'Rio' Revives International Box Office With No. 1 Openings in Russia, Brazil, Mexico

20th Century Fox

The animated picture was 2011's first foreign box office hit, scoring the best opening of the year with $55 million.

The foreign theatrical circuit welcomed 2011’s first robust box office hit on the weekend as 20th Century Fox’s Rio opened at 11,714 screens in 45 markets and grossed $54.9 million.

That’s just $100,000 below Sunday’s estimate, and nearly double the next highest gross compiled this year by a No. 1 weekend title overseas. It also sent Fox international officials reaching for the superlatives.

“This is a fantastic start for a new franchise,” declared Fox International co-presidents Paul Hanneman and Tomas Jegeus. “With consistently stellar reviews and excellent world-of-mouth around the world…we are well established to take advantage of the school holidays, which begin in the coming weeks.” Holidays in the U.K. and Australia begin this week.

Rio is a computer-animation title in 3D from Fox Animation and Blue Sky Studios, the creators of the highly successful Ice Age films. Directed by Carlos Saldanha and voiced by, among others, Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway and George Lopez, the comedy-adventure is about an amiable blue macaw seeking a soul mate in Brazil.

Fox said Rio opened No. 1 in nearly every market it played, and scored particularly well in Brazil, where the weekend action came to $8.4 million from 1,013 locations, the market’s biggest all time opening weekend denominated in U.S. dollars.

A Russia bow generated $11.3 million from 1,297 sites, the market’s biggest opening this year. Mexico provided $5.3 million from 1,624 sites, also the largest opening weekend in the market this year. China registered $3.45 million from 1,350 venues, while the U.K. came in with $2.48 million from 1,119 sites.

Fox said Rio’s total 3D situations played, 6,654 or 57% of the total locations, provided 71% of the opening weekend box office. Openings in France, Belgium and Italy are due this week, not to mention the film’s U. S. and Canada bow set for this Friday.

The Rio action is sorely needed on the foreign circuit. Based on fresh foreign box office figures from each studio, 2011’s first quarter for the big six Hollywood majors finished slightly better than previously estimated, but still down 23% from the Jan.-through-March period of last year.

Inhibiting overall grosses this year was the absence of humongous 3D blockbusters, 20th Century Fox’s Avatar (drawing $1.405 billion during last year’s period) and Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, which roared through the foreign circuit during 2010’s opening quarter.

Even so, Fox and Disney finished this time first and second, respectively, with the former drawing overseas box office of $620 million, down 66% from 2010. Disney generated $569.1 million, a dip of 8% from last year. Third was Sony, which reported $545 million, a sharp boost of 155% from a year ago.

Warner Bros., calendar 2010’s foreign box office winner by a nose, finished fourth in the first quarter with $506 million, a 14% dip from last year. Paramount jumped 66% to $501.6 million while Universal dropped by 47% to $151.8 million.

Sony, which shares overseas distribution right with Focus Features, opened Hanna at 29 Hong Kong screens. The mystery-drama costarring Saoirse Ronan and Cate Blanchett drew $91,415 for a per-screen average of $3,152.

Second on the weekend was Sony’s Just Go With It, which delivered $8.1 million from 2,605 screens in 53 markets for a foreign gross total to date of $88.4 million. The comedy costarring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston drew a solid $1.7 million in its second Australia round at 310 sites for a market cume of $5 million. The film is the biggest-grossing Sandler title to date in Brazil and Russia.

No. 3 was Warner’s Sucker Punch, which generated $8 million from 4,050 screens in 51 markets, pushing the foreign gross total for director Zack Snyder’s fantasy-thriller to $31.9 million. A second-place Australia bow provided $1.8 million from 247 sites.

The weekend’s No. 4 title, Universal’s Hop, continued sluggishly overseas. Illumination Entertainment’s family-oriented Easter bunny title blending animation and live action grossed $5.3 million at 2,835 venues in 32 territories, nudging its overseas total to $14.5 million. Second round U.K. action came in at $1 million at 499 situations for a 10-day market cume of $4.3 million. Worldwide, Hop has grossed $82.2 million.

No. 5 was Summit Entertainment’s Source Code, which has generated about $12.8 million so far on the foreign circuit thanks to a $4.5 million second weekend from 1,740 screens in 20 overseas markets. The thriller nabbed $1.39 million in its second U.K. round at 416 screens, putting the Jake Gyllenhall vehicle in the market’s No. 2 spot after Rio.

Battle: Los Angeles, Sony’s special effects extravaganza pitting U.S. Marines against invading aliens, pushed its foreign gross total past the $100-million mark (cume is $104.7 million) thanks to a $4 million weekend at 3,221 screens in 65 markets.

Rango, Paramount’s whimsical animation title voiced principally by Johnny Depp, has collected $112.2 million from 46 overseas markets thanks to a $2.6 million weekend at 3,481 locations.

Family fare ruled in France as Pathe’s Le film Titeuf took the No. 1 market spot with a weekend gross of $3 million drawn from 450 dates. The local language film is a 3D animation title, directed by Zep (one-word billing) and voiced by Donald Reignoux, Michael Lonsdale and Jean Rochefort. No 2 in France was the debut of DreamWorks/Disney’s sci-fi-thriller, I Am Number Four, which generated $1.9 million from 260 locations.

Universal is continuing its aggressive policy of distributing local language films in home markets. The distributor introduced on the weekend director Giambattista Avellino’s comedy C’e Chi Dice No at 313 Italy screens for $808,035 and a No. 2 market ranking. In Russia, Universal opened PiaraMMMida, director Eldar Salavatov’s crime drama about a pyramid financial scam, at 285 venues for a gross of $582,169, ranking the film No. 5 in the market.

Other international cumes: The Weinstein Co./Filmnation’s The King’s Speech, $255.2 million; Fox’s Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son, $40.9 million; Paramount’s Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, $18.9; Universal’s The Adjustment Bureau, $48.5 million; Fox’s Black Swan, $187.8 million; Paramount’s No Strings Attached, $71.9 million; Universal’s Paul, $33.8 million; Fox’s Never Let Me Go, $6.9 million; and Toho’s SP: The Motion Picture, $28.6 million in Japan only.

Also, Paramount’s Morning Glory, $26.5 million; Focus Features/Universal’s The Eagle, $13.2 million; Paramount’s True Grit, $77 million; Focus Features’ Biutiful, $18.3 million; Fox’s The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, $310.7 million; Universal’s Office Romance, $11.9 million over 25 days in Russia only; Sony’s The Tourist, $208.2 million (of which $19.4 million comes from Japan); and Focus Features’ Another Year, $14.6 million.