French comedy won't budge
'Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis' No. 1 film o'seas
By DAVE MCNARY
Offbeat French sensation "Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis" remained at the top of the international box office for the second week -- even though it's playing in only Belgium, France and Switzerland.
"Ch'tis" easily won the March 7-9 frame over cavemen adventure "10,000 BC," grossing a socko $31.8 million at just 905 playdates. "10,000" finished its first foreign frame with a respectable $26.1 million from 3,634 prints in 20 markets.
In its second wide weekend, "Ch'tis" took in $30.3 million in France, $1.2 million in Belgium and $379,130 in French-speaking Switzerland. French biz declined a mere 11% as patrons flocked to support writer-director Danny Boon's tale of a postal worker forced to relocate to the region bordering Belgium and the English Channel.
"Ch'tis" had cumed nearly $81 million as of March 9, and looks likely to go well past the $120 million plus cume from French hit "Asterix at the Olympic Games" earlier this year. And it's overwhelmed rivals at the French B.O., with the next four titles combining for only $6.6 million over the weekend, led by the $2.2 million bow of wartime espionage thriller "Female Agents" ("Les Femmes de l'ombre") for TFM.
The third frame of "Paris" dropped 48% to $1.6 million, giving helmer Cedric Klapisch's all-star study of the lives and struggles of ordinary Parisians a $12.1 million cume. And the soph sesh of Pierre Morel's hostage/spy caper "Taken," toplining Liam Neeson, also grossed $1.6 milion.
The only American pic to crack the French top five, "National Treasure: Book of Secrets," dropped 45% in its fourth frame to $1.2 million for a cume of $16.1 million. The sequel's gone well past $222 million overseas, giving Disney a worldwide gross of nearly $440 million, and will open in its final market in China on March 17.
"Asterix" and "Ch'tis" will soon become the top grossers among 2008 releases at the foreign box office. Top Hollywood entry so far has been Fox's "Jumper" with $12.2 million in its fourth frame, lifting its international total to $96 million.
"10,000 BC" could also reach the $100 million plateau. The actioner launched day and date with first-place finishes in 19 markets, led by Spain with $4.5 million and a 51% share of the top five in that territory and Mexico with $4.1 million and 60% share.
German results were less stellar, with $2.9 million for the fifth frame of documentary "Earth" showing surprising traction in second place for a Teuton cume of more than $19 million.
"10,000 B.C." scored solidly in Australia with $2.1 million, Brazil with $1.6 million, India with $1.5 million, Taiwan with $1.2 million and Thailand, also with $1.2 million and a 78% share. Warner Bros. is hoping "10,000 BC" can show similar foreign staying power as "300," which topped $245 million internationally a year ago.
The March 14-16 frame should see healthy receipts overall with holdover biz for "Ch'tis," "10,000 BC" expanding to France, Holland, Italy, South Korea and the U.K., and Fox going day and date with "Horton Hears a Who!" in key markets such as Germany, Spain and the U.K.
Local fare also was impressive in Italy, where comic Carlo Verdone's "Grande, grosso e Verdone" (Big, bad and Verdone) scored with $7.8 million from 703, in an otherwise flat frame. Verdone also tallied the Italo frame's highest per-screen average with his assemblage of skits revolving around stock characters from his previous pics, including a Roman goon and a persnickety professor.
"Grande" left the competish in the dust, with the third frame of Best Picture Oscar winner "No Country for Old Men" leading the rest of the pack in Italy with $1.3 million, off 33% and topping the soph sesh of "Jumper," which took in $1 million.
In its second frame after its Oscar victories, "No Country" stayed a player, with $7.1 million at 1,863 in 51 markets -- good enough for sixth place overall. As of March 11, "No Country" has totaled $62 million overseas -- trailing 2006's best pic winner "The Departed," which raked in $155 million internationally, but well ahead of 2005's "Crash," which cumed $44 million offshore.
"No Country" has performed best in the U.K., with $12.9 million; and in Spain -- thanks partly to native son Javier Bardem's Oscar -- with $9.1 million. French grosses have hit nearly $8 million.
Two other kudos players saw notable post-Oscar biz: Fox's "Juno" grossed $3.7 million at 1,537 to push its foreign cume to $54 million; and "There Will Be Blood" took in $3.5 million at 1,106 to take its overseas total to $23.3 million.
"The Golden Compass" continued to find plentiful coin in foreign markets, with a $4.6 million soph sesh in Japan, lifting its cume in that market to $14.6 million in nine days and pushing the overall international gross to $271.3 million. With plenty of play left in Japan, and China opening later this month, "Compass" has a shot at hitting the $300 million mark overseas -- a stark contrast with its middling $70 million domestic total, and a reminder that fantasy fare often shows more traction outside the United States.
Par's hoping for the same kind of foreign support for "The Spiderwick Chronicles," which has just started its international run, with $6.5 million from four territories. "Spiderwick" has topped $4 million in South Korea, and opened last weekend in second in Mexico with $1.4 million at 351 locations, 35% ahead of "Stardust."
David Hayhurst in Paris and Nick Vivarelli in Rome contributed to this report.
Wow, This movie was number 1 in the world and it's only show in 3 country. I hear that this movie beat Star wars in France. I must watch this movie.