For movie exhibitors overseas, director Ridley Scott's Crusades epic was a slice of heaven after six straight weeks of poor returns.
Kingdom of Heaven opened in 97 territories last weekend, grossing a superb $55 million. Some thought the recent disappointment of XXX: State of the Union's low international gross, which was almost identical to its U.S. performance, meant the international markets were following the same course as the depressing North America. That would have been hard news for 20th Century Fox to bear due to Heaven's $130 million budget, but once again the international markets came through for a war epic. Historical epics have now had four hits in a row overseas with Alexander, King Arthur, Troy and now Heaven tripling their domestic returns.
There are two reasons the genre is so popular overseas. The first is the fact that action translates exceptionally well. The second is that the history is recognizable and known by international audiences. Troy became Greece's second biggest hit ever because it was set in Greece, whereas Cold Mountain generated only $77 million overseas because it dealt with the American Civil War, a period of history unfamiliar and unimportant to overseas moviegoers.
Kingdom of Heaven's debut was in line with last year's same weekend entry, Van Helsing, which grossed $55.2 million from 41 countries. Van Helsing went on to rake in $180 million, which Kingdom of Heaven should easily exceed. Heaven also had similar returns to last year's Troy, which opened to $54.7 million from 47 markets. While Heaven opened everywhere except Japan and China, Troy still had Japan, the United Kingdom, Italy, Russia, Denmark, Taiwan and South Korea to go, suggesting that Heaven will not climb as high as Troy's $364 million total.
Germany was the most impressive market for Kingdom of Heaven with a top-ranked $6.4 million from 842 engagements—10 percent down from Van Helsing and 25 percent below Troy. In Spain, the epic grossed $4.9 million from 435 screens, 20 percent shy of Troy but 3 percent ahead of Van Helsing and 93 percent bigger than King Arthur. Heaven doubled Alexander's bow in the U.K. with $4.8 million from 443 locations, though it was 56 percent below Troy.
In France, Kingdom of Heaven was only 13 percent short of Troy with $4.5 million. South Korea's massive $4 million from 333 screens still was behind Troy by 13 percent but topped Van Helsing by 54 percent and King Arthur by 100 percent. In Italy, it notched $3.9 million from 650 screens, in line with Van Helsing but 36 percent below Troy. Other impressive performances include Mexico's $2.8 million from 540 screens, Russia's $2.1 million from 363, Brazil's $1.5 million from 483 (the biggest opening of the year so far) and Greece's $1.4 million from 91.
Kingdom of Heaven played strongly in Muslim nations, despite it being an American production about Christians fighting Muslims. It was even allowed to be shown in Malaysia, where anything deemed by the government to be anti-Muslim, sacrilegious or excessively violent or raunchy is censored. In the United Arab Emirates, it opened to a potent $750,000. Although the response was not surprising because The Passion of the Christ was a huge success there, grossing $1.24 million. It seems Middle Eastern audiences crave religiously historical pictures.
Ice Cube in XXX: State of the Union
XXX: State of the Union plunged 51 percent from last weekend's poor launch to $7.2 million from 53 territories for a $29.5 million total. In Germany, the action sequel was off just 14 percent to $1.0 million from 595 screens for a $2.6 million total, buoyed by a national holiday. And aside from its five percent rise in the Netherlands (to $338,999) and its six percent fall in Switzerland (to $530,371), it tumbled much more than 50 percent in most markets. Drops included 52 percent in Australia, 65 percent in South Korea, 53 percent in Mexico, 56 percent in Spain and a whopping 75 percent in Peru. Unless it surprises in Japan, it won't reach $50 million overseas.
According to distributor Universal, The Interpreter is in the Top Five everywhere, thanks to light competition and strong playability. In Germany, the political thriller rose 42 percent to $1.6 million, tallying $6.1 million and keeping pace with The Bourne Supremacy. In the U.K., its $11.3 million haul is 10 percent of The Bourne Identity, and, in Spain, its $5.8 million tally has already surpassed The Bourne Supremacy's final gross. Overall for the weekend, it fell 23 percent to $5.4 million in 33 countries, pushing its international total to $49.2 million, and it still has 19 more countries left to go, including Japan on May 21.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has seen robust business in English-language markets, making $4.9 million over the weekend for a $17.3 million total. Whether it translates into the foreign language arena remains to be seen over the summer. In the U.K., the space adventure comedy grossed $3.6 million from 464 screens in its second weekend, down 32 percent for a $12.8 million total. In Australia, it was off 43 percent to $1.2 million from 245 screens for a $3.9 million total. In New Zealand, it fell 54 percent to $168,761 from 67 screens for a $631,230 total.
The Pacifier pulled in $3.7 million from 33 territories over the weekend for a $47.5 million total. Mexico and Germany propelled business with about $1 million each over the weekend and respective totals of $6.8 million and $6 million.
House of Wax had two excellent starts. In Taiwan, the horror sequel took second place (behind Kingdom of Heaven) with $836,700 gross from 80 prints, the biggest opening for a horror movie there to date in 2005, and it was 51 percent bigger than Ghost Ship and 18 percent above Dawn of the Dead. In Singapore, it attracted $248,900 from 28 prints, topping such past hits as Gothika by 54 percent and Dawn of the Dead by eight percent.
Blade: Trinity bowed in its second-to-last market, and its international total to climbed to $74.3 million, ahead of both Blade II's $72.6 million and Blade's $61.1 million. In Japan, Trinity grabbed $894,003 from 133 screens and it should ultimately surpass the first two movies there. Only one market remains, Venezuela on May 27.