Another watershed year for Dis

With 'Pirates,' 13th straight year at $1 bil int'l b.o.

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International has become the third major company to hurdle the $1 billion mark this year at the overseas boxoffice, a goal the overseas distributor previously known as Buena Vista International has reached for a record 13 consecutive years.

WDSMPI entered the billionaire ranks again Wednesday when "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" became the fourth-most-popular movie ever released in the international marketplace by reaching a gross of $642.3 million and narrowly topping the final $642.2 million achieved by previous company record-holder, "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."

Sony Pictures Releasing International and then Warner Bros. International reached the $1 billion plateau this month. This year's summer tentpoles played a key role in helping Disney, Sony Pictures Releasing International and Warner Bros. Pictures International reach the overseas $1 billion benchmark. Sony's billionaire status was triggered by "Spider-Man 3" and Warners by "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix."

WDSMPI said that it has racked up $18 billion at the overseas boxoffice since it started its $1 billion run 13 years ago.

"In a business like ours, consistency is not easy and is something you continually strive toward," WDSMPI sales and distribution president Anthony Marcoly said. "Achieving this $1 billion plateau for the 13th consecutive year really highlights our continued commitment and release slates that international audiences have truly embraced."

"At World's End" is still playing on 2,958 screens in 54 countries. It picked up $2.9 million last weekend, and the studio expects it to exceed "Dead Man's Chest's" international gross by a much larger margin as the run continues. In nine weeks, it has taken in $83.7 million in Japan, $79.8 million in the U.K., $57.7 million in Germany, $46.7 million in France and $33.9 million in Korea.

As the fourth-all-time international grosser, "At World's End" follows "Titanic" ($1.2 billion), "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" ($752.2 million) and "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" ($651.1 million).

Along the way to its new niche in industry boxoffice history, "At World's End" set many overseas boxoffice records, among them exceeding $300 million in nine days, $400 million in 12, $500 million in 20 and $600 in 38.

"I'm extremely proud of the job our team has done (on 'At World's End') around the world," Marcoly said. "To achieve milestones like this, you need a great movie, great exhibitor partners and a dedicated and passionate marketing and distribution organization."