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Foreigners warm up to 'Ice Age' sequel

'Dawn of the Dinosaurs' takes in $148 million at the box office over a five-day period outside the U.S. and Canada, where it opens with $67.5 million.

July 06, 2009|Ben Fritz

America's birthday had Hollywood looking overseas as "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" earned more in its international opening than it and "Public Enemies," the weekend's other new film, combined did at home.

Twentieth Century Fox's animated feature sold a studio-estimated $148 million in tickets through Sunday in the 101 foreign countries where it launched Wednesday. Given the film's budget of about $90 million, that's an impressive start even before including the more modest $67.5 million it earned over five days in the U.S. and Canada.

The "Ice Age" sequel is the latest movie this summer to see significantly stronger returns internationally than domestically. "Angels & Demons," "Terminator Salvation" and "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" all fall into that category, having earned 72%, 64% and 55% of their total ticket sales so far, respectively, internationally.

"X-Men Origins: Wolverine" and "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" have both grossed about the same in foreign markets as domestic.

"Star Trek" is the only big-budget summer event film that has grossed significantly more in the U.S. and Canada than internationally -- $250 million versus $125 million -- reflecting the relative weakness of that series overseas and its lack of big stars. ("Up" and "Land of the Lost" have yet to open in most foreign markets.)

"Transformers" earned an additional $55 million on its second weekend overseas, more than the $42.5 million that it made in the U.S. and Canada. Its domestic gross, $293.5 million as of Sunday, surpassed "Up" on Friday to become the biggest film of the year. Paramount's Michael Bay-directed robot sequel also recently blew past "Angels & Demons" to become the No. 1 movie worldwide with total ticket sales of $591.4 million.

Big foreign returns helped compensate for a relatively quiet box-office weekend at home that was depressed by July 4 occurring on what's usually the biggest moviegoing day of the week. Studio executives said some of the difference was made up by bigger returns Friday and Sunday.

"When it's on a Saturday, people have barbecues and fireworks and therefore moviegoing takes a back seat," observed Paramount Pictures Vice Chairman Rob Moore. "But you tend to do very well on either side of it."

The five-day domestic total for "Dawn of the Dinosaurs" was not particularly strong, coming in below the opening three-day gross of its predecessor "Ice Age: the Meltdown" in March 2006.

Given that 39% of theaters showing the new film did so on digital 3-D screens, where ticket prices are typically $2 to $3 higher, that's evidence the latest release was drawing fewer people in the U.S. and Canada.

Bert Livingston, Fox's senior vice president of domestic distribution, noted that with kids out of school, weekday grosses for "Dawn of the Dinosaurs" should be particularly high.

However, it has a clear run at the family audience only until July 15, when "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" opens worldwide.

"Public Enemies," the weekend's other new film, had a similarly mixed start, earning $41 million from Wednesday through Sunday. Its $26.2-million gross for the three-day weekend was in line with other Michael Mann-directed pictures such as "Collateral" and "Miami Vice." To end up a success, it will have to follow the path of the former movie, which was propelled by positive buzz and star Tom Cruise to gross $101 million, as opposed to the latter, which ultimately earned only $63.5 million at the box office.

Reviews for "Public Enemies," which cost Universal Pictures and Relativity Media just over $100 million to produce, were generally positive. One good sign for Universal is that despite the film's R rating and Mann's traditional appeal to adult males, the audience tilted only slightly toward men and was evenly split between those over and under age 25. That's in large part thanks to the appeal of star Johnny Depp.

"Having an audience composition that is so balanced signals this movie can have great legs," said Adam Fogelson, Universal's president of marketing and distribution, using the industry term for a long run at the box office.





Estimated sales in the U.S. and Canada:

*--* -- Movie 3-day gross Percentage Total Days in change from -- (studio) (millions) Last weekend (millions) release 1 Ice Age: Dawn of $42.5 NA $67.5 5 -- the Dinosaurs -- (Fox) 1 Transformers: $42.5 -61% $293.5 12 Revenge -- of the Fallen -- (Paramount) 3 Public Enemies $26.2 NA $41 5 -- (Universal/Relat ivity) 4 The Proposal $12.8 -31% $94.2 17 (Disney) 5 The Hangover $10.4 -39% $204.2 31 -- (Warner Bros./Legendary) 6 Up $6.6 -50% $264.9 38 -- (Disney/Pixar) 7 My Sister's $5.3 -58% $26 10 Keeper -- (Warner Bros./New Line) 8 The Taking of $2.5 -54% $58.5 24 Pelham 123 -- (Sony/Relativity) 9 Year One $2.1 -65% $38.1 17 -- (Sony) 9 Night at the $2.1 -42% $167.8 45 Museum: -- Battle of the Smithsonian -- (Fox) *--*


Industry totals

*--* 3-day gross Change Year-to-date gross Change (in millions) from 2008 (in billions) from 2008 $162 +1% $5.44 +12% *--*

Sources: Times research and Box Office

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