Paramount pickups prosperous


International film distributors -- much like their domestic counterparts -- rung up foreign coin in a steady flow of boxoffice hits throughout the summer.

The situation was in marked contrast to the barrage of films in May 2007, when two franchise sequels scored more than $600 million and one reached the $550 million plateau. This year's output was more evenly spaced throughout the summer, with two films topping $400 million internationally, three registering more than $300 million and four rising above $200 million.

Paramount Pictures International took top summer honors with $1.1 billion, projected through August.

The victory is traceable to three May-through-August blockbusters: Steven Spielberg's "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" ($466 million), DreamWorks Animation's "Kung Fu Panda" ($383 million) and Marvel-produced "Iron Man" ($214 million).

Universal Pictures International -- like Paramount savoring its second year as a stand-alone company after the break-up of the partnership in United International Pictures -- finished second in the summer sweepstakes with a projected $805 million, marked by the surprise musical hit "Mamma Mia!" ($238.2 million), "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" ($225.4 million) and the comic book adaptations "Wanted" ($133.3 million) and "The Incredible Hulk" ($94.1 million for Uni territories only).

Warner Bros. Pictures International came in third, with "The Dark Knight" ($410 million) blazing the way for a $700 million summer tally that also included "Get Smart" ($80 million) and $60 million from its limited international distribution role on "Sex and the City."

With Will Smith's "Hancock" ($350 million) leading the summer charge, Sony Pictures Releasing International hit the tape at No. 4, providing a May-August count of $574 million.

Sony estimates that "Hancock" will reach $400 million once it completes dates in Japan, Italy and Greece. Also donating to Sony's summer gross were Adam Sandler's "You Don't Mess With the Zohan" ($56.4 million) and the romantic comedy "Made of Honor" ($57 million).

Fifth place went to Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International, which signed in with an estimated $490 million with key contributions from two family entries, "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian"

($275 million) and the Pixar-animated "WALL-E," which completed its summer run with $178 million and has about 50% of the foreign market still to go as part of the film's gradual rollout.

20th Century Fox International, whose main boxoffice hits came earlier in the year, took sixth place with $394.9 million, led by the romantic comedy "What Happens in Vegas" ($136.1 million) and M. Night Shyamalan's "The Happening" ($97.8 million).

Meanwhile, Paramount, Fox, Universal and Warners each topped $1 billion in year-to-date foreign coin before the end of August, and Disney and Sony are on course to reach the same benchmark.

In the year-to-date rankings (Jan. 1-Sunday), Paramount sits at No. 1 with $1.52 billion, followed by Warners ($1.45 billion), Universal ($1.15 billion), Fox ($1.14 billion), Disney ($925 million) and Sony (820 million).

Despite broad industry satisfaction with the summer boxoffice, there were several foreign disappointments during the hectic and competitive season.

Warners' presumptive tentpole "Speed Racer" registered just $42.2 million internationally, while Fox's "The Happening," Warners' "Get Smart" and "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" and Universal's "The X-Files: I Want to Believe" and "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" failed to meetprerelease expectations.

But there also were a number of surprise successes, such as the $239.4 million tally for "Sex and the City," including the Warners coin. Other outsized foreign performances included "Mamma Mia!," "Skull" and "Iron Man," "Wanted" and "What Happens in Vegas."

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