'Element' solid; 'Monty,' 'Bean' steady

In a frame littered with disappointing Hollywood and art-house bows, European pictures were the star newcomers beside such old dependables as “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” “Con Air” and “Air Force One.”

‘Fifth’ fabulous

Take Italy, where DreamWorks’ debut pic “The Peacemaker” (cume: $10.4 million) was OK but certainly didn’t set the nation afire, unlike Gaumont’s Euro sci-fi blockbuster “The Fifth Element” (cume: $187 million). That pic was the week’s best bow and the first of the fall’s action entries to chart more than $2 million in its debut weekend, beating the likes of “Lost World” and “Men in Black.”

Local smash “Fireworks” maintained its hold over Italo auds, amassing $30 million in three weeks, further underlining the impression that U.S. actioners are largely responsible for a 21% box office dip during the first seven weeks of Italy’s B.O. season.

The biggest disappointment of the week in Italy was Ang Lee’s “The Ice Storm,” which despite strong reviews didn’t muster much interest.

Another lackluster newcomer was Polygram’s “A Life Less Ordinary” (cume: $3.2 million), which lured an OK $94,437 from 25 sites in Holland and dipped 39% in its sophomore sesh in the U.K.

Also in the U.K., Warners’ “L.A. Confidential” had an OK third-spot bow (playing best in upmarket venues), behind “The Full Monty” in top spot for its 10th lap and a sturdy fourth lap for BVI’s “Hercules” (cume: $55.7 million), but ahead of a goodish turn by “An American Werewolf in Paris” (although as the week wore on bad word of mouth began to take its toll).

But “L.A. Confidential” (cume: $7.3 million) claimed highest per-screen averages in Norway and Denmark, charming $153,763 and $114,432 from 25 and 13 prints respectively, and nabbed $46,258 from six screens in Finland, while managing a fine Australian bow, helped by a publicity campaign by Oz stars Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce.

Brit pics “The Full Monty” and “Bean” put in excellent turns in a busy French frame against the might of UIP’s “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” (cume: $363.1 million), which has amassed $20.1 million, while Miramax’s “Cop Land” (cume: $7.9 million) also bowed well.

In its second French frame, Fox’s “The Full Monty” rose 9% and has amassed $3.9 million from great word of mouth, leaving room for a brilliantly strapping bow by Polygram’s “Bean” (cume: $132.5 million).

As BVI passed the $1 billion mark in overseas box office receipts for 1997, “Con Air” (cume: $114 million) retained top spot in its second Japanese lap, ahead of the bow of WB’s “Conspiracy Theory” (cume: $45.4 million), which lured $1.3 million from 139 Japanese screens.

BVI stablemate “Air Force One” (cume: $76.2 million) posted the distrib’s second-biggest bow ever in Thailand, behind “Con Air,” kidnapping $589,000 from 123 screens.

Fox owes a lot to the dry economic policies of former U.K. prime minister Margaret Thatcher, whose coal mine closures inspired hit Brit comedy “Full Monty,” which has amassed $72.3 million overseas and, combined with a U.S. tally of $25 million, is on the brink of achieving worldwide blockbuster status.

Another overseas dependable is “My Best Friend’s Wedding” (cume: $78 million), which plotted a CTSI record setting bow in Argentina, romancing $679,929 from 44 prints, while partying $104,000 from 13 screens in Chile and $353,226 from 16 Hong Kong theaters.

Also spiffy is “Men in Black” (cume: $274.5 million), which spooked $312,328 from 88 prints in India, a CTSI record and that nation’s second-biggest bow ever behind “The Lost World: Jurassic Park.”

“G.I. Jane” (cume: $14 million) surprised everyone by marching into Spain as the week’s best newcomer, ahead of an OK outing for “Nothing to Lose.”

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