Fall’s heavy pic sked boosts overseas B.O.

The fall season is getting into full swing and Europe is about to be “Under Siege” as a slew of American heavyhitters, along with some promising national entries, deluge cinemas.

“I’ve told (distributors) there are too many pictures, but nobody will move,” griped one British booker last week, as he wondered how to juggle screens for “The Bridges of Madison County” (which bowed Sept. 15), “Apollo 13” (Sept. 22) and “The Net” (Oct. 6).

Last week, the Brits were toasting the debut of “Braveheart,” hyped by Mel Gibson’s promo visit to Scotland, plus “While You Were Sleeping,” which was off only 19% in its sophomore sesh, and “The Usual Suspects'” terrif third round. Gibson’s epic (overseas cume $35 million) is a big draw with females who evidently don’t find the violence a turnoff.

“Dolores Claiborne” started OK – much better than recent lackluster efforts by director Taylor Hackford and thesp Kathy Bates, opined one exhib.

German cinemas had their best frame in more than three months, boosted by muscular rookies “First Knight” (its biggest international preem to date) and “Under Siege 2: Dark Territory.”

Two Teutonic exhibs said the Steven Seagal pic would have benefited from more than the meager promotion it got. Actioner topped $21 million abroad and powered into Mexico with $688,000 on 130 and Holland with $381,000 on 49.

The Lancelot saga’s Richard Gere is pulling lots of women and Sean Connery is appealing to oldsters; its foreign cume was $36 million and destined to overtake the domestic tally over the weekend.

Gallic exhibs said Paris ticket sales fell 12% due to the end of school vacation and the first noticeable impact of the wave of terrorist threats. Despite that, “The Bridges of Madison County” initialed handsomely and was holding nicely entering its second frame. “Crimson Tide” began well but then started taking on water, and one exhib expects the submarine saga will be blitzed by the Sept. 20 arrival of “Under Siege 2” and the megabuck “Le Hussard sur le toit.”

Claude Chabrol’s “La Ceremonie” had a rock-solid second frame, aided by its prize-winning screening at the Venice fest. “French Kiss” plummeted by 45% in its second and seems to be getting the Gallic kiss-off there.

“Crimson Tide” came into Belgium with a meaty $415,000 on 51, and its foreign cume rose to $28 million. “Bridges” had a fair debut in Denmark ($241,000 on 39) but was brighter in Israel ($227,000 on 14).

The Italo season is perky, paced by “Dumb and Dumber,” which clowned its way to $5.1 million through the second weekend, $105.3 million offshore. “Bad Boys” fell by 34% in its second, tallying $58.8 million overseas, while “Carrington” scored a respectable $436,000 in 10 days, now on 38 prints.

In the battle of the romantic comedies, “French Kiss” widened from 25 to 78 screens for $1 million in 10 days, besting “While You Were Sleeping’s” skimpy $363,000 in ditto on 59. The Sandra Bullock starrer evidently is viewed as too American for Italo tastes, but it’s a wow in Germany and has grossed $58 million in foreign. “French Kiss” understandably was released with the English title because the Italo translation means oral sex.

“Dolores Claiborne” had a middling second in Italy, while another Venice fest title, “Pasolini: An Italian Crime” opened soft, despite critical praise and lavish media coverage. The market just got a lot more crowded as “Waterworld,” “Crimson Tide” and “First Knight” all launched Sept. 15.

“Congo” led the pack in Spain, amassing $4 million in 13 days on 170 screens, off just 15% for a $48.7 million cume.

Biz was buoyant in Australia as “Apollo 13” eased by 27% in its second lap, and the Hugh Grant comedy “Nine Months” posted Fox’s third highest non-holiday bow. “Pocahontas” added a few screens and was off 7% in its third, $45.3 million in the till overseas.

The action was hot and strong in Asia as “Crimson Tide” tore into Korea for $510,000 in six days at eight theaters: Buena Vista Intl.’s biggest preem ever. “Waterworld” beached in the Philippines with a potent $901,000 in eight days on 32, and “Species” slithered into Thailand with a socko $477,000 in five days on 39.

“Die Hard With a Vengeance” cruised to $229.3 million and looks certain to wind as the No. 1 title of the year, ahead of “Batman Forever’s” $136.8 million and “Casper’s” $136.2 million.

In Japan, the “Die Hard” sequel charged on to $75.3 million through the 11th round, while “Waterworld” ($30.2 million in 42 days) sped past “Apollo 13” ($28.4 million after eight weeks).

The astronaut pic flew to $46.5 million in 10 markets, including $2 million in 12 days in Mexico, $3.3 million in 19 days in Taiwan and $797,000 in 12 days in Thailand. “Waterworld” stood at $53 million from seven territories, and coined a rousing $3.8 million in 12 days in Korea, and at this rate will easily surpass $100 mill overseas.

The Keanu Reeves starrer “A Walk in the Clouds” took a celestial $1.1 million in five days on 101 in Brazil and $311,000 in ditto on 11 in Taiwan. It’s hauled in $11.5 million in five markets.

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