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Simpsons: 'Ka-Ching' Is the Same in Any Language

In Argentina, Homer, Marge and the rest of the Simpsons clan are livin' la vida grande.

In fact, The Simpsons Movie, which has been a big hit in the United States, has somewhat unexpectedly been a much bigger smash overseas.

After posting the biggest international opening weekend for any American comedy in history (more than $93 million), the picture is now proving to have legs. For two weeks in a row, it's topped foreign box-office charts, taking in $190 million in its first 10 days. It's outperformed the lumbering Transformers in markets where they opened together, and in some places, it's topped the openings of Spider-Man 3, Shrek the Third and the fifth film in the Harry Potter series.

It did all that here in Buenos Aires, where I'm spending part of my summer, and was so hard to get into when I tried to see it on opening weekend — by 4 p.m. that Saturday, every show at the local shopping mall was sold out, including an added 2 a.m. screening — that I finally had to give up. On the second weekend, I caught the show with a crowd of appreciative locals and tourists, who seemed to know the characters at least as well as I did.

Partly this is because Los Simpson (as the cartoon family is known here) have been a staple on Argentine TV for more than a decade. On TV, the voices are dubbed into Spanish by local actors, and for that reason — unlike almost all other Hollywood films, which are shown here in English with Spanish subtitles — the dialogue in Los Simpson: La Pelicula is dubbed into Spanish.

This is also true in other countries where the picture has opened to surprisingly large numbers. And maybe those numbers shouldn't be such a surprise, considering the worldwide popularity of the TV show.

It has probably also helped the box office that the film has opened in most markets on the same day it did in the U.S. — a relatively new development internationally. Harry Potter, Spider-Man 3 and Shrek the Third also opened simultaneously in cities around the world. Here in Argentina, that allowed all of them to take advantage of a school holiday.

(It also helped them get a jump on the film piracy that's increasingly a fact of life with major box-office hits. Leaving the theater on Saturday, I saw bootleg DVDs of Los Simpson: La Pelicula for sale on the street already, presumably poor-quality copies made with camcorders from a theater screen.)

None of which has discouraged the public from attending. On opening weekend, 182 screens in Argentina grossed an astonishing $2.3 million, or more than $13,000 per screen — especially impressive, given that ticket prices here are less than half what they are in the U.S.

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Bob Mondello
Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.