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‘STAR’ IN O’SEAS ORBIT

Reissue a smash in U.K.; 'Dalmatians' hot

While Hollywood celebrated recent filmmaking during Oscar week, “101 Dalmatians,” a remake of a 37-year-old classic, and “Star Wars,” a reissue of a 20-year-old sci-fi actioner, vied for supremacy in several markets, while “The English Patient” was poised for healthy Oscar gains.

“Star Wars” was stellar in the U.K., nabbing the top spot and posting the year’s biggest bow in the U.K. and the territory’s fifth-highest weekend bow ever. Aided by the presence of director George Lucas and thesp Mark Hamill at the gala premiere, the sci-fier’s takings were more than double WB’s “Space Jam” (cume: $104.9 million), whose second spot preem was fine given the competish.

Force flies in Germany

“Star Wars” also beamed into Germany’s top spot, flattening fellow freshman “Michael,” although “Shine” crept back up the charts, post- Oscar, with its March 25 takings of $58,000 being almost double those on the same day the week before.

The Force was also with George Lucas’ pic in Spain, flattening fellow freshmen “Mrs. Winterbourne” and the docu “When We Were Kings.” Another Spanish casualty was Miramax’s “Marvin’s Room,” which took just $130,447 from 63 prints in its Euro preem in stark contrast to the good fortune pic enjoyed in Japan (pic’s only other foreign foray to date), where the cume is $6.2 million, aided by a tour by pic’s thesp Meryl Streep.

Other highlights of “Star Wars’ ” 15 bows include the top spot Down Under, where all other distribs steered clear (although “Beavis and Butthead Do America” previewed well). The reissue’s foreign cume is $34.3 million to add to the original’s $198.6 million.

But “Star Wars” didn’t create quite the same media splash in Italy as elsewhere, resulting in less-frenzied biz. “101 Dalmatians” expanded its screen count with strong results and looks likely to be the major Easter hit, along with the post-Oscar surge for “English Patient.”

Also in Italy, “Smilla’s Sense of Snow” (cume: $11.6 million) opened to a modest $323,125 from 40 screens. Also low-key was “Ridicule” ($80,732 on 21) and “Emma” ($49,038 from 14). Czech comedy drama “Kolya” took a solid $42,996 from nine theaters.

‘Patient’ on upswing

Oscar best pic “The English Patient” (cume: $38.1 million) recorded jumps of 11% and 12% in the U.K. and Australia in the days immediately after the ceremony. Pic also copped a hike of 40% in Italy, partly from Oscar, but also from a near doubling of its screens to 162.

In France, “The English Patient” and local comedy “Les Randonneurs” stayed rock solid in their second laps.

New comedy “Witch Way Love” topped the French freshmen despite mixed reviews, but looked likely to wobble in the second frame. After good reviews, Mandalay’s “Donnie Brasco” had a hopeful foreign preem in France, but was slightly less potent in Spain.

BVI’s “101 Dalmatians” (cume: $106.9 million) had a brilliant week in Japan, holding the top spot against “Mars Attacks!” (cume: $46.7 million), which spoofed $2.2 million from 136 prints.

And after taking $7.4 million in 18 days in Japan, UIP’s “Dante’s Peak” (10 territory cume: $15.5 million) erupted around Asia, bubbling $1.2 million from 37 theaters in Taiwan, $1 million from 30 screens in South Korea, while steaming good bows in South Africa, Brazil, Colombia and Panama.

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