H’WOOD PIC POWER

Dogs, toons, kidnappers boost o'seas B.O.

U.S. star power — in both human and animated form — burned brightly at cinemas around the world over the weekend, as “Space Jam” and “101 Dalmatians” had socko bows.

Rounding out a generally splendid frame, “Ransom” singlehandedly revived the flagging British B.O., heisting $5.4 million on 403 screens (including about $600,000 from the prior weekend’s previews).

That was an all-time record for a February preem, the seventh-biggest opening in U.K. history, and the second-best ever for a Buena Vista Intl. release behind “Toy Story.” The total, including a one-week platform in London, is $5.6 million; foreign cume stands tall at $112.2 million.

Tom Cruise starrer “Jerry Maguire” sprinted into Thailand with a strapping $157,000 in four days on 45, and, buoyed by the Chinese New Year holidays, had terrific holds in Hong Kong ($1.1 million in 11 days, up 28%), Korea ($1.7 million through the second weekend, gaining 20%) and Taiwan ($1.1 million after the third).

Just starting its European rollout, “Space Jam” looks headed to easily exceed $100 million overseas, with $51.6 million already in the till. In Germany, the Bugs Bunny/Michael Jordan starrer clocked $2.6 million on 512, knocking local click “Rossini” off its perch.

In France the five-day haul was $2.1 million, second in the market to Gallic comedy “Didier.” Warners’ family pic posted the distrib’s third-best opening in history in Spain (behind “Batman” and “Eraser”) with $1.6 million on 199, well ahead of Fox’s “One Fine Day,” which in one of its first foreign engagements came in with a fairly good $824,000 on 152.

Lucrative bows in Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark and Portugal added a further $1.4 million to “Space Jam’s” coffers.

The Oz B.O. overall was flattened over the weekend by a heatwave, with “Michael” taking a 44% plunge in its second weekend ($3.1 million in 11 days), and limp debuts by “The Crucible” in its first overseas date ($411,000 on 95) and “The Portrait of a Lady” ($369,000 on 86). Jane Campion’s drama has collected a wan $10.5 million overseas.

“Romeo and Juliet’s” cume topped $22 million, led by Australia’s $9.9 million and South Korea’s $7 million. The curtain went up Baz Luhrmann’s pic in the Philippines for an OK $158,000 on 28, but it was hard for the Bard in Taiwan at $91,000 on 11.

“Independence Day” advanced to $77.9 million in Japan and $481.1 million abroad. “Sleepers” reached $80 million, including a brisk $5.7 million in 11 days in Germany and $13.6 million in the U.K.

The John Travolta starrer “Michael” alighted in Italy with a skimpy $118,000 on 42 screens, overshadowed by Italo hit “The Cyclone” and Woody Allen’s “Everyone Says I Love You,” which fell by 17% in its sophomore session on 109 for a hearty cume of $1.9 million.

Buena Vista’s “101 Dalmatians” scampered into Sweden as school vacation started in some parts of the country, devouring a lusty $796,000 on 163, and into Hong Kong for a sparkling $695,000 on 21, BVI’s second-highest preem there ever behind “The Rock.” Maybe the Year of the Ox should be renamed Year of the Dog, one Disney wag suggested. Cume is $66.2 million.

“Evita” hit $54.5 million, paced by the U.K’s $21 million, Germany’s $7.5 million and Japan’s mild $3.9 million. The Madonna starrer expanded to 51 prints in its third weekend in Spain, bringing the total to a moderate $750,000.

In the U.K., the resilient “Matilda” climbed to $12.7 million in its eighth lap, a remarkable result considering its foreign cume is $29 million. Its next best market to date is Oz with $4.3 million. “Shine” fell by an acceptable 26% for a resounding $3.2 million through the sixth weekend.

But Scott Hicks’ poignant drama doesn’t seem to be catching on in Spain, tallying $150,000 in 10 days on 23.

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