" picked up some steam over the weekend, registering $3.4 million from 640 screens in six markets. Its Paramount stablemate "Barnyard," slowly making the overseas rounds, cackled to another $2.2 million from 708 screens in 10 markets.

Clint Eastwood's Japanese-language film, "Letters From Iwo Jima," often mentioned during Sunday night's Oscarcast, grossed $3 million over the weekend from 930 prints in 42 markets, opening to $883,000 from 153 in France, $133,000 from 38 in the U.K., $98,000 from 58 in Germany, and $107,000 from 24 in Australia.

"Notes on a Scandal," which also received Oscar exposure, took in $3.1 million from a limited number of screens in 26 markets, with Australia providing $65,000 from 17; Germany, $447,000 from 123; Italy, $417,000 from 93; and Mexico, $180,000 from 77.

"The Last King of Scotland," for which Forest Whitaker won the best actor Oscar, took in $1.9 million from 35 markets, also confined to limited screen counts — $438,000 from 90 in Spain, $900,000 from 25 in South Africa, and $336,000 from 100 in its second weekend in France (cume: $1.1 million).

"The Departed," winner of Oscars for best picture and director, has reached an international gross of $148.1 million to date, while best animated feature "Happy Feet" has brought in $171.3 million.

"Little Miss Sunshine," the little indie with Oscar aspirations, has a few overseas dates remaining after chalking up $35.2 million. Over the weekend, Hungary delivered $20,000 from nine screens. Some six small markets remain, including India, Peru and Colombia.

Cume updates: "Hot Fuzz," $23.3 million; "The Pursuit of Happyness," $115 million; "Deja Vu," $104.7 million; "Borat," $121.5 million; "Babel," $36.5 million; "Notes on a Scandal," $13.2 million; "Children of Men," $29.5 million; "Rocky Balboa," $67.5 million; "Epic Movie," $16.8 million; "Music and Lyrics," $23.4 million; "Blood Diamond," $88.1 million; "Letters From Iwo Jima," $47.4 million; "Little Children," $5.3 million; "Tenacious D," $5.1 million; "Dreamgirls," $27.7 million; "Norbit," $5.9 million; "An Inconvenient Truth," $21.6 million; "Barnyard," $37.8 million; "Charlotte's Web," $52.1 million; "The Good Shepherd," $5.2 million; "The Holiday," $126.4 million; "Flushed Away," $111 million; "Smokin' Aces," $12.6 million; "Employee of the Month," $7.1 million; "Saw III," $75.8 million; and "Wild Bunch 4," $14.5 million from three German-speaking markets.