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'This Is It' on its way to $200 million-plus, thanks mainly to foreigners

November 1, 2009 | 11:52 am

"This Is It" poster He's huge in Japan.

Michael Jackson's swan song "This Is It" made up for a so-so start domestically by doing more than twice as much business overseas.

The movie sold $32.5 million over its first five days in the U.S. and Canada and $68.5 million in 97 other countries. It stands with "Angels and Demons" and "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" as one of a handful of films that more than doubled its domestic opening in foreign countries.

Japan, where Jackson is particularly huge, was the highest-grossing territory. "This Is It" collected $10.4 million there, making it the third-biggest opening of the year. Britain, where Jackson's "This Is It" concert was scheduled to play, was No. 2, with $7.4 million, followed by Germany, France, Australia and China.

That's particularly good for Sony Pictures because movies often decline slower overseas than domestically. The movie's foreign opening was right in line with expectations going into the weekend, but the five-day domestic take of $32.5 million was at the bottom of what the studio and others in Hollywood thought was possible based on initial hype and pre-release surveys.

Everywhere it played, the best news for "This Is It" is that it didn't fall dramatically after a so-so start on Wednesday. Although many similar concert movies open big and fizzle fast, the Jackson film had a solid weekend compared with its Wednesday grosses. Domestic ticket sales were down less than 10% on Saturday, better than many in Hollywood had expected on Halloween and a sign of positive buzz.

Now that Sony has, in a not-too-surprising move, extended the movie beyond a previously announced two-week run, the film will almost certainly gross more than $200 million worldwide. That would be a healthy performance given Sony's investment of $60 million for the rights to make the movie, plus a relatively modest marketing spend.

There were no other new pictures in wide release as most studios avoided the weekend with Halloween on a Saturday. Sony was forced to take the date as it wanted to launch the film as quickly as possible after Jackson's unexpected death and every other fall weekend was crowded with big releases.

Boondock Saints II In limited release, however, Apparition debuted "The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day" to a solid $461,614 at 68 theaters. That's more than 15 times as much as the ultra-violent original, an infamous flop in 2000 that found renewed life on DVD.

Interest in the filmmakers behind "Napoleon Dynamite" seems to be fading, however, as their new picture, "Gentlemen Broncos," debuted to a dismal $10,000 at two locations.

Most movies already in the market experienced hefty declines because of Halloween, but "Paranormal Activity" and "Amelia" both held on particularly well, thanks in part to added theaters.

Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office according to studio estimates and Hollywood.com:

1. "This Is It" (Sony): $21.3 million over the weekend, bringing its total since debuting late Tuesday to $32.5 million. Foreign grosses, meanwhile, have hit $68.5 million.

2. "Paranormal Activity" (Paramount): $16.5 million, down 22% as it added 459 theaters. U.S. and Canadian ticket sales to date are $84.8 million.

3. "Law Abiding Citizen" (Overture/Film Department): Declined 41% on its third weekend to $7.3 million, bringing its total to $51.4 million.

4. "Couples Retreat" (Universal/Relativity): $6.1 million, marking a drop of 43% on its fourth weekend. Domestic total: $88.7 million.

5. "Saw VI" (Lionsgate): Fell 61% on its second weekend to $5.6 million. U.S. and Canadian ticket sales to date are $22.8 million.

6. "Where the Wild Things Are" (Warner Bros./Village Roadshow/Legendary): $5.1 million, down 64% on its third weekend. Its total is now $61.8 million.

7. "The Stepfather" (Sony Screen Gems): $3.4 million, with a third weekend decline of 45%. $24.7 million to date.

8. "Astro Boy" (Summit/Imagi): Fell 55% on its second weekend to $3 million. Ticket sales so far total $10.9 million.

9. "Amelia" (Fox Searchlight): $3 million, down only 23% as it added 250 theaters on its second weekend. $8.3 million in grosses to date.

10. "Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant" (Universal/Relativity): Fell 55% on its second weekend to $2.8 million, bringing total domestic ticket sales to $10.5 million.

-- Ben Fritz

Top photo: A "This Is It" poster. Credit: Sony Pictures.

Bottom photo: Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flanery in "The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day." Credit: Apparition.

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