In the face of studio behemoths and franchise titles, some original gems and local blockbusters have notched up impressive runs at the international box office.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was an unexpected breakout success in Europe for Nordisk

The 2009 international box office has seen the continued dominance of US sequels and franchises. In July, Warner Bros Pictures International’s Harry Potter AndThe Half-Blood Prince saw the highest-grossing five-day opening international weekend of all time with $236m, and went on to take $627.4m from the international market.

July also saw Fox International’s animation Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs become the biggest animated debut in history, going on to a final international gross of $682.2m, and a worldwide tally of $878.8m.

Beyond the studio releases, Summit Entertainment cemented the blockbuster status of The Twilight Saga series with the debut of the second instalment, New Moon, which has recorded more than $320m from just three weeks of international release in 61 territories.

And when it came to original productions, Walt Disney/Pixar’s 3D animation Up led the charge. Following its debut as the opening film at Cannes in May, the
film enjoyed a staggered worldwide rollout starting in the US in May and seeing its final release on December 5 in Japan. It has generated $390.5m in total to date from the international market, including $7m in Japan last weekend.

Fox International was the first international distributor to cross the $1bn mark internationally this year, propelled by Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs, Night At The Museum 2 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. In July, Warner Bros broke the barrier for the ninth consecutive year.

Meanwhile, Sony Pictures Releasing International became only the fifth company in history to record $2bn in international ticket sales in a single year. The distributor’s eighth number one of the year, disaster epic 2012, pushed the studio past the milestone last weekend with a tally of $519.3m. Further key titles for the studio included Angels & Demons ($352.5m) and Terminator Salvation ($246m).

From January, Pathé’s UK production Slumdog Millionaire led the charge for international titles, finishing on $225.1m internationally. In its home market Danny Boyle’s drama was the third-biggest film of the year (to December 6) behind Harry Potter and Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs.

February saw the makings of a European franchise when the first film adaptation of Nordisk’s Millennium trilogy, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (pictured), was released in Denmark and Sweden. It built momentum on its international run to reach $87.9m to date, with the Japan and UK releases still to come.

Dragon Tattoo’s breakout success in Europe led to the unanticipated theatrical release of the second and third films, which had originally been slated for television only: The Girl Who Played With Fire went out in the autumn and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest this month. With all three instalments still awaiting release in various key international markets, the trilogy has generated a total of $143.9m internationally to date.

Box-office highlights from Asia included Japan’s Rookies, which took $88m for Toho at home, and South Korea’s tsunami disaster movie Haeundae, which has grossed $68.1m to date for CJ Entertainment locally, and another $1.8m from other markets.

Top 10 International Films 2009
(To December 6)

Rank/title (origin) Distributor Int’l gross
1 Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs (US) Fox International $682.2m
2 Harry Potter AndThe Half-Blood… (UK-US) Warner Bros Pictures Int’l $627.4m
3 2012 (US) Sony Pictures Releasing Int’l $519.3m
4 Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen (US) Paramount Pictures Int’l $431.1m
5 Up (US) Walt Disney SMPI $390.5m
6 Angels & Demons (US) Sony Pictures Releasing Int’l $352.5m
7 The Twilight Saga: New Moon (US) Summit International $320m
8 Terminator Salvation (US) Sony Pictures Releasing Int’l $246m
9 Night At The Museum 2 (US) Fox International $235.1m
10 Slumdog Millionaire (UK) Pathé International $225.1m
Rentrak/Screen International