'Sweeney' tops busy o'seas runs

Award hopefuls challenge mainstream entries for b.o. dollar

It was another robust weekend at overseas boxoffices as new mainstream films, specialized films with Oscar potential, and holiday-season holdovers vied for the attention of moviegoers in another highly crowded market.

The Oscar-nominated Johnny Depp steered Warner Bros.' "Sweeney Todd" to the top of the international boxoffice chart with $18.6 million from more than 1,700 prints in 10 markets.

At the same time, two end-of-the-year holdovers hurdled the $100 million benchmark, with Fox's "Alvin and the Chipmunks" hitting $105.9 million and Universal's "American Gangster" reaching $103.9 million. Warners' "I Am Legend," the overseas market leader for five weeks in a row, eased to a stalwart $16.2 million from 5,200 screens in 57 markets to reach a mighty $290 million, while Disney's "National Treasure: Book of Secrets" maintained a winning pace with $12.4 million from 3,795 screens in 44 markets.

Among the newcomers, Paramount's "Cloverfield," which entered 12 new markets over the weekend, came in fourth in the international race, taking in $9.2 million from 1,274 screens in 18 countries. The Rob Reiner-directed "The Bucket List," starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, made its overseas debut in seven markets, coming through with $4.8 million. Katherine Heigl starrer "27 Dresses," returned to first place in Australia in its third weekend, providing most of a $2 million weekend from 317 screens in four markets. Another romantic comedy, Summit Entertainment's "P.S. I Love You," which started out as 2007 came to a close, brought in $6.2 million from 1,314 screens in 16 markets.

Weekend domestic champion, the Fox comedy "Meet the Spartans," started out slowly overseas in a few small markets, with New Zealand delivering $300,000 from 42 screens and the United Arab Emirates $75,000 from 10. "Spartans'" big push starts late next month, beginning in Russia, Mexico and Brazil and followed by a major rollout in the rest of the globe.

The Oscar hopefuls began to expand their runs this week. "No Country for Old Men" earned $4.7 million from 676 screens in six markets, entering France at No. 3 with $2.3 million from 359; Belgium, $267,000 from 37; Switzerland, $105,593 from 18; and Israel, $152,164 from 27. The Coen brothers crime thriller has taken in $5.4 million in 10 days from 161 screens in the U.K. Its international cume to date stands at $11.3 million.  "Juno" picked up $4.2 million over the weekend from 206 screens in three markets, with Sweden bringing in $161,000 from nine (with more locations to be added) and $147,000 from 17 in Greece. In its second weekend in Australia, the Jason Reitman coming-of-age comedy tallied $1.3 million from 180 screens for a market cume of $3.9 million.

"Atonement," honored with BAFTA and Oscar nominations and in the international mix long before the award announcements, tallied $3.8 million from 1,145 dates in 30 territories, lifting its foreign gross to $55.7 million. Nominee "Michael Clayton," which has taken in $33.4 million to date, is currently being re-released in selected markets by Summit, and is scheduled to open in Germany next month and in Japan in April. "There Will be Blood," the Paramount Vantage-Miramax best picture nominee is scheduled to hit foreign shores in two weeks via Disney International.

In reaching the international peak, "Sweeney Todd" ranked a strong No. 1 in the U.K., grossing $8.8 million (including previews) from 481 screens. According to Warner Bros. International, the three-day U.K. figure of $6.2 million captured nearly 50% of the top five market share. France greeted "Sweeney" at No. 1 with $4.1 million from 365 prints, and it bowed in Australia to $1.3 million from 127 prints. The film adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim musical held the No. 1 spot in Japan for a second weekend with $2.4 million from 400 screens for a market cume $9.2 million.

"Into the Wild" opened in Spain to $251,644 via a limited 81 dates and is settling down for hopeful long run.

Other weekend activity saw "Alien vs. Predator" score $5.8 million to reach a cume of $79.1 million and "Enchanted" tally $4.2 million for a cume to date of $168 million. "Charlie Wilson's War" brought in $3.6 million (cume: $15.2 million); "The Golden Countess," $1.5 million (cume: $252 million), "Bee Movie," $3 million (cume: $152.3 million), "The Kite Runner," $2.6 million (cume: $12.8 million)

On the way to $100 million stardom, "American Gangster" picked up $7.2 million over the weekend, and "Alvin and the Chipmunks" delivered $7 million.

"Die Rote Zora," the family film that Universal Pictures International acquired for German-speaking Europe, opened in Germany, Austria and Switzerland over the weekend to $1.1 million from 392 dates in the three countries. At the same time, the Brazilian film handled by Sony International, brought $861,000 from 178 screens in its home market at its fourth weekend, a drop of only 9%, for a market cume of $6.3 million.

"Mr. Bean's Holiday" had a good second weekend hold in Japan for a nine-day total of $2.2 million, raising the international cume to $194.5 as the foreign run comes to an end.      

Cume updates: "Rendition," $12.3 million; "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," $48.2 million.