'Museum' still main o'seas lure

Overcomes growing competition from locally made product

Despite a flood of new entries again swamping the overseas boxoffice, 20th Century Fox's "Night at the Museum" dominated the international market for a fifth weekend in a row, taking in $15.2 million from 4,400 screens in 50 territories to lift its foreign gross to $194.8 million.

While the weekend takes of "Museum," "Blood Diamond" ($12.2 million), "The Pursuit of Happyness" ($12.1 million), and "Rocky Balboa" ($10.8 million) were seen as gratifying, international distribution executives nevertheless are voicing concern about a growing trend: the strong competition for market share from local product.

In Korea over the weekend, not a single U.S. film made the top five on the local boxoffice chart, headed by four local films and the Chinese film "Curse of the Golden Flower" in the No. 2 spot. In Japan, it's not uncommon for at least three or four local films to be among the top 10 grossers. "You never saw that five years ago," a major company distribution executive said.

In Italy, local sequel "Manuele d'amore 2" held the No. 1 position for the second week in a row, pulling in $5.3 million from 588 screens for a two-week market cume of $16.8 million. In Sweden over the weekend, the two top market offerings were locally made. In France, with the exception of "Rocky Balboa" at No. 1 with $4.6 million from 490 screens, the No. 2 ("Pars vite et reviens tard," $2.7 million from 495) through No. 8 offerings were French-language films.

In Germany, the Will Smith starrer "The Pursuit of Happyness" was No. 1 for a second weekend with a two-week total of $5.7 million from 497 screens, and the Oscar-nominated "Blood Diamond" opened No. 2 ($1.6 million from 504 screens), followed by three locally produced films. In Taiwan, a local film, "Nana 2," was among the top five.

The surge of locally produced films has the U.S. majors stepping up acquisitions efforts to handle local product in the countries of origin. Buena Vista International, which has the franchise rights to Germany's "Wild Bunch," is set to open "Wild Bunch 4" in the market this weekend. According to BVI, the three previous films have tallied more than $40 million in Germany alone.

As "Night at the Museum" nears the $200 million mark in the offshore market, weekend activity saw it pick up $5.7 million from 473 screens in Spain and $787,000 from 96 in the Philippines, hailed as Fox's biggest opening weekend ever in the territory. In five weekends in the U.K., the Ben Stiller starrer has picked up $39.7 million.

By adding key overseas dates for "Blood Diamond," for which Leonardo DiCaprio has received a best actor Oscar nomination, Warner Bros. generated an estimated $12.2 million from 2,430 prints in 41 markets. It opened No. 2 in the U.K. ($2.9 million from 371 screens), No. 2 in Germany ($1.6 million from 503) and No. 3 in Italy ($1.7 million from 280).

Key holdover cumes to date include $4.8 million from four weekends in Australia, $2.7 million from three in Korea and $2.3 million from four in Brazil.

"Rocky Balboa" added to Fox's early 2007 run by holding No. 1 in the U.K. for a second weekend, with the follow-up tally of $3.3 million from 411 screens bringing the market cume to $13 million. It opened at No. 1 in France with $4.6 million from 490 screens, and three weekends in Italy have delivered $8.4 million.

Sony Pictures Releasing International, which holds all international rights to "The Pursuit of Happyness," except for Italy (perhaps involving an arrangement with Italian director Gabriele Maccino), picked up $9.4 million of the weekend's $12.1 million total from 2,210 screens in 15 markets. The Will Smith starrer opened No. 2 in Japan ($2.9 million from 271 screens) and No. 1 in New Zealand ($265,000 from 51). In its third weekend in Italy, the film tallied $2.7 million from 420 screens for a market cume of $15.5 million.

"Babel," which has commanded seven Oscar nominations, brought in $4.8 million over the weekend, with the noms reported to have helped the film maintain strong holds in many markets. The film was relaunched in Mexico, pulling in $245,000 from 162 screens, and Italy rereleased the film to cash in on the Oscar buzz, according to Paramount, which is involved with Summit Entertainment in the overseas distribution. The cume to date is estimated at $52.3 million.

Another Oscar contender, Paramount/DreamWorks' "Dreamgirls," pulled in $1.9 million over the weekend from 623 screens in five markets, including Italy, Mexico and Spain. Its biggest challenge comes this coming weekend when the much-awarded musical opens in the U.K.

"Deja Vu" became Denzel Washington's biggest overseas offering to date by topping "Inside Man." The sci-fi actioner tallied $4.3 million from 1,887 screens in 36 markets to reach a cume of $96.4 million, with the $100 million mark in sight as it gets set to open in China and Japan in March.

Other weekend scores: "Apocalypto," $3.3 million from Fox markets in Latin America and Asia (estimated overall cume: $42 million); "Happy Feet," $3.7 million (cume: $163.1 million); "Casino Royale," $3.2 million (cume: $405.6 million); and "The Departed," $2.8 million (cume: $138.7 million).