'Museum' exhibits gains o'seas

Fox comedy leads strong holiday period at int'l b.o.

Hearty New Year holiday business, especially in Europe, sent 2006 out on a robust note internationally as 20th Fox International's "Night at the Museum" emerged No. 1 overall for the weekend with an estimated gross of $47.3 million from 4,722 screens in 24 territories.

A special effects-laden comedy starring Ben Stiller as a bumbling security guard at New York's Museum of Natural History, "Museum" bowed strongly in the U.K. (an estimated $14.2 million from 486 screens), Mexico ($7.3 million at 927 sites), Germany ($5.9 million at 852 locations) and Australia ($4.9 million from 239 spots), among other territories.

In its second weekend in Korea, "Museum" garnered an estimated $3.7 million from 368 screens, a mere 6% dip from the previous weekend, raising its market total to $13.1 million. The film's overseas cume stands at $58 million vs. $125.8 million domestic.

Fox and other distributors agreed that the run-up to the New Year holiday, as well as the holiday period itself, produced surprisingly strong overall boxoffice. Addressing Walt Disney Co.'s record $3.3 billion in world boxoffice revenue in 2006, Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group president Marc Zoradi emphasized that overseas distribution is increasingly important.

For example, he said that the coming third installment in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" series — "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" — will open day-and-date the weekend of May 25 on more than 20,000 screens in more than 100 countries. "It will be the first time that (Disney) ever released a movie literally (at the same time) in every single country of the world," he said in an interview.

Placing second for the weekend is Warner Bros. International's animation title "Happy Feet," which danced its way to an estimated $20.2 million from 6,100 screens in 58 markets, raising its overseas total to $113.8 million. The biggest of the new markets was Australia, where it snared a six-day total of $8.7 million from 403 screens. The biggest holdover territory is the U.K., where the weekend tally was an estimated $3.5 million from 490 sites, raising its market total to $26.9 million.

Finishing in third place is "Eragon," Fox's family fantasy, which garnered an estimated $20 million from 6,957 screens in 51 markets, pushing its international gross past the $100 million mark ($105 million).

Tied for fourth place for the weekend are Sony Pictures Releasing International's "Casino Royale" and Universal International's "The Holiday," with estimates of $16 million apiece. The 21st installment in the James Bond series played 5,300 screens in 61 territories, while "Holiday" played 3,400 sites in 40 markets.

"Casino" scored a muscular $2.8 million in each of two key holdover markets, the U.K. and Germany, lifting its totals in these territories to $95 million and $43.3 million, respectively. The total international cume for the Agent 007 actioner stands at $338 million, compared with a domestic total of $155 million. Sony expects the film to pass the $500 million worldwide gross mark today.

Sony also said that "Casino" is now its fourth-biggest hit internationally after "The Da Vinci Code" and the two "Spider-Man" movies, and that its overseas cume qualifies the Bond film as the 35th-biggest hit all time internationally, passing the original "Star Wars" ($337 million).

"Holiday," writer-director Nancy Meyers' romantic comedy starring Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet, has grossed $70 million to date overseas. It opened at No. 4 in Australia during the weekend (an estimated $3.5 million at 219 screens) and No. 3 in France ($2.3 million at 414 screens). In its fourth weekend in the U.K., "Holiday" ranked No. 4 in the market (an estimated $1.9 million from 426 sites, for a 24-day territorial cume of $20.2 million).

In its fourth weekend in Japan, Clint Eastwood's Japanese-language "Letters From Iwo Jima" increased its cume to $22 million on the strength of an estimated $1.4 million weekend from 322 sites. Also on the single-market, local-language front, BVI's "Cansadas de los Sapos" (Tired of Kissing Frogs) scored an estimated $500,000 in its second weekend in Mexico for a 10-day market cume of $2.2 million. The film is a "female-skewing" live-action comedy that Disney produced and is distributing.