According to The Hollywood Reporter, ending a downbeat summer boxoffice season on an unexpectedly upbeat note, 20th Century Fox's action-powered The Transporter 2 drove Labor Day weekend returns above those of the previous year by a solid 16%. Although distributors reported losing playdates throughout Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama in areas still contending with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, nationwide, audiences were apparently in the mood for escapism as they climbed aboard Transporter 2 while continuing to support Universal Pictures' The 40-Year-Old Virgin, which stepped down to second place after two weekends in the top slot. At the same time, more sophisticated moviegoers sought out Focus Features' The Constant Gardener, a suspense thriller, which registered a strong third-place showing.

Two other national openings, however, barely caused a ripple. Miramax Films' Underclassman enrolled just $3.1 million for the four days. And Warner Bros. Pictures' A Sound of Thunder didn't make a sound with just $1.15 million. With an opening four-day gross of $20.25 million, Louis Leterrier's Transporter 2, starring Jason Statham as a driver and bodyguard protecting the young son (Hunter Clary) of the U.S. anti-drug czar, easily outdistanced the opening of its predecessor, The Transporter, which opened to a three-day figure of $9.1 million in October 2002. The sequel, produced by Europa Corp.'s Luc Besson and Steve Chasman and written by Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, came close to matching the $25.3 million the first film collected during its entire domestic run.

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DreamWorks' Madagascar and Warner Bros.' Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Island -- held strong in the overseas market over the weekend, winding up a perked-up July and August for the industry after disappointing boxoffice returns in the first six months of this year.

The weekend also saw The 40-Year-Old Virgin start its overseas journey with a No. 1 bow in the U.K., Bewitched get a degree of attention with No. 1 openings in six markets, and The Brothers Grimm enjoy a hearty welcome in Taiwan. Madagascar, making the offshore rounds steadily since June with carefully planned school-holiday openings, was the top weekend scorer with an estimated $12.8 million from about 2,922 screens in 28 countries. New openings included Italy ($7.4 million from 470 screens), Sweden ($693,000 from 114), Norway ($1.1 million from 113) and Denmark ($705,649 from 78). In reaching an estimated cume to date of $279.3 million, the animated hit has taken in $39.5 million in seven weeks from the U.K.; $40.9 million from Germany, also in seven; $20.1 million from France, in 11 weeks; $19.4 million from Australia in seven; $16.3 million from Spain in 11; and $17.6 million in Japan in four.

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