O'seas b.o. in 'Happyness' mood

Smith starrer unseats 'Museum' with $16.2 mil weekend

With a good mix of new films and bolstered by Oscar nominees rated more appealing than last year's crop, the overseas market remains vibrant during the early part of this year. At the same time, a batch of local-language films are helping to keep the market buzzing, most notably the "Wild Bunch 4" sequel released by Buena Vista International, which dominated German-speaking territories in Europe.

Sony Pictures Releasing International's "The Pursuit of Happyness," for which Will Smith received a best actor Oscar nomination, unseated 20th Century Fox's "Night at the Museum" as the international market's favorite film after the Ben Stiller comedy held the No. 1 spot for five weeks in a row.

"Happyness" pulled in $16.2 million from 3,200 sites in 25 markets to raise its international cume to $71 million, while "Museum," opening strong in Italy ($5.1 million from 536 screens) and closing in the No. 1 position on nine boxoffice charts, brought in $14.5 million from 4,294 screens in 50 countries. "Happyness'" weekend haul came mainly from Spain ($2.5 million from 285 screens), France ($2.5 million from 322), Mexico ($1.3 million from 300) and Brazil ($1.1 million 115). Brazil greeted the film in the No. 1 spot; the film came in at No. 2 in the other countries.

Warner Bros. Pictures' laurel-seeking "Blood Diamond," for which Leonardo DiCaprio has a best actor Oscar nom, pulled in a striking $13.8 million from 3,200 prints in 51 territories (cume: $46 million), highlighted by a No. 1 bow in France ($2.7 million from 459 screens) and backed by second-weekend holdovers in the U.K. (market cume: $7 million), Germany (market cume: $3.4 million) and Italy (market cume: $3.6 million). Five-week holds have delivered $5.3 million in Australia, $2.6 million in Brazil and $2.6 million in Taiwan.

Sylvester Stallone's "Rocky Balboa," a fairly recent Fox entry sans current Oscar dreams, moved to another round with a satisfactory $5.4 million from 2,312 sites in 21 markets, lifting its cume to $46.7 million. Two weekends in France have delivered $7 million, while three in the U.K. brought in $15.6 million.

Locally made films topped the markets over the weekend in Japan, Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, Germany, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Turkey and Mexico.

For BVI, which has held the release rights for the "Wild Bunch" franchise in German-speaking markets from the start of the family-oriented offering, it represented another b.o. triumph as the fourth film in the series opened No. 1 in Germany ($4.3 million from 740 screens), Austria ($390,000 from 78) and German-speaking Switzerland ($280,000 from 60). According to BVI, the previous three "Wild Bunch" films have collected about $30 million at the German-speaking boxoffice. As local films grow in importance, all the major studios have local managers keeping an eye on homegrown films for which either release rights can be acquired or co-production arrangements can be made.

The much award-mentioned "Dreamgirls" is finding it tough sledding in the international market, but over the weekend it hit the top in the U.K., arriving with $2.6 million from 270 screens (including previews). But it came in No. 5 in Germany with only $885,428 from 217 screens. In three weekends in Australia, the Bill Condon-directed musical has taken in $2.9 million. This past weekend's overall total came to $4.4 million from 1,131 screens in nine markets, raising the international gross to $8.9 million.

James Bond's never-ending exploits keep popping up as "Casino Royale" intrigued China, which contributed a $2.7 million two-day weekend (from 468 screens) to an overall weekend take of $4.8 million from 1,800 screens in 44 markets, boosting the film's international gross to an astounding $415.7 million. A three-day weekend opening in China provided $5.5 million, said by Sony to be the fifth-biggest three-day opening in the market (not including local Chinese films).

The Denzel Washington sci-fi thriller "Deja Vu" passed the $100 million mark ($100.5 million) as it posted $2.1 million over the weekend from 1,259 screens in 32 countries. According to BVI, it was the first Washington film to enter the over-$100 million ranks and the 11th for producer Jerry Bruckheimer under the BVI banner.

"Notes on a Scandal," for which Judy Dench holds a best actress Oscar nomination, made its debut in the U.K. under the auspices of Fox, arriving in the No. 4 position with $2.2 million from 300 screens.

Fox, which is releasing Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto" in Latin America and most of Asia, reported a $3 million weekend from 808 screens in nine markets, with Korea contributing $1 million from 157 screens. An estimate of the total international cume, which includes markets controlled by Gibson's Icon distribution unit, places it at about $50 million to date.

"The Departed," a best picture Oscar nominee, reached a cume of $142.5 million after scoring $1.8 million from 1,025 prints in 33 markets.

Lionsgate's "Saw III" crashed into Germany in the No. 2 position with $2.8 million from 438 screens, leading the weekend assault of $3.6 million from 38 territories and raising the foreign gross to date to $69.7 million.

The dancing penguins of Warner Bros.' "Happy Feet" frolicked to another $2.2 million from 2,340 prints in 48 markets to provide an international cume of $166.2 million. To date, the U.K. has donated $35.8 million; Australia, $24.2 million; France, $10.8 million; Spain, $9,8 million; and Germany, $8.4 million.

Adam Sandler's "Click" bowed in Korea with $1.1 million from 152 screens, lifting the international cume to $97.3 million, Sandler's best overseas mark to date. Sony believes the film has a chance to top $100 million after it opens in China in March.

"The Holiday" hit $116.3 million after a $1.3 million weekend, and "Epic Movie" tallied $1.5 million from five markets to reach $5 million.