‘Beast’ roars in France

A combination of school holidays and potent new U.S. product sent the cinema business into overdrive in parts of Europe last week.

Starting hot and strong were “Beauty and the Beast” in France, “Universal Soldier” in Spain, “Lethal Weapon 3” in Italy and “Patriot Games” in France, Sweden, Denmark and, at slightly lower temperature, Germany.

But “1492: Conquest of Paradise” encountered choppy seas in Britain: It was shipshape in the capital but leaky in the provinces.

Dubbed a masterpiece by Gallic critics, “Beauty and the Beast” captured $ 4.2 million in the first week on 392 prints. On the first day of the second week, it smashed Paris records for a Disney animated feature, with 53,000-plus admissions and $ 357,000 gross.

“Patriot Games” initialed with a feisty $ 2.2 million on 218 screens as its international total advanced to $ 56 million. Last week, a vacation period, historically is the strongest of the year for Gallic cinemas. Grosses in Paris in the week ending Oct. 27 soared by more than 40% but ticket sales could not match the corresponding week last year when “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” was powering through its second round.

France is proving a rare gold mine for “1492,” which had a superb second week there on 381 screens, $ 9.2 million total.

Boosted by school vacation, the British B.O. jumped by 45% to $ 11.9 million. Credit much of that to “Beauty and the Beast,” which surged by 90% in the second week of national release on 336 screens, $ 9.9 million total.

“1492” scored a middling $ 938,400 on 147 screens.

“Husbands and Wives” had the best opening ever by a Woody Allen picture in the West End with a sparkling $ 32,195 average on seven screens.

German top 10’s receipts improved a bit to $ 8.5 million, as “Patriot Games” checked in with $ 2.1 million on 313 prints.

In Sweden, where the cinema and homevid sectors have been battered by recession, Phil Noyce’s thriller was a welcome tonic, making $ 719,000 on 46 screens; in Denmark the take was a dandy $ 343,000 on 22.

“Lethal Weapon 3” had a killer $ 1.35 million opener on 47 screens in Italy, and it went wider this week.

The Italo top 10 tallied $ 6.8 million, down a bit as “Basic Instinct” slackened in its fifth lap and “Patriot Games” eased in its third.

After a healthy run, the Madrid wickets weakened by about 20%, despite arrival of “Universal Soldier,” which commandeered $ 1.3 million on 104 screens, propelling its foreign cume to $ 38 million.

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