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International ticket sales helping to make up for weak summer box office in U.S.

June 6, 2010 | 12:34 pm

GetHimGreek With four new movies failing to make much noise at the box office this weekend, summer 2010 continues to limp along compared with summer 2009.

Five weeks into the summer box-office season, when studios release most of their big-budget event films, total ticket sales revenue is down 4% from the same period a year ago despite a 6% rise in ticket prices. According to figures provided by Hollywood.com, movie attendance has fallen a sizable 10%.

And although they weren't flops, neither of this weekend's new comedies, "Get Him to the Greek" and "Killers," were anything close to breakout hits like last year's "The Hangover." Meanwhile, there have been a string of bigger budget underperformers including "Robin Hood," "Shrek Forever After," "Prince of Persia" and "Sex and the City 2." (For more on the performance of individual movies at the box office this weekend, see our earlier post.)

Studio executives have offered a variety of possible reasons for the downturn, including too-high ticket prices, the ongoing economic uncertainty and simple audience disinterest in what studios have been offering.

But while the domestic box office is undeniably in a slump, international receipts are staying comparatively strong. Every big-budget movies released so far this year has seen solid to very strong ticket sales overseas, in some cases helping to make up for a soft performance at home.

PrinceOPersia "Prince of Persia," for instance, has taken in $156.4 million internationally, almost three times as much as the dismal $59.5 million it has grossed in the U.S. and Canada.

"Iron Man 2" is at $288.4 million overseas, already more than the $267-million total foreign gross of the original. By contrast, the sequel is currently falling much faster each weekend at home than the first "Iron Man" and may end up below its predecessor's final domestic gross of $318 million despite having a significantly bigger opening.

"Robin Hood" is currently at $172 million overseas, while it struggles to reach $100 million domestically after four weeks.

"Sex and the City 2" opened in a number of foreign markets this weekend and matched or exceeded the original movie in nearly all of them, including Australia, Russia, Japan, Spain and Mexico. In the U.S. and Canada, meanwhile, the sequel is currently at $73 million compared with $102 million for the original after the same number of days in theaters.

"Shrek Forever After" won't open in most foreign countries until late June and July, but is already at a healthy $68 million from playing for three weekends in 19 overseas markets. Executives at distributor Paramount Pictures and producer/financier DreamWorks Animation are optimistic that this fourth installment in the series will match or exceed the excellent $476-million total foreign gross of "Shrek the Third," even though it is falling well short of that movie domestically.

Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office, along with their international grosses when available. Data comes from studio estimates and Hollywood.com.

1. "Shrek Forever After" (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount): $25.3 million on its third weekend, down 42%. $8.8 million overseas in 19 foreign markets. Domestic total: $183 million. International total: $68.4 million.

2. "Get Him to the Greek" (Universal/Relativity/Spyglass): Opened to $17.4 million. 

3. "Killers" (Lionsgate): Opened to $16.1 million.

4. "Prince of Persia" (Disney): $13.8 million on its second weekend, down 54%. $37.6 million overseas in 48 foreign markets. Domestic total: $59.5 million. International total: $156.4 million.

5. "Sex and the City 2" (Warner Bros./New Line/Village Roadshow): $12.7 million on its second weekend, down 59%. $45 million overseas from 49 foreign markets. Domestic total: $73.4 million. International total: $90 million.

6. "Marmaduke" (Fox/New Regency): Opened to $11.3 million. $3.5 million overseas in 17 foreign markets. International total: $5.1 million.

7. "Iron Man 2" (Marvel/Paramount): $7.8 million on its fifth weekend, down 53%. $3.2 million overseas in 61 foreign markets. Domestic total: $291.3 million. International total: $288.4 million.

8. "Splice" (Dark Castle/Warner Bros.): Opened to $7.5 million.

9. "Robin Hood" (Universal/Relativity): $5.1 million on its fourth weekend, down 51%. $9 million overseas in 59 foreign markets. Domestic total: $94.3 million. International total: $172 million.

10. "Letters to Juliet" (Summit): $3 million on its fourth weekend, down 49%. Domestic total: $43.3 million.

-- Ben Fritz

Top photo: Russell Brand and Jonah Hill in "Get Him to the Greek." Credit: Glen Wilson / Universal Pictures. Bottom photo: Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton in "Prince of Persia." Credit: Andrew Cooper / Walt Disney Studios

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