OVERSEAS B.O. ENDS STRONG YEAR WITH WHIMPER

For the cinema biz in many territories abroad, a generally robust 1996 ended on a flat note, despite bravura performances by “101 Dalmatians,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “Evita,” plus “Daylight” rising above its low U.S. water mark.

Exhibs bemoaned the absence of a real killer December entry and lack of product depth, while in parts of Europe attendance suffered from sub-zero temperatures and snow.

The year’s breakaway champ, “Independence Day,” ascended to $440.1 million, fueled largely by Japan’s excellent $36.3 million in 20 days. In the next two spots stand “Mission: Impossible” at $271.6 million and “Twister” with $251.8 million.

Benefiting from the relative weakness of new releases, Disney’s “Hunchback” amassed a whopping $26.6 million abroad in the period Dec. 23-29; the cume through Jan. 2 was a lofty $189.8 million. Expect the animated click to rocket to $200 million this week. The standout scores are $33.7 million in France (where it’s been No. 1 for five consecutive weekends), Italy’s $22.1 million and Spain’s $15.8 million.

Disney stablemate “Dalmatians” roared along to $35 million, paced by the U.K.’s $17.6 million after 17 days (becoming only the third film in history to gross more than $3 million for three weekends in a row) and the Latin America haul of nearly $10 million.

The latter includes $2.7 million after 11 days in Brazil, $2.3 million in 17 days in Mexico and an all-time industry high of $625,000 in five days on 49 in Colombia.

The U.K. was one of Europe’s few bright spots as “Dalmatians” and “Matilda” (which nabbed $4.9 million in 13 days) pulled plenty of kids, “Evita” played to a thrilling $567,000 in 13 days at its West End showcase before it went wide Jan. 3, and “Daylight” burst in with a solid $2.7 million, including previews, on 271.

The Sylvester Stallone vehicle has fast collected $43.3 million in 26 territories, led by Spain’s $6.5 million in 20 days, France’s $5.8 million in two weeks, Italy’s $3 million in 13 days (rated as below average for a Stallone actioner) and Korea’s $2.9 million in 10 days.

“Daylight” entered Australia with a rousing $2.5 million on 171 and delivered $1.3 million in five days on 98 in Brazil. But Aussie exhibs said the year-end offerings did not come close to matching the prior year’s clicks “Babe,” “Goldeneye” and “Toy Story,” and some multiplexes reported takings were off by about 15%.

Adroitly promoted by 20th Century Fox, Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo & Juliet” bowed with a superb $2.5 million on 154, while “Jack” opened with an OK $1.3 million on 123. Of the Aussie entries, family pic “Napoleon” (a Samuel Goldwyn acquisition in the U.S.) and romantic comedy “Hotel de Love” (Live) both bombed, and Peter Duncan’s “Children of the Revolution” (Miramax) minted a decent $177,000 on 14 screens, a stronger draw in Sydney (where it’s mostly set) than Melbourne. “Michael Collins” unspooled with a bright $837,000 on 95, while “Fly Away Home” stiffed.

“Evita” tuned up a tony $2 million in 12 days in Italy, well-hyped by Madonna’s tardy arrival at the preem, and at the weekend expanded from 64 to 100 prints. Alan Parker’s musical had pleasing debuts as well in Norway, Sweden and Greece. “Shine” has accumulated a tidy $724,000 in three weeks of limited release.

Ron Howard’s “Ransom” ($25.5 million total) registered the fourth-highest preem of 1996 in Norway with $687,000 in six days on 50 and, after the biggest December opening in history in Taiwan, vaulted to $2.4 million in nine days. Oz has generated the biggest payday thus far with $10.5 million in seven weeks.

In Germany, one programmer described trading as uninspiring, in part blaming U.S. distribs for splashing out so much on ad-pub campaigns it creates the impression there are only a few films in the marketplace. “Star Trek: First Contact” plunged by 39% for a fine $11.4 million in two weeks (five-territory cume is $27 million) and Germany ranks as the happiest hunting ground for “Jingle All the Way,” notching $10 million in four weeks.

Brian Levant’s “Jingle” reached $50.7 million, a moderate success in Spain ($5.5 million) and so-so in the U.K, but a dud in Japan, France and Italy.

In Spain, “Sleepers” stood at $5.3 million through the fourth weekend, “Extreme Measures” has a so-so $1 million after the second, and from just 40 prints Pilar Miro’s “The Dog in the Manger” advanced to a nifty $1.3 million in 31 days. “Space Jam” bounced along to $18.1 million, highlighted by Australia’s $4.2 million in three weeks, $1.8 million apiece in Brazil and Mexico in six days, $1 million in 12 days in Taiwan and $443,000 in seven days on 75 in Thailand.

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