The invasion of the international marketplace by FoxInternational's Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith produced amassive estimated gross of $144.8m over the weekend, making the Lucasfilmproduction the biggest international opener ever.

The international haul came from more than 10,000 screens in113 markets in 104 countries, with the film, the eagerly anticipated finalinstallment of the Star Wars series, opening in most major territorieson Thursday -- the same day it was released in North America -- and toppinglocal charts for the weekend.

The total easily beat the previous record of $127m achievedover five days in December 2003 by The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of TheKing, though that gross came from a day-and-date release in only 28 internationalterritories. And it more than doubled the $69.1m international opening producedby Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones from a 42-territoryday-and-date launch in May 2002.

As it did in the US, Revenge of the Sith -- directedby George Lucas with Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensenstarring -- had a huge opening day in many markets: Fox International reportedthat opening day totals were the biggest ever in Germany, Belgium, Holland,Hungary and a number of smaller territories.

But Sith beat opening weekend records only in a fewsmaller territories, such as Chile and Peru.

In the UK, for example, the film's opening weekend gross of$26.8m (including previews) from 485 screens was short of the $29.6m from 512screens reaped by Shrek 2 last July.

Sith opened in France on Wednesday and afterregistering the biggest opening day ever for a US film went on to gross anestimated $22.3m (not including previews) for the weekend from 938 screens.

A Thursday opening in Germany led to a weekend estimatedgross of $17.9m from 1,182 screens, expected by Fox executives to rank as thesecond biggest opening ever in the territory.

Australia produced an estimated weekend gross of $10.4m from535 screens; Spain delivered $9.9m from 495 screens; and Mexico $6.6m from 914screens.

Sith grossed an estimated $4.4m from 370 screens inRussia; $4.3m from 681 screens in Italy; and $2.3m from 525 screens in Brazil.

The only major territories in which Revenge of the Sithdid not open this weekend were South Korea, where the opening comes nextThursday (May 26), and Japan, where the release is set for July 9.

Among the films taking a hit from the Star Warsinvasion was Fox International's own Kingdom of Heaven, showing for itsthird week in 100 territories.

Ridley Scott's Crusades epic grossed an estimated total of$13.5 from international markets (including France and Italy, where it ishandled by local distributors) over the weekend, bringing its internationaltotal to $131.7m.

Kingdom saw its estimated grosses fall a reasonable41% in Japan (to $1.4m from 470 screens for a $5.5m running total) and Brazil($683,000 from 403 screens for a $4.3m running total); 46% in Mexico (to$777,000 from 543, for a $6.7m total); 53% in the UK ($1.2m from 420, total$12.2m) and Korea ($657,000 from 224, total $7.9m); 59% in Spain ($1.4m from435, $11.7m total); 62% in Australia ($558,000 from 305, total $5.1m); and ahefty 64% in Germany ($1.2m from 825, total 13.9m).

Other new international openings were few and far between.

In Star Wars-free Japan, Sony Pictures ReleasingInternational opened Closer and grossed an estimated $880,000 from 200prints. With no more major territories to open, the Mike Nichols drama has nowgrossed a total of $78m from the international marketplace.

Also in Japan, UIP opened The Interpreter and grossed $826,568 from 197 locations, bringing the film's international total to $60.3m. UIP's figures, released on Monday, put The Interpreter in fourth place on the Japanese chart, one ahead of Closer (whose estimated gross was supplied by SPRI on Sunday).

Estimates were not available at time of writing for thefollowing openings: Buena Vista International's A Lot Like Love inKorea, Dear Frankie and Ice Princess in Mexico, and The LifeAquatic in Brazil; Warner Bros International's Miss Congeniality 2in Japan and House of Wax in Korea; and UIP's Anchorman in France.