Sony monster bows big, sets U.K. record

It was “Men in Black” to the rescue of the ailing foreign business last weekend, as Barry Sonnenfeld’s sci-fi comedy bagged $20 million from socko bows in five territories — including an all-time record-buster in the U.K. — and holdovers.

“Men in Black” invaded the U.K. with $11.8 million in three days on 417 screens, including $1.3 million from Thursday-night previews. That ranks as an all-time record opening weekend, beating “Independence Day’s” $10.8 million.

“We knew from the tracking and the buzz that the film would be a smash but (the U.K.) numbers go far beyond our most daring expectations,” Columbia TriStar Intl. president Duncan Clark said.

Clark regards the U.K. and Australia as the offshore markets that will be most hip to the nuances and subtleties of the pic’s humor, and notes the Blighty launch was boosted by promotional visits by the helmer and co-star Will Smith, the hot-selling single and almost uniformly positive reviews.

“Men in Black” set company records in Mexico ($2.2 million on 325), Hong Kong ($929,000 on 30), Singapore ($734,000 on 36) and Finland ($406,000 on 40). The cume is $52 million from 21 markets, with Germany, Japan, France, Australia and Italy still to come.

Clark won’t forecast a final tally but is sure the film will have a long life, judging by its staying power in Asia and Scandinavia.

Among the frame’s other notable results, “Face/Off” had a potent international debut in Brazil, and “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” clawed $10.3 million as its foreign cume raced to $184.8 million. By the weekend Steven Spielberg’s epic is on course to hit $200 million — the first blockbuster to reach that pinnacle overseas this year.

But there was a B.O. lull in such major markets as France, Germany, Spain and Australia as one Hollywood distrib noted that many of the summer films had played off abroad soon after their U.S. debuts, and exhibs are awaiting the next raft of major releases.

“Face/Off” notched $843,000 on 137 screens in Brazil, more than double “Broken Arrow’s” opening and 25% higher than “Con Air.” Buena Vista Intl., which has all foreign rights, is unleashing John Woo’s actioner this month in a few Asian territories, Holland, Australia and the U.K.

‘World’ in spin

Inthe U.K., where schools are on vacation, the alien attack sent “Lost World” tumbling by 47% in its third round for a still terrif $30.1 million in 17 days. The dino pic eased by just 20% in its fourth lap in Japan for a phenom $43.7 million in 23 days.

Warner Bros.’ attempt to revive the Batman franchise in Japan, where the last two editions fared poorly, saw “Batman & Robin” deliver a fair $1.2 million in two days on 133. That was 24% better than “Batman Forever’s” preem, and some credit is due to Arnold Schwarzenegger, who visited three cities in Japan and was photographed with the prime minister and a baseball star.

‘Batman’ eyes holiday

“B&R” is skewing younger and drawing more females than its predecessor and is poised to capitalize next week on the Obon holiday, traditionally a boom time for cinemas.

Joel Schumacher’s pic nabbed $569,000 on 16 screens in Korea (setting a WB record in Seoul), $422,000 on 43 in New Zealand and $144,000 on 29 in Israel, where the B.O. has been hurt by unrest. The Batpic’s cume is $93 million and by the weekend it will stand as the 11th title to cross $100 million this year.

“Hercules” expanded to 150 prints in its second weekend in Japan, but the dubbed version isn’t demonstrating any more appeal to teenagers and young adults than the subtitled, resulting in a nine-day gross of just $2 million. Nippon auds are still flocking to homegrown animation click “The Phantom Princess,” whose adult-targeted, violence-laden story is more to their taste. “Herc’s” offshore cume is $27 million.

“Con Air” grabbed $411,000 from 57 in Indonesia (a BVI record there) and its cume topped $77 million. “Speed 2: Cruise Control” collected another $5.1 million at the weekend and its total climbed to $37.7 million in 18 markets.

“Anaconda” ($32.7 million from 32 territories) uncoiled in Spain with a reasonably good $933,000 on 179.

In its first foreign date, domestic dud “Fathers’ Day” unspooled Down Under with a so-so $542,000 on 131. The Robin Williams/Billy Crystal vehicle faces major competition this Thursday from “Conspiracy Theory.”

“Liar Liar” reached $101.1 million and debuted with a lively $526,000 on 46 in Brazil and a joyless $221,000 in two days on 24 in Korea.

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