Universal joins the $1 billion club

Fourth studio to reach international milestone in '08

Universal Pictures International became the fourth major overseas distribution company to pass $1 billion in foreign boxoffice earnings, reaching the industry yardstick on Wednesday. Paramount International Pictures hit the mark on June 17, and 20th Century Fox International and Warner Bros. Pictures International joined on July 9 and July 19, respectively.

Universal chairman Marc Shmuger and co-chairman David Linde said it marks the fastest time that the studio's overseas unit has made it to $1 billion and "puts it on track to its most successful year in history."

The key films that helped fuel the rise of UPI -- observing its second year as a stand-alone company under president David Kosse -- include "Mamma Mia!" at $180 million to date; "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor," at $152 million with 32 more markets still to play; and "Wanted," at $123 million with 20 more territories standing by.

"American Gangster," which brought in $125.8 million, and "The Incredible Hulk," at $90.1 million, also contributed.

In 2007, a record year for the industry, five MPA companies -- Warner Bros., Paramount, Fox, Disney and Sony -- topped the $1 billion threshold by the end of July, with Universal coming on board near the end of the year.