Frosh no match for 'Menace' in overseas battle

A number of U.S. pics continued to heat up the late summer frame abroad, with “The Thomas Crown Affair” bowing big in Spain, behind “Star Wars Episode I — The Phantom Menace” and ahead of fellow freshman “Inspector Gadget.”

“Crown” pulled off a healthy $1.1 million heist on 203 sites over three days in Spain, but even in its first outings wasn’t able to match “Star Wars’ ” menacing third week of $1.9 million off 218.

The ritzy jewel thief caper also enjoyed a stellar preem in Switzerland, as well as warm receptions in Austria and Norway.

Auds, however were less than taken in South Africa. And in Germany, pic bowed fourth behind “Phantom Menace,” “Message in a Bottle” and “Cruel Intentions” for a total weekend gross of $4.4 million and a foreign cume of $13.9 million off 13 countries.

‘South Park’ kills competish

“South Park” remains on top after two weeks in Blighty for a U.K. cume of $5.6 million, outperforming “Beavis & Butt-head” by 150% and “Austin Powers” by 6%. Next up on the British block is “Eyes Wide Shut,” which is also due to bow in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Belgium this coming weekend.

“Inspector Gadget” arrested Spanish auds, which posted $1 million bail from 200 cells, making it Disney’s second-biggest live-action bow in Spain behind only “Flubber.”

Pic’s effort in this first European date was also up 10% on “101 Dalmatians,” with the rest of Europe set to bow in October. Cume to date off seven territories is $6.1 million.

Universal’s “The Mummy” proved dearest in Greece, scoring the biggest opening there ever, with a $10,498 screen average over three days, 21% higher than “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” and 26% better than “Mission: Impossible.” Pic also held on to the top spot in Italy for its sophomore outing there, outperforming “Lost World” and “Mission” by 46% and 52% respectively, with $1.9 million from 218 outposts, bringing the international cume to $221.4 million, an impressive effort indeed, given “The Mummy” was up against Italian bows of “Entrapment,” “Wild Wild West,” “Instinct” and “The Thirteenth Floor.”

Not wild for ‘West’

The Sean Connery crime caper “Entrapment” nabbed second place with a jail-breaking $1.4 million at 173 sites. Meanwhile, “Wild Wild West” went south in its third, lassoing a mere $755,731 from 248, a result on par with “Enemy of the State” and 55% greater than “Lethal Weapon 4.”

New Zealand went “Wild” for the Will Smith/Kevin Kline pairing, delivering Warners’ third-biggest opening in the market, outperforming “Bad Boys” by 98%, “Enemy” by 45% and on par with “Rush Hour.”

Kiwis also got in the swing of things with “Tarzan,” matching “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and doing double the business of “Mulan” on $190,000 off 42. The results were even more promising in Egypt, where the animated apeman doubled the take of “The Lion King” and quintupled that of “Mulan.”

In Oz, sneaks for “Tarzan,” which goes wide Thursday, continued its blockbusting trend with $555,000 over two days from limited shows, placing the pic second in the market to only “Runaway Bride,” which over two weeks has whisked Aussie auds off their feet for a stunning cume of $4.25 million.

“Bride” also opened Sweden with a blushing $510,000 from 86 chapels, matching “Notting Hill” and outstripping “You’ve Got Mail” and “My Best Friend’s Wedding” by 40%. Now, with a foreign cume of $9.7 million in six territories, the Julia Roberts/Richard Gere reteaming will follow this first Euro entry with bows in Holland, Denmark and Argentina.

Meanwhile, Roberts’ “Notting Hill” continues to woo international auds, claiming penultimate honors in Japan, behind the top-ranking “Phantom Menace,” now in its ninth week. With an infatuating $1.4 million across 199 abodes, “Hill” opened 48% above “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” and is enjoying glowing word of mouth strong enough to ensure a long run.

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