'Simpsons' maintains grip on No. 1

O'seas weekend demonstrates strength of summer tentpoles

The summer tentpoles kept up a sizzling pace over the weekend, once again restating predictions that the May-September season is firmly on its way to establishing an all-time record for the international market. For the first time in industry history, five major studios — Sony, Warner Bros., Disney, Fox and Paramount — have registered more than $1 billion each in foreign boxoffice earnings in one year.

Fox's "The Simpsons Movie" led the weekend overseas charge with a gross of $46.7 million from 6,500 screens in 75 markets, lifting its international cume to $183.6 million. The animated leader was followed by Paramount's "Tansformers" ($28 million from 43 markets), Disney's "Ratatouille," ($25.6 million from 26), Warner Bros. Pictures' "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" ($25.4 million from 59) and Fox's "Die Hard 4.0" ($7.3 million from 40). Universal's "Evan Almighty" expanded its reach, entering 10 new markets including the U.K., and registered $5.4 million from a total of 15 territories.

U.S. tentpoles, however, were challenged for the first time this summer by a pair of homegrown films in Korea. The big-budget "D-War," about ancient Korean monsters destroying Los Angeles, had a huge opening weekend at home, taking in about $20.1 million since its Wednesday opening, according to its distributor Showbox. That gives the $32 million "D-War," the most expensive Korean film in history, the biggest opening since record-setting "The Host" in July 2006.

In addition, the No. 2 spot in Korea went to CJ Entertainment's "May 18," earning nearly $5 million over the weekend to bring its 11-day cume to about $23.2 million.

Together, the two films captured more than 73% of the Korean boxoffice last weekend, representing a major comeback for Korean films after three months of Hollywood domination. "Die Hard" took the No. 3 spot, followed by "Ratatouille" in fourth.

And a boxoffice observation from Italy: The past weekend was the first in nearly a year that no film managed to gross more than $1 million in the territory. "Phoenix" was No. 1 with $740,786 in its fourth weekend of release.

In reaching an international gross of $183.6 million over the weekend, "Simpsons" opened No. 1 in Mexico ($6.8 million from 850 screens) and Denmark ($1.4 million from 97), but Poland didn't seem to be in the mood for Homer's shenanigans, greeting the film with $351,000 from 80 screens.

But Homer and friends kept up a great holdover pace, hanging onto the No. 1 spot in the U.K. and Australia for a second weekend, with the U.K. providing $8.2 million for a market cume of $49 million and Australia delivering $5.3 million for a market score of $18.9 million. Two weekends in Germany supplied $24.7 million; two in France, $15.5 million; two in Spain, $17.7 million; and two in Argentina, $5.3 million. Fox claims a number of records in these markets, such as the studio's second-biggest opening in Mexico, the second-highest animated opening in Denmark and the biggest second week ever in Argentina.

"Tranformers," opening in five markets including Germany and Japan, reached an international gross of $295 million, led by a No. 1 opening in Japan ($5.3 million from 616 screens) and a No. 2 entry in Germany ($4.5 million from 747).

"Ratatouille," Pixar/Disney's animated paean to French cuisine, narrowly took third place in the weekend standings after edging out "Phoenix" after a revision of Sunday estimates. "Ratatouille's" weekend take was aided by nine No. 1 openings, led by France ($11.4 million from 721) and Spain ($3.6 million from 523). Holdovers saw Japan provide $10.4 million in nine days and Korea $4.8 million in 11 days. The next big wave of "Ratatouille" openings is set for September and October, when Australia, Germany, Scandinavia, the U.K., and Italy come aboard.

"Phoenix" reached an international cume of $510 million from the $25.4 million weekend at 59 markets. Market cumes to date include $84.3 million from the U.K.; $54.5 million from Germany, $43 million from Japan, $42 million from Australia, $24.1 million from Italy, $24 million from Mexico; $22.3 million from Korea; $21.5 million from Spain.

"Die Hard 4.0," known domestically as "Live Free or Die Hard," reached an international cume of $193 million following four No. 1 openings over the weekend, with Brazil leading the way with $2.2 million from 359 screens.

"Shrek the Third" climbed to $406.3 million after a $2.9 million weekend from 29 markets; "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," still on 1,052 screens, reached $647.1 million; "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" commanded $110.6 million as it prepared to open in such markets as France, Spain and Korea; and "Ocean's Thirteen" moved up $163.4 million after a 1.3 million weekend.

New Line's "Hairspray," with an overseas cume of $16.5 million, has earned a full $16 million of that figure from the U.K., where it fell from No. 4 to No. 5 after three weekends in the market.

Mark Russell in Seoul and Eric J. Lyman in Rome contributed to this report.