Around the World Roundup: 'War' Engulfs World

by Conor Bresnan
Tom Cruise in
War of the Worlds
July 9, 2005

Invading almost every nook and cranny of the globe, War of the Worlds scared up an estimated $102.5 million in its first five days. The apocalyptic alien invasion crushed the international opening weekend record for a non-sequel and placed fifth among all movies. It also set the benchmark for Paramount Pictures and for United International Pictures (UIP), topping Shrek 2's $79 million.

War of the Worlds dominated Japan, where both director Steven Spielberg and star Tom Cruise have amazing track records, with $15.0 million from 343 screens. It was the highest opening there for a non-sequel and even topped such massive hits as The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Mission: Impossible 2 and A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. Among similar disaster pictures, War of the Worlds eclipsed The Day After Tomorrow's $10 million and Independence Day's $9 million, and it has the potential to top the century mark, likely giving the July 9 opening of Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith a run for its money.

In the United Kingdom, War of the Worlds raked in $15.7 million from 507 sites, the biggest opening there for both Spielberg and Cruise and 17 percent better than The Day After Tomorrow's start. The movie was in direct competition with Saturday's televised Live 8 concert, which could mean a small drop next weekend.

Taiwan and Mexico recorded superb grosses as well. In Taiwan, War of the Worlds grossed a stunning $4.1 million from 66 screens, averaging $61,833 per screen. The debut was the third highest ever, behind Spielberg's own Jurassic Park: The Lost World and Kung Fu Hustle. Mexico's $6.6 million from 364 screens ranked among the all time top 10 openings and topped The Day After Tomorrow by seven percent.

War of the Worlds landed in Italy with an earth-shattering $6.0 million from 560 screens. The summertime is Italy's traditionally weakest period because nearly half of the screens are shut down until winter, making War out-of-this-world. The opening was UIP and Paramount's largest ever there.

In Russia, War of the Worlds grabbed the opening weekend record for a foreign movie with $5.2 million from 282 screens.

Other impressive starts included the Netherlands' $1.4 million from 113 screens, Spain's $7.8 million from 358 and Australia's $6.0 million from 252.

Although no market was a flop, Germany should be considered a disappointment. War of the Worlds mustered only $7.4 million there from 850 screens. Though the opening weekend may seem like a ton, it couldn't top Independence Day's $11 million entry back in 1996, let alone Men in Black's $12.7 million in 1997.

War of the Worlds will open in Belgium, France, Israel, Poland and South Korea this weekend.

Christian Bale in Batman Begins
Outside the world conquered by Steven Spielberg's alien tripods, business was quiet. Only Batman Begins and Madagascar had wide enough releases to secure respectable weekend figures, $15.7 million and $13.2 million respectively.

With only Scandinavia and Eastern Europe ahead, Batman Begins' total has improved to $114.2 million and will likely stop short of $200 million.

Madagascar is following in the footsteps of the last DreamWorks Animation feature, Shark Tale. Shark Tale's $202.6 million foreign total swam past domestic's $160.9 million, riding a staggered release schedule that assured holiday grosses in all markets. Madagascar's pattern is mimicking Shark Tale, which has led to a $76.7 million tally so far despite having half the world to go.

In Poland, Madagascar grossed $734,955 from 104 screens, while Portugal yielded $721,723 from 55 screens. It wasn't too impressive in South Africa, however, with a $553,447 debut from 105 locations, but was very successful in Israel with a $334,748 launch from 39 screens. Among holdovers, Australia was the strongest for major markets with $2.1 million from 269 screens. With a $14.8 million total after three weeks, its small 19 percent drop can be attributed to the school holidays taking place over the week.

On July 4, 20th Century Fox International reported that it was the first studio to cross the $1 billion mark in 2005. Internationally, Fox has had zero disappointments so far this year, and the biggest contributors have been Star Wars: Episode IIIóRevenge of the Sith, Kingdom of Heaven, Robots and Mr. and Mrs. Smithócombined accounting for 74 percent of the business.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith has been a big surprise hit for Fox, especially in Asia. In South Korea, the action-comedy has grossed a stunning $15.8 million (topping Revenge of the Sith by 50 percent). After a $5.6 million weekend, the total improved to $121.6 million ($108.1 million for Fox).

Fox also turned Hide and Seek into a hit. The Robert DeNiro thriller grossed a moderate $51.1 million domestically, but its foreign haul crept up to $71.4 million.

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