Overseas b.o. breaks record with $9.9 bil

The six majors pass $1 bil each for second consecutive year

Things may be tough economically around the globe, but the major Hollywood film distributors still managed to gross record high overseas boxoffice in 2008, garnering an estimated $9.9 billion, up 4% from 2007's $9.5 billion international total.

Overseas operations of the six major studios -- Paramount, Warner Bros., Universal, 20th Century Fox, Sony and Disney -- each bagged more than $1 billion in revenue for the second consecutive year, according to preliminary estimates from each distributor.

Paramount Pictures International generated the most foreign revenue with an estimated $2.037 billion, an increase of 28.2% from 2007 -- a new international record for the studio. It is the first time Paramount, which ranked fourth among the big six in 2007, crossed the $2 billion overseas boxoffice threshold.

The biggest single title on the international circuit last year was Steven Spielberg's "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," which bowed May 21, and went on to gross $469.5 million foreign (versus $317 million domestic), according to Paramount figures.  Second was Warner Bros. International's Batman pic "The Dark Knight," which tallied an estimated $465 million overseas.

Thanks to its 2008 product stream from DreamWorks Animation, PPI also capitalized overseas with "Kung Fu Panda," which garnered $416.5 million abroad (versus $215.4 million domestic) and "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa," which opened Oct. 30 and is still playing internationally. The "Madagascar" sequel grossed an estimated $305 million in 2008, and appears on track to double its domestic gross of $175.7 million. Marvel's "Iron Man, which PPI handled in most overseas markets, tallied $214.2 million.

In addition to "Dark Knight," Warners parlayed a roster including "I Am Legend" with Will Smith -- perhaps the biggest Hollywood name overseas in 2008 -- and "10,000 B.C." to a second-place finish with an estimated $1.8 million overall. "Legend" grossed $210.7 million foreign last year, while "10,000" finished with $173.4 million.

In third place is Universal, which scored $1.7 billion in boxoffice overseas last year, a record for the distributor. Uni's previous international record was $1.164 billion in 1999. The big driver for the company was the musical "Mamma Mia!," which had extraordinary success abroad -- grossing $428.5 million, nearly three times its domestic tally ($144.1 million).

Universal also showed overseas returns of more than $100 million with "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" ($294.3 million vs. $102.5 million domestic); "Wanted" ($209.5 million vs. $134.5 million domestic) and "Incredible Hulk" ($100.6 million in territories serviced by the company).

Fourth was 20th Century Fox, which grossed an estimated $1.6 million in 2008 -- about even with the previous year -- on the strength of "Horton Hears a Who" ($142.5 million), "What Happens in Vegas" ($139 million), "Jumper" ($133.9 million) and "The Day the Earth Stood Still" ($110.7 million).
Fifth was Sony, which generated an estimated $1.383 billion, the distributor's second-biggest year after 2006's $1.634 billion. "Hancock" with Will Smith lead the Sony roster with an overseas gross of $396.4 million (versus $227.9 million domestic), followed by the latest James Bond film, "Quantum of Solace," which grossed $377.3 million in 2008 (an opening in Japan scheduled for this month). "Quantum's" domestic tally is $164.3 million.
Disney, which ranked third among the big six last year, finished sixth in 2008, grossing $1.37 billion, down 19% from 2007. The company had an unusually strong 2007 on the strength of third title in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" series (which grossed $653 million, the third largest international gross in history) and the animation title, "Ratatouille" ($406 million).
This year, Disney capitalized overseas on "WALL-E" ($289.4 million); "The Chronicles of Narnia:  Prince Caspian" ($278.3 million); "National Tresure: Book of Secrets," $173.9 million in 2008, $237.1 million total); "High School Musical 3: Senior Year" ($151 million versus $89.4 million domestic); and "Enchanted" ($100.7 million in 2008, $213.4 total).
The biggest of the indie distribs is New Line Cinema, which collected $607 million in 2008 largely on the back of "Sex and the City" ($257.4 million foreign versus $153 million domestic).  Mandate International grossed an estimated $219 million in 2008, while Summit International came in with an estimated $517 million.