Kobe Quake Jolts Japan’s Box Office

Several heavy-hitting U.S. entries, a hugely successful ticket promotion in France, and sprightly holdovers “The Lion King” and “The Mask” energized the foreign B.O. last week.

The exception, of course, was earthquake-ravaged Japan, where biz fell through the cracks. Some tradesters expect cinemas in Kobe to be out of action for at least six months, figuring they’ll have to write off a market that’s worth about 3% of the nationwide B.O.

Screens shuttered in Osaka after projectors fell down, computers crashed and sprinkler systems failed, but some exhibs were hoping to reopen by the weekend. Despite the effect on the national psyche, distribs say they didn’t detect any ripple in attendance in Tokyo. Fox said “Speed” took $1.5 million in its seventh week at the 22 screens that reported numbers, elevating the cume to $43.8 million, $182 million internationally.

Overseas, “The Lion King” soared to $400 million B.O. and looks headed to at least $430 million; Buena Vista Intl. estimates that no fewer than 82 million people have seen the animated click. The cumes include $56.8 million in France, $51.7 million in Germany, $34.9 million in the U. K, $30.7 million in Italy and $22.7 million in Spain. Adding to its laurels, “King” now ranks as the No. 1 pic of all time in local currency in Holland ($12.1 mil) and Sweden ($11.8 mil), per BVI.

“The Mask” sprinted past its domestic tally, topping $124.2 million. “Forrest Gump” was set to crest $200 million, standing at $198.8 million through Jan. 19, while “Interview With the Vampire” vaulted to $78.9 million after rousing bows in New Zealand, the Philippines and Norway.

“Disclosure” has fast accumulated $18.8 million, buoyed by steamy debuts in Australia, Belgium, Switzerland, Holland, Korea and Chile; generally, it’s tracking ahead of bows by “Fatal Attraction” and “The Firm.”

But the Demi Moore-Michael Douglas starrer was outgunned on screen averages in Australia by the Jean-Claude Van Damme Oz-lensed actioner “Street Fighter.”

“Disclosure” nabbed $1.8 million on 146 screens for a hot $12,453 average, vs. “Streetfighter’s” $1.3 million on 88 for an even hotter $15,309. Credit that to Van Damme’s broadening appeal, the popularity of the eponymous vidgame, and lotsa publicity for co-star Kylie Minogue, the resurgent Aussie warbler/actress.

Aussie exhibs said the rest of the market collapsed, as “Lassie” didn’t bite and Van Damme sent “Drop Zone” tumbling by 52% in its sophomore sesh.

“Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein” was bon in France, bolstered by the Jan. 15 promotion where everyone who bought a ticket got another one free to use anytime, but the pic began to flag entering the second lap. Gallic critics admire director-star Kenneth Branagh but many judged this was a botched job. About 1 million tickets were sold nationwide on promo day, double the usual number.

Woody Allen visited Paris to appear on a TV talkshow, giving “Bullets Over Broadway” a marvelous foreign preem. Exhibs expect it will be a big hit in a market that adores the Woodman. “Peril Jeune,” a nostalgic look at school days made as a telepic aired originally on cultural web Arte, justified Gaumont/BVI’s decision to give it a theatrical window.

In Italy , “The Mask” streaked to $7.6 million in 31 days, now on 120 screens, while “Sirens” and “Widow’s Peak” (the latter unappealingly retitled “Three Widows and a Murder”) broadened in their second with decent results. New Zealand import “Once Were Warriors” landed copious coverage in major Italo newspapers and interviews with visiting thesp Rena Owen, and averaged a splendid $10,345 in the first weekend at 11 theaters. In Australia, “Warriors” has clocked a terrif $A1.2 million ($908,000) in six weeks of limited release and has just gone wide.

German exhibs said biz wasn’t bad despite the snow, icy roads, some folks going skiing and others in the southwest getting ready for the carnival season. “Keiner Liebt Mich” (Nobody Loves Me), Doris Dorrie’s saga of a 30-year-old single woman and her exotic neighbors in a Cologne apartment building, struck a chord among female auds, especially in big cities and university towns. In their second laps, “Disclosure” did reasonably well, widening from 381 to 497 prints, while “Frankenstein” fell by 34%.

Peter Jackson’s “Heavenly Creatures” was well received by German crix and looks set for a long run.

“Frankenstein” was uneven elsewhere, with sturdy opening weekends in Spain ($1.2 million on 128 screens ) , Mexico ($770,000 on 112); OK numbers in Korea and Israel; and corpsing in Sweden.

“Stargate” fanned out across the U.K. after plat forming in London, drawing hordes of boys; one exhib praised the campaign and noted it was the first sci-fi offering in a while. The Kurt Russell starrer clocked “Timecop,” which plunged by 40% in its second weekend. One booker hailed local thriller “Shallow Grave” as a sleeper after its strong second in London and Scotland (it widens Jan. 27). Rookie “Queen Margot” won plenty of arthouse admirers.

Thus far “Stargate” has tallied $16.4 million, including $4.8 million in Spain, $2.3 million in Taiwan, $1.9 million in Korea and $1.7 million in Brazil.

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