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'Emperor' rules o'seas box office.

Universal sequel "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" roared to life at the international box office over the Aug. 1-3 weekend, grossing $61.9 million from 3,559 playdates in 28 markets.

"Dragon Emperor"--returning the action-adventure franchise to the bigscreen after a seven-year hiatus--easily took the No. 1 spot at the foreign B.O. Its stellar per-screen average of roughly $17,000 was well ahead of the domestic figure ($10,670 per screen), pointing to the franchise's enduring popularity abroad.

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Pic did its biggest biz in South Korea, where it grossed $13.3 million. That's the best bow of the year for a nonlocal pic. "Dragon Emperor" varies from the first two films in moving the action to China, vs. Egypt.

"Dragon Emperor" set records for a Universal title in a number of territories. It rang up $12.7 million in Russia and $6.7 million in Spain, the best ever openings for a U title in either territory. Film also brought U its best bows in Latin America, led by a $5.1 million opening in Mexico and a $3.1 million debut in Brazil.

The "Mummy" three-quel racked up either the best or second-best opening for a Universal film in a number of mid-level Asian and European markets, including in Hong Kong, Hungary, Poland, Singapore, Thailand and Turkey.

International prospects for "Dragon Emperor" are bright, considering it hasn't opened yet in many key markets. "The Mummy" grossed $260 million at the foreign box office, while "The Mummy Returns" generated $230 million in foreign coin. The $61.9 million opening of "Dragon Emperor" came in well ahead of the openings of the first two films.

"Dragon Emperor" had only a limited debut in Europe, where it makes a major push over the Aug. 8-10 frame, including moving into U.K., France and Germany.

Warner Bros.' "The Dark Knight" placed No. 2 at the international box office for the Aug. 1-3 weekend, seeing just a 39% decline as it grossed $38.2 million from 6,468 playdates in 51 markets for a foreign cume of $203.7 million in its third sesh.

Like "Dragon Emperor," "Dark Knight" has still to open in a number of key markets, including in Japan, South Korea, France, Russia and Spain.

On Aug. 4, "Dark Knight" crossed the $400 million mark at the domestic box office in only its 18th day in release. It took previous record-holder "Shrek 2" 43 days to reach $400 million in domestic ticket sales.

The Australian cume hit $31.8 million over the Aug. 1-3 frame, making the Batpic the top grosser of the year in Oz.

"Dark Knight" held especially strong in the U.K., where it declined just 25% to $12.9 million.

Generally speaking, solid performances by holdovers, as well as the limited bow of "Dragon Emperor" in a few territories, kept the summer Euro box office ticking. Along with "Dark Knight," those holdovers included Universal's "Mamma Mia!" and Disney-Pixar's "Wall-E."

Will Smith starrer "Hancock"--another superhero actioner that has worked well in Europe--became the top-grossing pic in Germany this year with $35 million after five frames.

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But it wasn't all plain sailing for Hollywood fare in European shores last weekend. "X-Files: I Want to Believe" faced a choppy reception in its U.K. and French launches. Mike Myers comedy "The Love Guru" also generated little excitement at Euro wickets after a sickly U.S. bow.

But "Mamma Mia!" held particularly well in the U.K., rising 12% from 9% more screens in its fourth frame. The pic based on the Abba stage musical has now banked $62.7 million in Blighty.

As expected, none of the U.K. openers did boffo biz. Top-placed newbie was "X-Files: I Want to Believe," which came in fourth with a modest $1.7 million at 402 screens via Fox. "The Love Guru" did not have Brits rolling in the aisles. The Paramount release managed just $975,000 at 301 in its weakly bow.

Doc "Man on Wire," about a daredevil Gallic tightrope artist who walked a high rope between the Twin Towers in the 1970s, connected with arthouse auds, taking $192,432 off 41 at a $4,694 screen average.

Local helmer Gurinder Chadha's teen-skewed "Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging" is showing good legs on home turf. The Paramount release dipped just 23% in its soph sesh to $1.4 million and a $5.6 million running cume.

In Spain, "Dragon Emperor" powered into the top slot in its opening weekend with an impressive $6 million opening on 552 screens, representing virtually 50% of the total Spanish weekend box office. Exhibitors expect "The Mummy" to reign supreme over the Spanish box office until "The Dark Knight" bows on Aug. 13.

"Mamma Mia!" held tight in Germany, slipping less than 5% in its third sesh to $2.8 million for a total of $15.7 million.

In Italy "The Dark Knight" dominated, as expected, while "The Love Guru" got little love and thriller "Untraceable" barely left a trace. The opening weekend in August is always lame in Italy due to a massive beach holiday exodus.

"Dark Knight" reported a $1.5 million second-frame take, a 51% drop, for a still-solid $8.5 million running cume.

The only real standout in the predictably flat Italo frame was late Russian helmer Eldar Ryazanov's biopic "Andersen. A Life Without Love," which scored the frame's highest per-screen average--$5,670--albeit on just 17 screens, for a $97,158 take via Medusa.

Hollywood blockbuster fare continues to do boss biz in France. Pixar toon "Wall-E" opened big for Disney, taking $6.9 million on 736 in its first five days. "Kung-Fu Panda" is showing sturdy legs. Down only 14% in its fourth frame, it has now cumed $20.4 million for Paramount. Bowing at the same time, "Hancock" is a winner for Sony, down only 19% on the week for a cume of close to $23 million.

But not all flawed superheroes have won over the Gallic auds. "The Incredible Hulk" was down 50% in its second frame for a cume of $6.8 million for SND. "We are quite satisfied, but we had hoped for more," says rep Henry Hamelle.

"The X-Files: I Want to Believe" does not look likely to enjoy much better returns in Gaul than in most other territories. Its first five days netted Fox a paltry $1.8 million on 485.

Martin Dale in Portugal, David Hayhurst in France, Dave McNary in Los Angeles, Ed Meza in Germany and Nick Vivarelli in Italy contributed to this report.

NEW ENTRIES OVERSEAS High-profile releases for the Aug. 8-10 frame:

The Dark Knight (Japan, South Korea)

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Malaysia, Poland)

Mamma Mia! (Czech Republic, Slovakia)

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (France, Germany, Scandanavia, U.K.)

Wall-E (South Korea, Spain)
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Title Annotation:FILM; The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
Author:McClintock, Pamela; Thomas, Archie
Publication:Variety
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 11, 2008
Words:1144
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