‘Black’ records Prague

PRAGUE — “Men in Black” continues to rake in the dough, this time in the Czech Republic, where it chalked up the largest-ever opening weekend box office.

“It’s a new record,” said distrib Falcon Films’ new managing director Jan Bradac. “Men” pulled in 3.4 million crowns ($102,000) in the country’s major markets. That compares with 2.6 million crowns ($78,000) for “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” three weeks earlier, and 2.7 million crowns ($81,000) for last year’s topper “Independence Day.”

The numbers are attributable more to the rising price of tickets than to increased cinema attendance. In the six-city control group, “Men” drew 49,301 admissions, about 5% fewer than “Independence Day’s” 52,000. Both films were distributed in a wide release of 22 prints. Only “The Lost World” outdid that, with a 23-print release. But “Men” concentrated more of its prints in film-friendly Prague, hitting eight choice screens there.

“This looks like the best week of the year,” said Bontonfilm managing director Ales Danielis. He credited it to the three-film punch of “Men,” “The Lost World” and “The Fifth Element,” which opened five weeks ago in a limited release, and since has increased its distribution.

“Men” also bucked the normal distribution trend by releasing 19 of the prints in a dubbed version. An estimated 85% of films are released with subtitles in the Czech Republic, with Disney kid movies the main exception.

Bradac reckoned the dubbed version was more appealing to the film’s target group, which includes boys as young as 10. Promotional activities made the film a must-see event, with “Men” look-alikes filling central Prague a week before the opening, a new-car giveaway and a splashy premiere complete with marching band.

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