Happy holidays for UPI

New distribution tops $1 billion

In its first year as a stand-alone international distributor, Universal Pictures International has topped the $1 billion mark in overseas boxoffice, its best showing since 2001.

The studio joins the other five MPA companies that already had crossed the $1 billion threshold this year.

Universal previously distributed its films in the foreign market through United International Pictures, a joint venture with Paramount, but UIP was broken up last year. Universal launched the new UPI, headed by president David Kosse, in January.

"The Bourne Ultimatum" led the charge for UPI, racking up $213 million abroad and outgrossing the lifetime totals of its two predecessors, "The Bourne Identity" and "The Bourne Supremacy."

The other titles that contributed to UPI's international haul were "Mr. Bean's Holiday" ($192 million), "Evan Almighty" ($72.8 million), "The Holiday" (which took in $72.3 million of its international total of $141.6 million in 2007), "Knocked Up" ($70 million), "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry" ($65 million), "Hot Fuzz" ($56.8 million) and "American Gangster" ($53 million to date).

With the exception of "Holiday," all those films are now in release. Additionally, "Atonement," with $32.5 million so far, and "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," with $35 million to date, have just begun their rollouts.

"This is an exceptional result for our first year as an operating entity," Kosse said. "I am very proud of the tremendous effort made by our offices around the world and by the ongoing cooperation we have enjoyed with our partners at UIP and Paramount as we maintain our joint endeavors in selected territories."

UPI now wholly owns and operates direct theatrical marketing and distribution of feature films in the U.K., Austria, Benelux, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Korea, Australia, Ireland and Switzerland.

Universal also has passed the $1 billion mark domestically. According to Nielsen EDI, its domestic total for 2007 is nearly $1.1 billion. Worldwide, the studio said, it is enjoying its second-highest-grossing year ever, having achieved a 23% increase over its 2006 totals.