'Ghost' still haunting overseas b.o.

'23' opens strong; Oscar nominees continue to perform

Sparked by first-place openings in a half-dozen new markets, Sony Pictures Releasing International's "Ghost Rider" maintained its hold on the No. 1 spot overseas during the weekend, grossing an estimated $16.1 million from 3,000 screens in 40 territories.

In taking the top position for the second consecutive weekend, the Mark Steven Johnson film starring Nicolas Cage as the Marvel Comics character lifted its international gross to $39.4 million. Combined with its No. 1 finish domestically, "Ghost" already has tallied a worldwide cume of slightly more than $118 million.

The biggest of the debut markets were Germany (an estimated $2.2 million from 363 screens, No. 1 in the territory) and France, where "Ghost" is distributed by SND and appears to have garnered an estimated $3 million from an undisclosed number of sites. The biggest of the holdover territories was Spain, where it scored a No. 1 finish for a second weekend with an estimated $1.5 million from 417 screens, for a market cume of $5.3 million.

There were two newcomers to the overseas circuit. New Line bowed "The Number 23" in the U.K. simultaneously with its domestic opening. The Jim Carrey thriller finished in the market's top five with an estimated $2.4 million from 326 screens, lifting its worldwide gross to $17.5 million. Also in the U.K., Paramount British Pictures/Paramount Pictures International opened the Weinstein Co. comedy "School for Scoundrels," with Billy Bob Thornton, for an estimated $669,000 from 262 situations.

Titles with Oscar potential figured prominently overseas for the weekend. Sony's "The Pursuit of Happyness," starring best actor nominee Will Smith, grabbed an estimated $6.1 million from 2,825 screens in 52 markets, raising its overseas total to $114.7 million. That was enough for an overall fourth-place finish internationally.

Warner Bros. International's "Blood Diamond," with best actor nominee Leonardo Di-Caprio, drew an estimated $5.9 million on the weekend from about 3,000 screens in 57 markets, hiking its overseas gross to $87.5 million.

DreamWorks/PPI's "Dreamgirls" grabbed an estimated $5.2 million from 1,489 locations in 41 markets, raising its international gross to $27.1 million. Notable was a strong bow in South Korea (an estimated $1.6 million from 105 sites for a powerful $15,238 per-screen average) and a No. 1 holdover in Japan ($1.5 million from 285 screens for a market cume of $4.9 million).

20th Century Fox International's Oscar-connected films also were much in evidence. "Notes on a Scandal" tallied an estimated $3.1 million from 850 screens in 26 markets, for an overseas cume of $13.2 million. "The Last King of Scotland" pulled $1.9 million from 700 situations in 41 territories for an overseas total of $15.7 million. A Spain bow drew an estimated $420,000 from 90 locations and a No. 6 market rank.

Also from Fox, "Borat" bowed in Brazil to an estimated $720,000 from 82 screens, ranking No. 2 in the market and lifting its international total to $121.8 million. "Little Miss Sunshine," fresh from its Cesar citation as France's best foreign film, is still playing in various markets. Its latest overseas cume is $35 million.

WBI's release of Clint Eastwood's "Letters From Iwo Jima" yielded an estimated $2.7 million from 970 screens in 42 markets, good for an international total of $47.1 million. Key openings included France (an estimated $745,000 from 153 locations), the U.K. ($129,000 from 38 spots), Germany ($92,000 from 58 screens) and Australia ($104,000 from 24 situations).

Universal International opened the CIA drama "The Good Shepherd" at No. 5 in the U.K. (an estimated $1.3 million from 340 spots) and registered $2.7 million for the weekend overall from 756 screens in six markets. Its international total is $5.2 million. Summit Entertainment/PPI- Vantage's "Babel" grossed an estimated $989,000 from 603 screens in 15 territories for a cume (Summit markets excluded) of $36.4 million.

Fox's "Night at the Museum" is moving smartly overseas, placing second overall for the weekend.

The Ben Stiller comedy garnered an estimated $9.6 million from about 4,000 spots in 35 markets, raising its international total to $268 million. The biggest of the holdover markets is France (an estimated $2.4 million from 657 situations for a market cume of $11.7 million), while in Belgium and Holland, "Museum's" weekend figures actually in-creased from the previous weekend, rising 22% in Belgium and 45% in Holland.

Finishing third overall is Universal's "Hot Fuzz," a cop thriller spoof co-produced by Britain's Working Title Films, which is tearing up the U.K.; the weekend estimate is $6.8 million from 432 screens (or $15,741 per screen). "Fuzz" took 30% of the U.K. market for the weekend and has accumulated $23.6 million in just 10 days in the key territory.

At No. 5 overall is WBI's "Music and Lyrics," a romantic comedy starring Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore, which pulled an estimated $6 million from about 1,300 screens in 12 markets. Its overseas cume stands at $23.5 million. Its key opening on the weekend was Italy (an estimated $1.8 million from 341 situations). Results in the U.K. continue strongly with an estimated $1.9 million in the third weekend from 425 screens, for a market cume of $14 million.

PPI's "Charlotte's Web" lifted its overseas gross to $51.8 million thanks to an estimated $4 million weekend from 1,867 screens in 45 markets. PPI's "Barnyard" took an estimated $260,000 from 137 locations in its Italy bow.

Fox's "Rocky Balboa" opened at No. 1 in Australia, where it earned an estimated $1.6 million from 252 screens. Overall for the frame, it punched its way to $3.8 million from 2,000 situations in 35 markets. Its international cume (including Scandinavian territories handled by other distributors) is $70 million.

PPI's "Norbit," which finished fifth domestically for the weekend, grossed an estimated $3.2 million from 625 locations in six territories for an international total of $4.5 million ($79.2 million worldwide). The Eddie Murphy comedy bowed at No. 2 in Australia ($1.4 million from 210 sites) and in first place in Mexico ($1.2 million from 300 screens).

Buena Vista International's German-language "Die Wilden Kerle 4" (Wild Bunch 4) snared an estimated $1.1 million on the weekend from 898 screens in Germany, Austria and German-speaking Switzerland. Its international cume stands at $14 million, of which $11.9 million comes from Germany.

Other overseas cume updates: Universal's "Smokin' Aces," $12.5 million; Lionsgate's "Saw III," $76 million; Universal's "The Holiday," $125.8 million; and Lionsgate's "Employee of the Month," $7.1 million.