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Overseas, ‘Avatar’ Just Gets Stronger

Adding China to the mix helps the 3D epic gain 4 percent at the box office over last week

A month into its international release, “Avatar” isn’t slowing down at the foreign box office – in fact, it’s still picking up steam.

James Cameron’s 3D epic gained 4.5 percent over last week’s totals with $143 million in foreign receipts. The key to that surge: the film’s debut in China, which generated $40.2 million from 2,474 screens – the biggest opening-week gross ever there, according to distributor Fox.

Now the second-highest grossing worldwide film (behind Cameron’s own “Titanic”), “Avatar” played at 14,839 screens in 111 overseas markets over the weekend. Its offshore cumulative gross of $906.2 million is more than double its domestic take, which stands at $429 million after a $48.5 million weekend in the U.S. and Canada.

With “Avatar” dominating new releases both in the U.S. and abroad for four weeks running, the only race worth watching lately is whether it can catch “Titanic’s” record from 1997. “Avatar’s” worldwide box office total stands at $1.335 billion, $508 million behind "Titanic," which also debuted in mid-December, then enjoyed a long run at theaters long after it won the Oscar for best picture.

Like in the U.S., "Avatar" is drawing the vast majority of its overseas take from 3D venues. According to Fox, conventional 2D theaters generated 36 percent of the film’s overseas gross, while 3D locations produced the other 64 percent.

Holding fast in second place over the weekend was Warner Bros.’ "Sherlock Holmes," which finished second with $25.7 million at 5,300 screens in 44 territories. “Holmes” has grossed $295.2 million worldwide in three weeks of release, with $130 million of that coming from foreign markets.

Finishing third on the weekend was Fox’s "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel," which took $22 million from 6,226 screens in 57 territories for third; thus far, it’s posted an overseas take of $136.3 million, and a worldwide total of $314.5 million.

Sony’s romantic comedy "Did You Hear About the Morgans?" – a sacrificial lamb in that it opened against “Avatar” in the U.S. a month ago, — has gained some ground overseas with an $8.4 million weekend, good for fourth place as it opened in 10 territories.

The Universal offering "It’s Complicated," Nancy Meyers’ romantic comedy with Meryl Streep, was fifth with $8 million