Around the World Roundup: 'War' Wages Wane, 'Sith' Lords Over Japan

by Conor Bresnan
July 14, 2005

Tom Cruise & Dakota Fanning in War of the Worlds
War of the Worlds' global domination is on the wane. After destroying the competition in its first nine days, the alien invasion has yielded several territories to other pictures. Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith scored the biggest opening ever in Japan. Fantastic Four caught fire in 16 markets. Bewitched showed Nicole Kidman's knack for opening movies in her native Australia. And Madagascar, Batman Begins and Mr. and Mrs. Smith continued their strong runs with several key debuts.

Director Steven Spielberg's sci-fi remake remained No. 1 overall, thanks in part to its 6,300 screens in more than 80 markets. The picture's $62.5 million weekend would seem like a strong hold, but $19 million of that came from impressive openings in France and South Korea. Without those markets, the fall was nearly 60 percent from its opening, due to mixed word-of-mouth and burning off much demand in its first nine days.

War of the Worlds was massive in its opening markets. In France, it grossed $10.2 million from 848 locations, a personal best for star Tom Cruise as well as distributor Paramount Pictures. In South Korea, it amassed $8.8 million from 300 screens over its first four days, a new high for United International Pictures, Paramount, Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg and the market's third biggest bow ever. It also debuted in Belgium, where it became the highest July opening ever with $1.4 million from 85 screens, and in Portugal, where its $776,000 from 70 screens was the best start of the year.

Markets where War of the Worlds lacked new competition posted the smallest declines. In the United Kingdom, the picture grossed $7.7 million, off 44 percent, bringing its total to $31.9 million. In Germany, it remained on top with a $3.8 million weekend from 845 screens, off 42 percent, pushing its total to $13.5 million.

Higher drop-off rates were recorded in most other markets. In Spain, War of the Worlds was down 47 percent to $3.1 million for a $13.1 million total, while it was off 45 percent in Italy to $2.3 million for a $10.9 million total. In Australia, it fell 47 percent to $2.7 million, pushed down to third place by the debuts of Fantastic Four and Bewitched, for a $10.7 million total. In Japan, it declined 36 percent to $5.3 million for a $26.8 million total. The drop was steep for a second weekend there as the movie was overshadowed by Revenge of the Sith's bow.

War of the Worlds' overall foreign total grew to $201.4 million, already making it the third highest grossing movie of the year, and it is on track to top $300 million.

After becoming the first studio of the year to cross the $1 billion mark in international receipts, Fox International churned out yet another hit. Fantastic Four grossed an impressive $16 million from 16 mostly small markets. The Marvel Comics adaptation scored the biggest opening weekend ever for Fox in Mexico with a $5.6 million debut from 951 screens. It was among the country's five biggest debuts ever, topping all of the Lord of the Rings, Matrix and Star Wars movies. The opening wasn't surprising, because Universal's Hulk notched a stunning $4.6 million opening from 516 screens two years ago.

In Australia, Fantastic Four edged out Bewitched for pole position with a $2.8 million from 303 screens, in line with the original X-Men. In Brazil, it grabbed $1.9 million from 413 screens, a start in between the two X-Men movies. The smaller Asian markets supplied excellent debuts as well. In Thailand, the movie grossed $1.1 million from 290 screens, topping X-Men by 28 percent. Taiwan's $1 million from 170 was just as impressive. The picture also opened in the Philippines with a strong $959,000 debut from 184 screens.

Revenge of the Sith has finally opened in what will be its biggest market, Japan. After recording the largest preview ever there ($7.5 million from June 28 and July 2), Sith went on to gross $12.5 million over its first two days of release at 756 screens, marking the biggest opening of all time with $20 million. It beat former record holder The Matrix Reloaded as well as the previous two Star Wars pictures, and now has realistic shot at passing The Phantom Menace's $109.9 million total gross.

Fox International also continued success for Mr. and Mrs. Smith. In China, it scored the studio's fourth biggest opening with $2.2 million from 450 screens. Overall, the total eclipsed $130 million from all markets after a $4 million weekend.

Madagascar opened at No. 1 in three markets last weekend, taking in an estimated $15 million for a $103 million total. In Argentina, it racked up $789,315 from 105 screens. In Switzerland, it logged $540,233 from 90 screens, and, in Chile, it pulled in north of $300,000. France is becoming Madagascar's best market. In its third weekend, the movie fell 6 percent to $3.1 million from 795 screens for a $13.6 million total.

After a $9.1 million weekend, Batman Begins' total climbed to $132.3 million, topping the final tallies of Batman Returns ($104 million) and Batman and Robin ($130.9 million). Batman Begins, though, had some steep falls over the weekend. In the U.K., it was off 43 percent for a $25.1 million total. In France, it tumbled 54 percent for a $10.1 million total. In Mexico, it was down 52 percent for an $11.5 million total. The picture did hold strongly in three markets. Italy kept the status quo with a $557,000 weekend and a $6.6 million total. Germany was down 18 percent for a $5.9 million total, and Spain fell 23 percent for a $7.5 million total.

Bewitched was yet another success for Nicole Kidman in Australia. Opening right behind Fantastic Four, the television remake drew $2.64 million from 289 screens, Kidman's third biggest opening there behind Batman Forever and Moulin Rouge.

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