Audiences overseas can be as partial as Americans to lush, old-fashioned romances, so it’s no surprise that “Sommersby” and “Forever Young” started strong in their first major engagements.

But the path is often rockier for straight dramas: “Scent of a Woman” bowed briskly in Spain and Australia but is below par in Britain, and “Lorenzo’s Oil” tanked in Italy and France.

“Malcolm X” is struggling in Europe, and some distribs are wishing Spike Lee and Largo Intl. had acceded to their pleas after the U.S. opening for a shorter version.

“Hoffa” continues to be plagued by audience apathy.

On the plus side, “The Bodyguard” advanced to a towering $ 251 million, “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” ascended to $ 121 million and “A Few Good Men” hit $ 78 million. “Under Siege” cruised to $ 55 million, and with Japan, Hong Kong and other territories to come, it conceivably could reach $ 75 million.

Italian exhibs are notoriously tight-fisted with playdates, so Warner Bros. exex were jubilant when they booked 130 theaters to launch “Sommersby.” The Richard Gere-Jodie Foster romance clocked $ 2.17 million in the first week, dwarfing everything else in the market.

Director Jon Amiel’s pic looks likely to have legs, as it fell by a mere 7% and 16% in the second weekend in Sweden and Finland, and has pocketed $ 2 million through 26 days in South Korea.

Japanese moviegoers are predominantly young and female, helping “Forever Young” nab $ 1.5 million in first five days on 107 screens. It’s an Easter release in Europe.

Japan is one of the better markets for “Malcolm X,” yielding $ 2.8 million on 53 screens after four weeks.

In Spain, “Scent of a Woman” initialed with a potent $ 795,000 in five days on 74 screens. Spanish pic “Belle Epoque” surged on the strength of its nine Goyas, lifting the cume to $ 5 million.

“The Distinguished Gentleman” had an undistinguished preem in Italy, but registered more strongly in Germany, where the top 10 dipped by 12% to $ 7.5 million.

In the U.K., where the top 10 slid 18% to $ 5.05 million, “Scent of a Woman” had the ignominy of being outgrossed in some situations by “Toys.” Sally Potter’s “Orlando” got raves from the critics, lotsa media coverage and a splendid $ 27,185 average on seven screens.

Paris biz couldn’t escape its downward spiral, losing a further 18%. “Body of Evidence” was one of the heaviest casualties, plummeting 53% in its second. Shrewdly promoted by Pyramide, “Bad Lieutenant” averaged a hot $ 15,035 on eight in the capital, $ 8,181 on 22 nationally.

Australian top 20 slid by 12% to $ 3.2 million despite “Scent of a Woman’s”$ 7,892 average on 63 screens and a fair “Sniper” bow.

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