Sony pic sets opening-day attendance record

PARIS — “Men in Black,” which bowed here Wednesday, rocketed to the top spot at the French box office, breaking records for the biggest opening-day tally across the nation with more than 357,400 tickets sold.

“Black” knocks 1985’s “Rambo II,” previous one-day admissions king at 342,000 ducats, down the chart a notch.

The film also takes over a crown held by “Independence Day” (312,000) as the biggest one-day grosser of the decade.

Playing on 556 screens for an average gross of $3,857 per screen, the pic took approximately $2.14 million, a 60% market share. The folks at distrib Columbia TriStar are overjoyed, especially considering the lack of megamovies opening in the coming weeks.

And despite the August vacation season — which renders Paris a quasi-ghost town — “Men in Black” beat prior records in the city, as well. Scoring 71,502 entries for 65 screens on Wednesday, with an additional 20,000 tickets for advance showings sold on Tuesday night, “Men” nearly doubled the success of last summer’s event film, “Twister.”

By outshining “Independence Day,” which was released in October — traditionally the month with the best receipts — “Men in Black’s” performance adds credence to the idea that the Gallic summer may no longer equal empty theaters.

Olivier Snanoudj, deputy director of the French Film Federation, who laments distribs’ reticence to release films in the summer, is vindicated by “MIB’s” strong showing. “There’s no bad date,” he says. “This proves that when there are films available that the public wants to see, they will come — even in the summer.”

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