Overseas boxoffice growing

Projections upbeat with strong release slate

Hollywood is winding up a spiffy summer on the international circuit, pointing toward a fourth consecutive year of record foreign boxoffice.

According to studio estimates, overseas boxoffice generated by the majors from January through August totaled $7 billion, a hair ahead of 2008's eight-month total of $6.9 billion, with most of the action amassed by films released from May on.

Last year, films from the six majors grossed a total of $9.9 billion overseas, up 4% from the previous year's $9.5 billion and 15% above 2006's $8.6 billion take.

Reinforcing upbeat projections is a strong roster of upcoming titles expected to drive offshore action through year's end.

Among Sony's upcoming titles are "Julie & Julia" starring Meryl Streep and Roland Emmerich's disaster pic "2012." Coming later this month from Disney is a Bruce Willis sci-fi thriller "Surrogates," followed in November by director Robert Zemeckis' 3D animated reworking of "A Christmas Carol" with Jim Carrey.

Universal's overseas release of Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" ($60 million overseas so far) will continue into December, as will Pixar/Disney's "Up."

Summit will conjure another "Twilight" outing in November. Not to be outdone, Universal will introduce "Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant" on the foreign circuit beginning Oct. 22.

Finally, Fox will provide director James Cameron's 3D sci-fi epic "Avatar" in mid-December.

Through August, films from Fox led the majors with total boxoffice of $1.6 billion, with nearly 70% of that coming during the summer months. (Fox's comparable total last year was $1.09 billion.) "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" made the difference.

The animation threequel is the year's biggest offshore title, grossing $640 million to date. That's more than triple its domestic take.

Thanks to "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," which drew offshore coin of $611.1 million, Warner Bros. amassed $1.41 billion, with 64% of the total coming during the summer. "Prince" emerged as the fifth title in the six-film series to gross more than $600 million internationally.

The biggest title for Par was DreamWorks' "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," which has grossed $428.6 million, significantly contributing to the $1.25 billion Par has taken in through August. About 62% of its foreign boxoffice this year was generated during the summer.

Sony also recently hit the $1 billion international boxoffice mark, with Ron Howard's "The Da Vinci Code" follow-up, "Angels & Demons," racking up $351 million (more than 21⁄2 times its domestic tally) offshore since May 13. "Terminator Salvation" has grossed $246 million since May 27, nearly doubling its domestic take.

Disney reports total foreign boxoffice to date of $934.5 million, slightly ahead of its 2008 figure ($926 million), with Pixar's "Up" raking in $155.5 million abroad.

Universal has recorded $800 million in offshore box¬office this year, with the action title "Fast & Furious" jumping the season by opening internationally in April and driving its way to $195 million so far. Its foreign run will conclude in October in Japan.

The top five films of the year -- the latest installments of popular franchises -- highlight the commercial ease at the overseas wickets of presold titles. Upside boxoffice surprises include three comedies, usually the hardest types of pictures to sell overseas.

Warners' "The Hangover" mirrored its domestic performance by grossing $160 million overseas (it is still running). Disney's "The Proposal," starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, has tallied $115.8 million offshore, and it too is still playing. "Bruno," handled internationally by three distributors, recorded $77 million, about $17 million more than the Sacha Baron Cohen satire drew domestically.

Disappointments include Par's rebooted "Star Trek," one of the few summer "event" releases to gross less overseas ($126 million) than in the U.S. and Canada ($257 million). Sony's "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3," despite the presence of Denzel Washington and John Travolta, so far has squeaked out a mild-mannered $40.8 million offshore since June.

Three comedy stalwarts starred in outright duds: Eddie Murphy in Par's "Imagine That" ($3 million grossed overseas since July 23), Jack Black in Sony's "Year One" ($12.3 million since June 18) and Will Ferrell in Universal's "Land of the Lost" ($14.8 million since June 11).