the-hobbit-desolation-of-smaug-gold-pile-970x04TH UPDATE MONDAY 1:45 PM, PT: Box office for the top 10 international films this weekend was up versus last weekend, but according to industry data, it’s 25% down on the same frame in 2012. On both occasions there was a Hobbit movie at the theaters, but the discrepancy doesn’t come from how this year’s Warner Bros sequel, The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, is faring compared to An Unexpected Journey: The new film is performing 3% ahead overseas. Instead, there were two non-Hollywood movies that goosed overseas box office this time last year: Lost In Thailand and One Piece Film: Z. Lost In Thailand, you’ll recall, was the mega-hit out of China that broke records in its late 2012 debut and went on to be the highest-grossing Chinese film ever with over $200M in takings. One Piece Film: Z, based on a popular manga, opened in Japan last year with $16.34M. Also last year, Skyfall was still sleuthing its way around the globe and Rise Of The Guardians was raising coin in its 5th week.

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug was the big story of the weekend, rolling out in 49 markets since last Wednesday. Its international haul has come in higher than Sunday’s estimates with an overseas cume of $135.4M. It ranked No. 1 in each of its openings on about 16,405 screens and drew 3% more than An Unexpected Journey. Another Warner Bros film, Gravity, had a super opening in Japan, while Disney’s Frozen melted the Russian box office and Sony’s Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 was bright and shiny in Venezuela and Australia. Here are some of the notable happenings around the globe this weekend:

Gravity had a lot of traction in Japan where it bowed to $3.6M on 544 screens. 3D reps over 78% of the total box office. The film opened in the No. 2 spot behind local hit Lupin III Vs Detective Conan. Also in Japan, Universal’s 47 Ronin brought in another $485K at 331 dates for a 10-day total of $2.8M. The Keanu Reeves samurai pic that has been a disappointment in the territory, next opens in Malaysia and Singapore on December 19th and Indonesia on December 20th. A further 23 territories including Spain and the UK will open day-and-date with North America on Christmas weekend. Catching Fire opens in Japan on December 27th. Smaug goes out in 2014 as does Disney’s Thor: The Dark World.

Gravity now has an estimated cume of $66.85M making it the film’s biggest overseas territory. For Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, it’s the fourth-biggest box office outside of the U.S. with an estimated $27.7M through Sunday. As Chinese films are being loaded into the end of the year, the latest one to make a mark is Firestorm. Directed by Alan Yuen, the hardcore Hong Kong actioner stars Infernal Affairs’ Andy Lau and Mainland actress Yao Chen – who is reportedly the most-followed actress on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, with 18M acolytes. Firestorm earned $5.2M in its opening on Thursday. By Saturday, it had taken $7.15M, according to FilmBizAsia and is understood to be at around $20M now.

The territory notched a further $3.9M at 289 dates for Universal’s British romcom About Time in its second weekend. The film’s box office was up 1% on strong word of mouth and now has a Korean cume of $9.6M. It fell to 3rd place behind the new Hobbit movie and local drama Way Back Home. Desolation Of Smaug drew $7.3M on 924 screens.

Sunny news in Venezuela for Sony’s Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 where the film opened this weekend. The debut was timed to coincide with the beginning of school vacations and took an estimated $800K in just three days to outpace the entire cume of the first film.

Smaug roared into France with $14.9M on 909 screens to outpace An Unexpected Journey by 16%, contrary to the original estimate of 13%. In other new releases, Universal bowed All Is Lost in France, Switzerland and Czech Republic this weekend. It’s handling the movie in a total of 35 territories with Slovenia next on December 19th and the UK & Ireland on December 26th. The film went out limited in France on just 149 screens and grossed $323K. French and German Switzerland picked up $96K at 24 dates. Next up in France, Fox’s Walking With Dinosaurs starts its international rollout there on December 18th followed by several other European territories including Germany and the UK on December 19th. It opens Stateside on December 20th.

Warner Bros updated its Sunday Smaug estimates to reflect a 20% increase over An Unexpected Journey with $19M on 1,400 screens.

Smaug opened slightly lower than estimated at $15.3M on 1,107 screens which was also below the original screen count. The figures are on par with what An Unexpected Journey did in its first weekend last year. It was the No. 1 film, followed by Frozen and Catching Fire. Next week, Ron Burgundy brings his salon-quality hair to Britain in Paramount’s Anchorman 2 – and that’s kind of a big deal.

Frozen had a super start in Russia, one of the international boom markets. The Disney film bowed at No. 1 with an estimated $11.1M to make it the biggest opening weekend ever for any of the studio’s animated films. It was 21% higher than Monsters University and up 82% over Wreck-It Ralph. It’s now the No. 7 Disney animated release of all time. Sony’s Captain Phillips, in its second outing, grossed an estimated $810K for a $3.1M cume there. Captain Phillips also passed the $100M mark internationally this weekend. Smaug arrives in Russia on December 18th.

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 held on its opening last week with an estimated $1.5M extra and a 0% drop. Its total in the country is now $4M. American Hustle also bowed in its first international territory with an Oz debut that landed it at No. 1 with an estimated $2.18M on 285 screens, according to a local trade report. Australia sure seems to appreciate David O Russell’s movies. Silver Linings Playbook is in the top 20 at the box office there this year and that’s after the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts gave it five of its international awards in early 2013. Just last week, the Academy nominated American Hustle for all seven of its international prizes. The Desolation Of Smaug opens in Australia on December 26th up against Frozen. Meanwhile, in New Zealand, where Peter Jackson is making the Hobbit trilogy, Smaug had a four day opening gross of $1.85M from 201 screens, 10% higher than An Unexpected Journey’s record-breaking showing last year.

3RD UPDATE, SUNDAY AM: International numbers are pouring in from Warner Bros for The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug which is expected to take in, according to the studio, $73.6M this weekend domestically. Overseas, the gross is estimated at $131.2M in 49 markets. That’s on par with the 2012 debut of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, but the comparison is not apples-to-apples as some territories, like the UK, opened last year with a four-day weekend and this year were on a regular Friday-Sunday schedule. For their purposes with Smaug, Warner is reporting the full take from the film’s rollout through Sunday, which began with such territories as France last Wednesday. In each of the markets where the film debuted, it was No. 1, playing on about 16,000 screens. Of the total international cume, 3D represented 63%. On IMAX screens, Smaug set a record opening weekend for a December release with over $5M at 124 playdates. Germany was a key territory for the bow with the film ranking as the biggest opening of 2013 at $18.1M on 1,460 screens and outpacing An Unexpected Journey by 14% excluding previews. (Germany is enjoying an 11th hour resurgence with Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire now having pulled an estimated $34.2M to date, making it that film’s second biggest overseas market.)

Also notching the highest openings of 2013 with Smaug were Spain and Holland. The former sold $7.1M worth of entradas on 859 screens. Holland picked up $3M from 220 screens, including sneaks. In the UK, the film is neck-and-neck with An Unexpected Journey for a three-day cume of $15.6M on 1,495 screens. Other highlights include France where the sequel handily passed the coveted 1M admissions mark with 1.35M tickets sold, and an estimated cume of $14.6M on 909 screens. That’s a 13% jump on An Unexpected Journey.

Scandinavia brought a cumulative total of $15.6M, slightly down from An Unexpected Journey‘s $15.8M. In Korea, Smaug picked up $7.2M and in other Asian territories including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Philippines, India, Indonesia and Thailand, the take was $13.2M. The collective outperformed An Unexpected Journey by 18%. Smaug doubled the take of local Italian opener Un Fantastico Via Vai with $5.2M on 680 screens, and Brazil scored $5M to surpass last year’s Hobbit by 16%. Mexico also outperformed the previous film, by 9%, with $5.9M on 2,640 screens.

Other highlights this weekend include Sony’s Captain Phillips crossing the $100M mark internationally with an estimated cume of $101.9M. Meanwhile, Universal’s 47 Ronin, which opened to disappointing results in Japan last weekend, moved into its second frame essentially halving it’s first weekend take of $1.05M with an estimated $508K at 331 dates. Its 10-day total in the market is now $2.9M. The pricey 3D samurai film starring Keanu Reeves and a Japanese cast is understood to have had a production budget, after tax incentives, of $175M. Insiders have told me that the Japan result is “not a catastrophic hit” for the studio’s financial year with accounting adjustments having been anticipated.

2ND UPDATE, FRIDAY PM PT: The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug is now launched in 32 international markets with No. 1 slots across the board, Warner Bros says. The sequel took $15.23M on Thursday, outpacing The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey by 11% for a progressive two-day cume of $24M (it opened in a handful of territories on Wednesday). But Smaug is playing differently across overseas markets with some far exceeding the previous film, some on par and some lower. Germany delivered the biggest opening of the year with $3.4M on 1,462 screens. Warner says this was 67% ahead of the previous film. Mexico was another highlight with $909K on 2,555 screens and 58% of the market. Because movies usually open on a Friday in the territory, there are no relevant comps for a Thursday. But in New Zealand, where hometown director Peter Jackson made the films, Smaug opened on Thursday 11% lower than the first movie. It took $575K on 251 screens. Rough estimates for the second day are gaining ground, I understand. The first Hobbit, which held its worldwide premiere in Wellington last year (it was in LA this time), ultimately grossed about $9.2M in New Zealand to end 2012 as the country’s top film.

Related: BOX OFFICE: ‘The Hobbit: Desolation Of Smaug’ Grosses $8.8M In Midnight Shows, Faces Different Marketplace This Year

1ST UPDATE, THURSDAY 11:37 AM, PT: scored $8.5M on its opening day (December 11th) in select international markets for a gross that’s 3% higher than last year’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Warner Bros says. France was confirmed at $2.8M with 263,000 admissions, a jump of 8% on the earlier film with 53% of the market.

The second installment of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy releases in the U.S. tomorrow, with midnight shows starting tonight. reports that 88% of its sales yesterday were for the film which is tracking at about $85M in its domestic bow.

Meanwhile, other international territories have had a look-see at the Benedict Cumberbatch-voiced dragon Smaug ahead of the U.S., including Holland, Belgium and French-speaking Switzerland. Each had its biggest openings of the year. Holland’s gross was $619,000 on 172 screens; Belgiums’s was $428,000 for 64% of the market and a 90% increase on An Unexpected Journey, and the latter claimed $125,000 on 56 screens for an 80% share. Also commanding an 80% share was the Philippines with $252,000 on 312 screens; that was on par with the previous film.

In Scandinavia, where MGM is releasing the film, Smaug took a total of $4.2M. Sweden was 3% ahead of An Unexpected Journey and Finland was up 9% to $480,000 on 191 screens.

PREVIOUS, WEDNESDAY PM: The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug opened Wednesday in its first international territory — France — to an estimated $2.8 million (or 8% higher than The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) on 909 screens, Warner Bros said. warnerbros_logo__131127025856-275x209The pic opened in the No. 1 spot (Frozen, of course, is in its second week there). In Paris, it was 15% ahead of last year’s Hobbit. Other films opening in France this week include local comedy 100% Cachemire, Cannes prizewinner A Touch Of Sin, JC Chandor’s All Is Lost and Bad Grandpa.

Warner Bros  is opening Desolation Of Smaug in 49 territories Friday on more than 15,000 screens including in Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, Mexico, Brazil and Korea. It will roll out in other markets later.

Industry analysts say tracking for the domestic bow is expected to be similar to last year’s opening of $84.6 million, which ultimately took in $303 million domestically. Desolation Of Smaug also is expected to churn out the same overall cume internationally, $714.5 million. But only time will tell. The worldwide distribution strategy for this year’s Hobbit is slightly different than last year as the studio has decided not to open in Japan until late February, mirroring the strategy it took with the The Lord Of The Rings trilogy. The studio also pushed some Latin American markets closer to the Christmas holiday. Last year, An Unexpected Journey opened in 56 territories day-and-date with the domestic bow. Warner Bros said Desolation Of Smaug “will be opening in seven fewer territories, which may preclude year-on-year comparisons with published figures for last year’s Hobbit film.” Half of the screens will be showing the pic in 3D.