'Shrek 3' powers sizzling b.o.

Tentpole barrage setting stage for record overseas weekend

With new tentpoles joining the sizzling summer boxoffice fray, the past weekend may well set an all-time overseas record as six pictures topped $10 million, led by "Shrek the Third's" eye-opening $71.5 million.

"Huge numbers," "a lot of business" and "a great weekend" were among the happy words that poured from distributors as "Tranformers" opened to $36.2 million and "Die Hard 4.0" (the international title of "Live Free or Die Hard") debuted to $31 million. At the same time, recent holdover "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" brought in $15.4 million; "Ocean's Thirteen," $14.4 million; and the long-running "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," $14 million. At the same time a year ago, the top film in the international market,"Superman Returns," tallied $20 million.

Bolstered by debuts in key markets as it moves around the world, Paramount/DreamWorks' animated franchise "Shrek 3" overwhelmed the U.K. with a smashing $19.5 million (including previews) from 528 screens. In Japan, it arrived at No. 3 with almost $3 million from 543 locations, finishing behind the opening of "Die Hard 4.0" ($7.2 million from 741) and the sixth weekend of "Pirates 3" ($3.2 million from 691). Altogether, 5,671 screens in 35 countries pushed the jolly green ogre's total weekend take to $71.5 million, upping its cume to $261.1 million.

Kicking off in only 10 markets, the sci-fi adventure "Transformers," also from Paramount and DreamWorks, showed powerful potential as it raked in $36.2 million from 2,133 screens, with strong No. 1 entries in such major markets as Australia ($6.8 million from 237), Korea ($11 million from 695), Italy ($2.8 million from 574) and Taiwan ($970,000 from 19), also earning top scores in New Zealand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. The Michael Bay-directed "Transformers" is set for 17 new openings this coming weekend, including Spain, Russia and Scandinavia.

As the 20th Century Fox actioner "Die Hard 4.0" took off in a crowded blockbuster market, the franchise famously identified with Bruce Willis took in a striking $31 million from 3,600 screens, coming in No. 1 in 32 of the 36 markets in which it bowed. Japan delivered $7.2 million from 741; Germany, $7.6 million from 873; Russia, $4.1 million from 562; Denmark, $1.4 million from 104; Norway, $1.2 million from 88; and Sweden, $1.2 million from 115. Record company totals also came from such smaller markets as Indonesia, Egypt, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, and Latvia, according to Fox.

Fox's other sequel, "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer," remained among the summer's top scorers, increasing its international cume to $81.3 million as it brought in $15.4 million from 5,318 screens in 49 markets. Brazil greeted the super-powered beings at No. 1 with $2.9 million from 647 screens. It also was No. 1 in Peru ($567,000 from 137) and No. 2 in Argentina ($527,000 from 123) and Vene-zuela ($528,000 from 103). "Silver Surfer" held on to the No. 1 post for a second week in Mexico (market cume: $11.6 million) and remained No. 2 in the U.K. in its third weekend with a market total to date of $20.3 million.

Warner Bros. Pictures "Ocean's Thirteen" grossed an estimated $14.4 million over the weekend from 5,500 prints in 51 markets, raising its international cume to $124.1 million. Mexico opened to $1.8 million from 500 prints, finishing second behind "Shrek 3's" third weekend. Two weekends in France has provided $8.7 million; four in the U.K., $22.7 million; four in Germany, $12.9 million; four in Spain, $8.6 million; three in Australia, $8 million; and three in Korea, $8.3 million. The film is scheduled to open Aug. 11 in Japan.

"Pirates 3" became the seventh most popular picture ever released outside of North America, according to distributor Buena Vista International, as it reached an international cume of $608.8 million over the weekend, taking in $14 million from 5,548 screens in 104 territories in its sixth weekend of overseas release. It took over seventh place from "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," which ended its offshore run with $602.2 million. The other films that have topped $600 million overseas are "Titanic," $1.2 billion; "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," $756 million; "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," $656 million; "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," $642 million; and "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," $614.7 million.

The Disney/Pixar animated tale "Ratatouille," another summer tentpole slowly easing into the international market, started off a run that will extend through October with an opening of $5.6 million. Russia came through with $3.5 million from 450 screens, hailed as the biggest opening ever in the market for a BVI animated film. Except for Russia, the remainder of the bows were in small territories. Japan comes aboard in July; France, Spain and Australia in August; and Scandinavia, Germany, the U.K. and Italy in October.

In a market dominated by summer blockbusters, a number of other offerings managed to chalk up a bit of business — "Hostel: Part II" tallied $2.3 million (cume: $8 million); "28 Weeks Later," $1.5 million (cume $22.1 million); "Blades of Glory," $2.1 million (Cume: $22 million); "Zodiac," $1.2 million (cume: $43.9 million).