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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Disaster swept the world during the weekend as the apocalyptic movie "2012" registered the biggest opening for a non-franchise movie.
The latest calamity epic from "Independence Day" director Roland Emmerich sold $225 million worth of tickets globally, distributor Columbia Pictures said on Sunday.
Moviegoers in the United States and Canada chipped in $65 million, at the high end of bullish industry forecasts.
The foreign tally of $160 million came from 105 countries, led by France with $17.2 million, Russia with $15.3 million and Emmerich's native Germany with $12.4 million. It opens in Japan next weekend.
Columbia, a unit of Sony Corp, said "2012" recorded the highest worldwide opening ever for an original film not based on an established franchise, brand or best-selling novel.
In overall worldwide terms, it ranks at No. 9, behind pictures from such franchises as "Harry Potter," "Spider-Man" and "Star Wars," as well as the adaptation of "The Da Vinci Code." The record of $394 million was set in July by "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince."
"2012," which cost about $200 million to make, uses the Mayan calendar and other end-of-days prophecies to depict the world's demise courtesy of a solar meltdown. Critics were predictably skeptical.
Columbia said the film received strong ratings from moviegoers in exit polling. Demographic data revealed that 45 percent of patrons were aged under 25.
The studio had been hoping for a worldwide opening in the $150 million range, said Rory Bruer, Columbia's president of worldwide distribution.
Last weekend's domestic champion, "A Christmas Carol," slipped to No. 2 with $22.3 million, taking the 10-day haul for Walt Disney Co's animated Dickens adaptation to $63.3 million. The film lost just 26 percent of its audience from its somewhat underwhelming opening last weekend, indicating that it could have durability as the holiday season approaches. Drops of about 50 percent are the norm.
The Jim Carrey vehicle also earned $16 million internationally, including a top-ranked opening haul of $3.1 million in Japan. The foreign total stands at $34 million, early in the film's campaign.
The other big story in North America was "Precious," which jumped eight places to No. 4 with $6.1 million in its second weekend of limited release.
The urban drama about a young incest survivor is playing in just nine cities, but will be in about 100 markets next weekend, when the "Twilight" sequel "New Moon" will likely open at No. 1. The total for "Precious" stands at $8.9 million, said Lionsgate, a unit of Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.
Just ahead of "Precious" was the George Clooney war satire "The Men Who Stare at Goats," which held steady at No. 3 with $6.2 million -- off 51 percent in its second weekend. The 10-day total stands at $23.4 million. It was released by Overture Films, a unit of Liberty Media Corp.
Michael Jackson's "This is It" fell three places to No. 5 with $5.1 million in its third weekend. Columbia's concert documentary has earned $67.2 million domestically and $155.4 million internationally.
The only other new release in North America sank on launch. The British '60s comedy "Pirate Radio," starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, opened at No. 11 with $2.9 million. The movie, which already failed internationally, was released by Focus Features, a unit of General Electric Co's NBC Universal.
Reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by Eric Walsh