Overseas hails 'The Simpsons'

Fox Int'l tops $1 billion as toon opens to $96.8 million

Movies continued as potent summer lures at the overseas market this past weekend, with Hollywood entries almost certain to lead the industry to a new boxoffice record this year in the international market. As the major studios racked up record numbers for their summer tentpoles, 20th Century Fox International joined Sony Pictures Releasing International, Warner Bros. Pictures International and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International as the fourth company to top $1 billion at the international market.

Fox's animated "The Simpsons Movie" blasted off with $96.8 million from 5,521 screens in 71 markets, registering the fourth-highest opening of the 2007 summer season. Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" set a new opening record of $216 million from 15,500 screens in 102 territories in May, followed by Warner Bros. Pictures' "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," with $193 million from 12,000 screens in 44 markets in July, and Sony's "Spider-Man 3," which took in $176.6 million from 16,500 screens in 105 markets, also in May.

At the same time, overseas moviegoers turned out in record numbers over the weekend to see the ongoing tentpoles of summer. "Order of the Phoenix" took in another $50 million; Paramount/DreamWorks' "Transformers" collected $43.6 million; Disney/¬Pixar's "Ratatouille" cooked up $10.3 million; Fox's "Die Hard 4.0" tallied $10.1 million; and Paramount/DreamWorks' "Shrek the Third" saw $6.8 million.

Like previous summer blockbusters, "The Simpsons" chalked up a slew of new records in its opening round, especially in Latin America, where it registered the industry's best openings ever in Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay. It was also Fox International's biggest opening in nine markets, mainly in Latin America, and set marks in many countries as the biggest animated opening ever.

The U.K. provided Fox with its second-biggest all-time bow in the market, delivering $26.6 million from 500 screens; Germany came through with $14.2 million from 912 screens; Australia, $11.3 million from 444; France, $9.2 million from 716; Spain, $9.3 million from 672; Belgium, $1.8 million from 136; Argentina, $2.4 million from 172; Chile, $1.4 million from 73; Colombia, $1.3 million from 130; and Austria, $2.5 million from 134.

Japan is not scheduled to greet "The Simpsons" until March, but Holland, Russia, Brazil, Korea and Taiwan are standing by for August dates and Italy for September.

Meanwhile, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," which seems to be taking off as the hottest Harry of them all, reached an international cume of $454 million following its $50 million weekend. Its only new opening -- a No. 1 arrival in Poland -- tallied $1.8 million from 174 prints, a 72% market share of the top five films, according to Warner Bros. Market cumes to date include the U.K., $76.7 million; Germany, $46.5 million; France, $37.5 million; Japan, $32 million; Australia, $25.4 million; Mexico, $22.1 million; Italy, $22.1 million; and Korea, $21.1 million.

The toy-based, sci-fi film "Transformers," with such key markets as Germany and Japan coming up this weekend, reached an international cume of $248.5 million, opening second to "The Simpsons" in the U.K. ($17.8 million from 459 screens) and also in France ($6.5 million from 872 screens). It also had strong openings in Belgium, Switzerland and Hong Kong as well as holdovers in Australia and Korea.

The animated "Ratatouille," following a staggered release pattern, reached a cume of $50.7 million after its weekend tally of $10.3 million. The film opened No. 2 to "Order of the Phoenix" in Japan with $4.1 million from 324 screens; Korea tallied $2 million from 285 for the second-biggest opening ever for a Disney/Pixar offering; and the Philippines welcomed it at No. 1 with $627,000 from 99 screens, hailed as the biggest all-time Disney/Pixar entry in the market. Disney calls attention to strong holds in Latin America, including Mexico hitting $1 million from 410 screens at its fourth weekend for a market cume of $14.1 million. Four weekends in Brazil has resulted in $6.5 million and four in Argentina has seen $3.1 million. "Ratatouille" will bow in France and Spain this coming weekend but is not scheduled to reach the U.K., Germany, Italy and Scandinavia until October.

Fox's Bruce Willis starrer "Die Hard 4.0" reached a cume of $177 million after a $10.1 million weekend, registering $16.3 million from two weekends in Korea, $15.1 million from four in France, $21 million from five in Germany and $27.1 million from five in Japan.

"Shrek the Third," also in a staggered release pattern, arrived at an international gross of $398.4 million following its $6.8 million weekend. At its fifth weekend in the U.K., where "Shrek" stands at No. 5, it brought in $1.5 million from 470 screens for a market cume to date of $73.3 million. Germany has contributed $25 million in six weeks.

More weekend action: "Hairspray," $4 million (cume: $11.1 million); "Knocked Up," $2.9 million (cume: $12.8 million); "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," $1.8 million (cume: $644.3 million); "Ocean's Thirteen," $2 million (cume: $159.6 million) and "Evan Almighty," $1.2 million (cume: $5.9 million).

"I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry" opened in Greece, Holland and Taiwan to $851,286 from 139 screens.