Studios plunder record receipts at global boxoffice

All six MPA firms top $1 bil during 2007

One crazy summer and a weak U.S. dollar paved the way for a record year at the overseas boxoffice in 2007.

Overseas boxoffice earnings could end up at about $9.43 billion, about 10% better than 2006's record of $8.55 billion, according to an unofficial year-end estimate.

At the same time, the U.S. industry brought home about 8% more in cash because of a favorable currency exchange, according to a study of rates in key markets.

"The weakness of the dollar helped especially in the U.K. and Europe to elevate the dollar grosses," Paramount Pictures International president Andrew Cripps says. Some distributors, however, contend that increased promotion and distribution costs often dissipated the full value of the extra dollars returning to the U.S.

Warner Bros. Pictures International set an all-time record for both the studio and the industry of $2.24 billion, topping 2004's previous high of $2.19 billion. 20th Century Fox International and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International were practically in a dead heat for second place, with Fox edging ahead by the razor-thin margin of $1.69 billion compared with $1.688 billion. Paramount Pictures International came in fourth with $1.59 billion, while Sony Pictures Releasing International closed the year at $1.28 billion and Universal Pictures International at a little above $1 billion.

That summer to remember saw a rare combination of powerful franchise sequels -- spread almost equally among all major studios -- conquer the global market as never before.

Starting in early May with "Spider-Man 3," which went on to tally $555.4 million in the international market, the magic force of the tentpole sequel never let up. "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" followed with $653 million; "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," $645 million; "Shrek the Third," $475 million; "Transformers," $387.2 million, "Die Hard 4.0," $262.4 million, and "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer," $152.3 million. On and on it went almost every weekend from May-September as nonsequels chimed in -- "Ratatouille," $410.8 million and "The Simpsons Movie," $342.6 million. In addition, at least 13 other films hurdled the $100 million benchmark during 2007.

"Five powerful sequels -- all in one summer -- started it all," Sony Pictures Releasing International distribution president Mark Zucker says. "The big pictures are bigger than ever from a franchise perspective."

DISTRIBUTING THE WEALTH: How U.S. distributors fared in the global market during 2007
Warner Bros. Pictures Intl.$2,240.0$1,300.0$1,890.0
20th Century Fox1,690.82,000.01,600.0
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures1,688.31,803.01,325.6
Paramount Pictures1,590.0*537.0**529.0**
Sony Pictures Intl. Releasing1,277.21,631.0826.0
Universal Pictures1,034.2*940.0**783.4**
New Line480.9180.0336.8
Mandate Intl. (Lionsgate)226.8148.0100.6
Boxoffice in $ million.
* First time as stand-alone company after break-up of Paramount/Universal partnership in UIP.
** Boxoffice total as part of UIP

By the end of July, five MPA companies had each topped $1 billion in overseas boxoffice revenue; a sixth signed in as the year came to an end. Never before have all six MPA companies topped $1 billion each in returns from foreign theaters.

Led by "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix's" $645 million, Warners' other key international grossers included "300" ($246 million), "Ocean's Thirteen" ($194.6 million), "Blood Diamond" ($114 million) and "Beowulf" ($107 million). "I Am Legend" brought in $116 million as 2007 came to a close. WBPI also benefited from the release of local productions, with $34.6 million from Spain's "El Orfanato" and $20 million from Italy's "Ho Voglia Di Te." It was the seventh year in a row that Warners' international theatrical arm has surpassed the $1 billion mark and the ninth time in the company's history.

"Phoenix" awakened Italy from its traditional summer slumber with $30 million, according to Warner International Distribution president Veronika Kwan-Rubinek.

Anthony Marcoly, president of Disney's overseas unit, which has bettered $1 billion for a remarkable 13 years in a row, says that having the No. 1 international film of the year in "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" ($652.7 million) as well as the fifth-best foreign performer of 2007 in "Ratatouille" ($410.8 million) "certainly creates a recipe to success." The fairy tale "Enchanted" reached $112.7 million as the year ended, and after two weekends of year-end overseas release "National Treasure: Book of Secrets" brought in $63.4 million. Earlier, "Wild Hogs," the suburban biker comedy, pedaled to $84.8 million.

Fox International co-president Paul Hanneman called attention to the division's ability to market specialized product as well as blockbuster entries, citing such Fox Searchlight films as "Notes on a Scandal" ($32 million) and "The Last King of Scotland" ($30.5 million). Fox's climb to the more than $1 billion level started early in the year with the carry-over of Christmas 2006's "Night at the Museum," which went on to collect $262.4 million in 2007 for a combined total of $322.8 million. The company's summer parade included "The Simpsons Movie" ($342.7 million), "Die Hard 4.0" ($247.6 million) and "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" ($152.3 million). "Rocky Balboa" ($81.8 million), "Eragon" ($67.8 million) and "Epic Movie" ($44.7 million) also contributed to Fox's 2007 total. "Alvin and the Chipmunks" reached $40.7 million and "Hitman" collected $45.1 million, as the curtain came down on 2007.

"By far the best year Paramount has ever had internationally," PPI's Cripps says in detailing the company's first-year performance as a stand-alone company after the breakup of the joint venture with Universal in United International Pictures. Armed with product from DreamWorks and DreamWorks Animation, PPI hit the more than $1 billion jackpot in its first try as a solo operator, driving "Shrek the Third" to $475 million, "Transformers" to $387.2 million and "Bee Movie" to $110 million. PPI also was adept in rescuing domestic duds, bringing in $96.3 million for "Stardust" and $87.5 million for "The Heartbreak Kid," double each film's domestic gross. PPI's lineup also included "Norbit" ($63.4 million), "Charlotte's Web" ($52.8 million), "Dreamgirls" ($51.2 million), "Shooter" ($48.7 million) and "Disturbia" ($37.4 million). Paramount's previous international peak came to $875 million in 2006.

BIGGEST OF THE BIG: Films that broke the $200 million barrier at the international boxoffice during 2007
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's EndDisney$652.7
Harry Potter and the Order of the PhoenixWarner Bros.645.0
Spider-Man 3Sony555.4
Shrek the ThirdParamount475.0
The Simpsons MovieFox342.7
Night at the MuseumFox262.4
Die Hard 4Fox247.6
300Warner Bros.246.0
The Bourne UltimatumUniversal215.0
Boxoffice in $ million

The summer deluge started with Sony's blast-off of "Spider-Man 3" for the biggest opening weekend of all time, $231 million. "Spider-Man 3" went on to collect $555.4 million in the international market to become the biggest film in the franchise; "Spider-Man" hit $417.9 million and "Spider-Man 2," $410.5 million.

SPRI, which split foreign rights on a number of films, is credited with $121.2 million of "Pursuit of Happyness' " $141.7 million, $104.4 million of "Ghost Rider's" $121.9 million, and $65.5 million of the still-in-release "Resident Evil: Extinction's" $94.5 million. Sony pulled in $87.1 million in early 2007 from "Casino Royale," which totaled $426.8 million with the addition of 2006 dates. "Surf's Up," at $86.6 million, is still in release.

Universal Pictures International, also in its initial year as a stand-alone division, fell behind its MPA colleagues when its summer tentpole sequel, "Evan Almighty," failed to entice overseas audiences. At the summer cutoff point of Aug. 31 when five major companies had each already topped $1 billion in overseas sales, UPI had only reached $533.8 million. But a steady climb in the second half, supported by its second tentpole sequel, "The Bourne Ultimatum" ($215 million) and a diverse slate of midsize films, lifted Universal over the $1 billion threshold, says Duncan Clark, UPI's executive vp international distribution. "Mr. Bean's Holiday," at $192.1 million, is set for release in Japan this month. Other 2007 contributors include "The Holiday," $73.3 million in 2007 out of a total of $141.6 million; "Evan Almighty" ($72.9 million), "Knocked Up" ($70.1 million), "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry" ($65.9 million), "Hot Fuzz" ($56.9 million) and "American Gangster," $63.5 million (with 27 more territories set for release). Other titles still in the early stages of release are "Atonement" ($36.2 million) and "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" ($42.2 million).

New Line International, in the doldrums since the third chapter of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy came to a close four years ago, is back in the running as its potential new franchise, "The Golden Compass," captured an estimated $195.5 million as part of a year-end overseas release. New Line's total overseas boxoffice moved up from a meager $180 million in 2006 to an estimated $480.9 million in 2007. In addition to "Golden Compass," support came from "Rush Hour 3" ($112.9 million), "Hairspray" ($81.1 million), "Fracture" ($50.2 million) and "Number 23" ($41.4 million).

The reinvigorated Summit Entertainment hit $258.9 million in 2007, backed by split-rights shares of "Babel" ($40.9 million), "Bridge to Terabithia" ($52.1 million), "Michael Clayton," ($30.9 million), "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer," $37.8 million and "Resident Evil: Extinction" ($36 million).

Mandate International, the new name for Lionsgate International after the merger of Lionsgate and Mandate, went up from 2006's $148 million to $226.8 million, largely fueled by "Saw IV" ($54 million), "Because I Said So" ($26.1 million), "30 Days of Night" ($21.3 million), "The Messengers" ($18.4 million) and "War" ($18.2 million).