'Hancock' joins legion of b.o. super heroes  

Smith starrer takes place alongside 'Iron Man.'  'Hulk' in o'seas summer pantheon

Welcome to the Summer of the Superheroes. The international appeal of Will Smith and the overseas market's fondness for action heroes saw "Hancock" open to a mighty $78.6 million from 5,759 screens in 55 territories.

The Sony release became the fourth comic-book adaptation to dominate an opening overseas weekend since May, when "Iron Man" bowed to $95.5 million from 57 markets, "The Incredible Hulk" bowed with $31 million from 38, and "Wanted" entered the market with $32.5 million from 22.

Still to come is "Hellboy II: The Golden Army," starting out this weekend, and new Batman pic "The Dark Knight," which is set for a wide release in mid-July.

At the same time, 20th Century Fox became the second company (after Paramount Pictures International) to top $1 billion this year at the overseas market.

Based on the opening performance, Sony International executives are estimating that "Hancock" will reach a foreign gross in the mid-$300 million range by the time it completes its offshore run. Eleven new markets, including France and Russia, are scheduled to open this weekend.

According to Sony, which is hoping for the start of a new franchise, "Hancock" opened at No. 1 in 52 markets, with the U.K. delivering $19.2 million from 877 screens; Germany, $12.6 million from 969; Korea, $8.5 million from 535; Australia, $7.3 million from 356; and China, $6.6 million from 880.

With school vacations just getting under way in many European countries, summer business at the overseas boxoffice is reaching new heights. Animated and family films, romantic comedies and new musical entry "Mamma Mia!" are competing successfully with the action and comic-book adaptations.

DreamWorks Animation/ Paramount's "Kung Fu Panda," opening in 18 new markets, took in a total of $39.6 million over the weekend from 5,178 screens in 39 markets, lifting its international cume to $153.6 million. Weekend action was highlighted by $11.9 million from the U.K., $5 million from Germany, $2.5 million from Brazil, $2.2 million from Poland and $1.1 million from Argentina.

Disney's "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" — opening at No. 1 in 10 new territories — reached an international cume of $194.2 million after gathering $24.6 million from 5,127 screens in 42 territories. Disney estimates that "Caspian" will hit $200 million by Wednesday, joining "Iron Man" and "Indiana Jones" as the summer over-$200 million achievers.

"Caspian" — which has taken in $27.1 in seven weeks in Japan, $15.3 million in two in the U.K., and $14.2 million in two from France — opens July 31 in Germany and Aug. 14 in Italy.

"Wanted," Russian director Timur Bekmambetov's English-language debut, hauled in a weekend total of $17.8 million from 2,317 playdates in 23 territories, raising its international gross to $63.5 million, with 42 territories still set for release. "Wanted" opened at No. 1 in Italy ($2.2 million from 249 screens) and held the top post in Russia for a second weekend with $5.9 million from 613 sites.

Rounding out the weekend's top five was the much-acclaimed animated film "WALL-E" from Disney/Pixar, which took in $13.6 million from 2,147 screens in 11 countries, with No. 1 entries in eight markets, including Mexico ($5.5 million from 790 screens) and Russia ($5.2 million from 613). "WALL-E's" overseas rollout continues through December, when it opens in Japan.

Strong weekend contenders included holdovers "Sex and the City," which hit a cume of $211.5 million following an $8.6 million weekend in 55 markets; "Indiana Jones," which reached a whopping $430 million after an $8.2 million weekend from 44 markets; and "Get Smart," which recorded $7.5 million from 22 markets to hoist its cume to $34.7 million.

The Meryl Streep-starring musical comedy "Mamma Mia!" launched its overseas run with a one-week engagement at London's Odeon Leicester Square plus a wide release in Greece, where it is hailed as the biggest summer opening ever in the market ($1.6 million from 156 screens). In London, it grossed $273,000 from the one screen.

The film is scheduled to open around the world during the next few months, with nine territories, including the U.K., Australia and Sweden, coming aboard this weekend. (partialdiff)