By DAVE MCNARY"The Dark Knight" dominated the international box office with $65.6 million at 7,143 playdates in 43 markets.
With its first European launches and impressive holdover biz pushing foreign cume to $126.3 million, "The Dark Knight" appears well on its way to becoming a massive blockbuster outside the United States. Combined with its record-setting domestic take, worldwide gross has already hit $440 million in a dozen days.
The Batpic sold 8.5 million tickets overseas and its offshore weekend total exceeded the combined grosses for the next four pics -- "Hancock," "Kung Fu Panda," "Mamma Mia" and "X-Files: I Want to Believe" -- even though Warner Bros. has held off launching "The Dark Knight" in many key markets. France, Germany, Japan, South Korea and Spain will see August openings.
"Hancock," "Panda" and "Mamma Mia!" all racked up solid holdovers while Fox's "X-Files" sequel duplicated its modest domestic launch with $9.3 million at 2,595 in 22 territories -- led by Russia with $2.3 million and Spain with $1.5 million. Per-location average for "I Want to Believe" was a moderate $3,576.
Early foreign performance for "The Dark Knight" represents a triumph for Warner Bros.' Batman franchise, which had seen respectable rather than spectacular overseas numbers with "Batman Begins" topping international cumes at $166 million. The studio noted that the "Knight" weekend number bested "Batman Begins" in the same territories by 156% and "Hancock" by 30%.
"The Dark Knight" led the way in the U.K. with $22.3 million and captured over 50% among the top five pics with four weeks of school holidays starting Monday. In Australia, it declined only 37% to $7.2 million for the third best soph sesh ever, trailing "Shrek 2" and the final "Lord of the Rings."
In Italy, "Knight" obliterated the competition with a $5 million launch that represented over 70% of the top five. And its $3.2 million in Brazil represented the third-best second frame ever for that market.
After a softer than usual June due to the Euro Cup soccer tourney, July's biz has helped pull overall overseas biz for the six major studios about even with same point with last year's pace. With "The Dark Knight" providing a major shot in the arm, the final 2008 number could match or even top last year's $9.5 billion record.
Sony's "Hancock" has been a key contributor with $294.6 million in less than a month, including $19.2 million at 7,563 this weekend with no new openings. And Paramount's "Kung Fu Panda" has become the second-leading foreign grosser this year with $305 million, including $17.8 million at 6,565 during the frame, second only to its "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" with $455.5 million.
Combined with domestic grosses, "Hancock" and "Panda" have now topped half-billion dollar mark in worldwide cume, becoming the 57th and 58th pics to do so.
And Universal's "Mamma Mia!" remains surprisingly tuneful with a $111.7 million foreign cume with the weekend seeing a decline of only 34% to $17.5 million at 2,390 in 22 holdover markets. The feel-good musical held well in the U.K. against the launch of "The Dark Knight," edging down 11% to $5.9 million for a Brit cume of $49.5 million -- U's fourth highest grosser of all time in Blighty.
With 35 more markets to open over the next three months, "Mamma Mia!" looks likely to nail down grosses in the same range as the $230 million overseas total for "Sex and the City."
Disney's "Wall-E," another pic still early in its foreign run, scooped up $8.9 million at 3,081 from 21 markets for a $70 million foreign cume. The Pixar toon heads into Benelux and France next weekend.
Sony opted to hold back "Step Brothers" from foreign markets and won't launch the comedy until Aug. 29 in the U.K.. in a reflection of the mixed prospects for many American laffers outside the United States.