‘Ace’ holds o’seas B.O. winning hand

The Christmas B.O. period overseas is shaping up as a bonanza in many markets, as “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls” and “Babe” launched last week with dazzling numbers and “Pocahontas” gathered steam across Europe.

“Goldeneye” ruled in the U.K., off a modest 32% after its massive opening, and bounded into South Africa with $798,000 in six days on 71 screens, the highest bow in history in local currency, beating “Jurassic Park.”

The original “Ace Ventura” was no barn-burner overseas, winding at $35 million after scoring best in Italy. The sequel looks easily capable of hitting $100 million, based on its $3 million debut in Australia, the third-highest in a non-holiday period and the sixth largest overall. The Jim Carrey comedy also invaded Thailand with a terrif $520,000 on 72.

“Ace’s” arrival Down Under was bad news for “Money Train,” which fell by 47% in its sophomore sesh, $1.3 million cume. Aussie auds weren’t attracted to “Virtuosity,” despite an energetic p.a. tour by local boy Russell Crowe.

Chris Noonan’s “Babe” pigged out in Singapore with a greedy $552,000 on 17; however, the farmyard saga probably will have trouble getting past the censors in Malaysia and Indonesia, where pigs are regarded as unclean and not at all cute.

“Pocahontas” zoomed to $116 million, powered by potent perfs in France, Spain (totaling $8.1 million after the third week of wide release), Italy ($4.3 million), Germany and a shiny $479,000 in six days on 46 in Norway.

The Gallic B.O. continued to suffer from the national transport strike, an unlucky time for debs “Nine Months,” “Jade” and “Something to Talk About.”

“The Bridges of Madison County” became the 15th title to reach $100 million overseas, and the sixth Warner Bros, release to hit that milestone, this year. The standout markets for Clint Eastwood’s pic have been Japan with $35 million, Germany at $11 million, and France’s $8.8 million.

Fox’s “Braveheart” climbed to $98.7 million and was due to top $100 million by Dec. 11, propelled by its strapping $1.3 million debut in six days on 146 in Italy. The Scottish epic already is Mel Gibson’s second-highest grossing pic overseas, behind “Lethal Weapon 3,” and his all-time best performer in 10 of the top 20 markets.

In Spain, “Two Much,” the Antonio Banderas-Melanie Griffith starrer, pulled $1.3 million on 140, the best weekend opening in history for a local production. Fernando Trueba’s screwball comedy lensed in English is a must-see for the 18-25 crowd; it’s slated for release in the U.S. in February via Buena Vista.

That opening was too much for “Mortal Kombat,” which made a mild $618,000 in three days on 125. UIP launched “The American President” on Dec. 4, a national holiday, and garnered a fair $415,400 in three days on 156; however exit polls in Madrid and Barcelona revealed excellent word of mouth, so expect Rob Reiner’s pic to build.

“The Santa Clause” had solid starts in the U.K. and Spain, but got stuck halfway down the chimney in Italy, where Tim Allen is unknown. Cume: $20.1 million.

Kenneth Branagh’s “In the Bleak Midwinter” (retitled “A Midwinter’s Tale” in the U.S.) debuted handsomely in London, while “Murder in the First” had a respectable entry.

“While You Were Sleeping” romanced Japan with a sweet $2.1 million in six days on 101; its cume is $92 million and certain to reach $100 million by year-end. “Species” has collared a decent $3.1 million in two weeks on 124 in Japan, $47.8 million offshore.

“Showgirls” has had a checkered career, nabbing a raunchy $3 million after 17 days on 45 in South Korea and nearing the end of its Italo run with a decent $3.9 million; but it was stiffed in Australia, earning $1.2 million.

“Bad Boys,” the first release in China via Sony’s new Beijing banner, has bagged a healthy $1.5 million after the second weekend on 142; offshore total is $71 million.

Among other cumes, “French Kiss” rose to $56.2 million; “Assassins” gunned down $43.8 million; “Nine Months” advanced to $38.7 million; “Mortal Kombat” stood at $26.6 million; and “Seven” has $23.5 million.

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