'Transformers' hits No. 1 overseas

New records in making as summer hits maintain hot pace

An unending parade of overseas moviegoers continues to welcome the summer outpouring of tentpole titles from the U.S. Michael Bay's "Transformers" shot to the top of the international market with a brawny $46.7 million, followed by "Live Free or Die Hard," $42.4 million; "Shrek the Third," $34.8 million; "Ratatouille," $10.1 million; "Ocean's Thirteen," $9.5 million; "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," $8.8 million; and "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer," $7.8 million.

But "Transformers," which reached a foreign cume of $96.7 million, will be strongly challenged this coming weekend as "Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix" is set to kick off in some 40 countries, including most of the key major markets.

The entry of Warner Bros. Pictures' newest "Potter" is expected to maintain the red-hot pace the summer blockbuster barrage has enjoyed to date. Distribution executives continue to predict a record year at the overseas boxoffice. According to industry statistics, the international boxoffice -- as of the end of June -- is running 13% ahead of last year, 25% ahead of 2005 and 15% ahead of 2004.

"Transformers," playing on 3,375 screens in 29 markets, kept up a record-setting tempo during its second weekend in the international market, highlighted by 19 new openings in Europe. The Paramount/DreamWorks sci-fi adventure enjoyed an exceptional second weekend in Korea, dropping a mere 10% as it took in $11.8 million for an 11-day cume of $29.3 million. According to Paramount Pictures International, the film dominated the Korean market with a 74% market share at the weekend.

The $7.1 million launch in Russia was hailed as Paramount's second-biggest all-time opening in the market. Spain opened to $47 million from 650 screens and Taiwan to $3.3 million; two weekend totals included $6.8 million from Italy and $13.9 million from Australia.

"Die Hard 4.0," as the film famously identified with Bruce Willis is titled in most overseas markets, reached an international gross of $86.2 million as it performed on 6,903 screens in 49 countries, 14 of them new openings where the 20th Century Fox release came in No. 1 or No. 2. The No. 1s included France ($6.7 million from 749 screens), Belgium ($1.1 million from 98) and Thailand ($1.8 million from 340). In the U.K., "Die Hard's" $10 million opening was narrowly topped by the second weekend of "Shrek the Third's" $10.1 million, according to available figures. Other opening tallies included Mexico ($2.1 million from 802 screens) and Hong Kong ($1.5 million from 463).

Depending mainly on holdovers, "Shrek the Third" raised its international cume to a noticeable $324 million as it played on 5,631 screens in 33 countries. In two weekends in the U.K., it has accumulated $51.3 million from 540 screens, with last week's opening blast of $31.6 million (with previews) coming during terrorist troubles in London and Glasgow. Second-weekend totals for "Shrek" include $14.1 million from Germany and $16.8 million from Spain. Four weekends in Korea has translated to $18.5 million and four weekends in Australia to $22.8 million. Japan greeted the jolly green ogre at No. 3 with almost $3 million from 543 screens.

The Disney/Pixar animated "Ratatouille," gradually eating its way around the globe, picked up $101 million from 1,818 screens in 11 mostly smaller markets. The U.K. does not receive the film until Oct. 5. Meanwhile, the computer-animated cooking rat is serving Latin America with No. 1 bows in Mexico ($4.9 million from 688 screens), Brazil ($1.4 million from 145) and Argentina ($700,000 from 165). Russia, with $6.7 million from 360 screens in two weekends gave Disney its biggest animated release ever in the market. Good holdovers are also reported from Colombia and Chile. There are no new openings scheduled for "Ratatouille" for the next two weeks. Japan comes aboard on July 28.

The Steven Soderbergh-directed crime caper "Ocean's Thirteen" reached an international cume of $140.7 million as it pulled in $9.5 million over the weekend from 4,850 prints in 55 markets. Key holdover cumes include the U.K., $24.5 million; Germany, $14.4 million; France, $10.3 million; and Spain, $9.4 million.

"Pirates 3," circling the international market for seven weekends, tallied another $8.8 million from 5,144 screens in 104 territories to lift its cume to a whopping $624.7 million, hailed by BVI as the fifth-most-popular movie ever released in the international market.

Rounding out the tentpole array, "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" is ready to climb over the $100 million barrier as it hit $96.8 million after taking in $7.8 million from 4,098 screens in 47 markets.

In its first overseas opening, the Universal comedy "Knocked Up" opened No. 2 to "Transformers" in Australia with $3 million from 224 screens.

"Spider-Man 3," still playing on 900 screens in 37 markets, went up to $550 million as it brought in an additional $525,000 over the weekend.

"Hostel: Part II" grossed $1.2 million from 960 screens in 16 countries to raise its cume to $10.5 million.

Updated cumes: "Next," $20.3 million; "Fracture," $34.2 million; "The Last Mimzy," $3.3 million; "Blades of Glory," $23.9 million; and "Hot Fuzz," $53.5 million.