Breaks o'seas records, but booking policy derided

Some exhibs are never satisfied. The “Star Wars” prequel had record-busting debuts in five European territories last week, but a few bookers in Germany were a bit underwhelmed by the space epic’s performance and critical of the booking policy.

“Phantom Menace” amassed $17.1 million in six days on 1,001 screens in Germany (that territory’s widest-ever release), narrowly beating previous champ “Independence Day,” yet few sessions were SRO and the stipulation by Lucasfilm limiting advance ticket sales to 50% of capacity hurt the pic, exhibs griped.

All told, “Menace” minted $39.8 million from 3,300 screens in 27 countries and its cume flew to $285.2 million Aug. 25; by today it will soar past $300 million.

The Jedi knights seized $7.3 million in six days on 352 in Spain (outgunning “Independence Day” by 43% after becoming the first pic ever to clock 1 million tickets there in the first weekend), $2.1 million in six days on 100 in Sweden (eclipsing “Lethal Weapon 4′s” prior four-day high by 36%) and $1.8 million on 110 in Austria (25% ahead of “Jurassic Park”).

The sci-fier broke local comedy “The Olsen Gang’s” industry record in Denmark with $1.2 million in six days on 66, and ranked as the second-best opener ever in Norway (behind “Independence Day”), snaring $1.1 million in six days on 73.

The Hugh Grant/Jeanne Tripplehorn starrer “Mickey Blue Eyes” had a midrange launch in the U.K., placed third behind hardy holdovers “Star Wars” and the “Austin Powers” sequel.

John McTiernan’s 1997-lensed “The 13th Warrior,” a Viking tale toplining Antonio Banderas, invaded France and Belgium ahead of its Aug. 27 domestic bow, delivering unexciting returns in both territories.

“Warrior” was overshadowed in France by “Notting Hill,” which posted the fourth-biggest opening of the year. Universal’s romantic comedy ascended to $151.4 million after scoring an estimated $13.7 million on nearly 3,000 screens.

“The Thomas Crown Affair” remake had unexceptional debuts in the U.K., Australia, Holland and Portugal.

Chinese-lingo f/x-laden actioner “A Man Called Hero” has coined a splendid $3.1 million in four weeks in its native Hong Kong, plus $1.6 million in China, $1 million in Singapore, $600,000 in Malaysia and $560,000 in Thailand.

In Japan, “Phantom” cruised to $81.9 million nearing the end of its seventh mission, while “Entrapment” (cume: $104.7 million) fell by 37% for a strapping $7.1 million in 12 days.

“Wild Wild West” plunged by 58% in its second lap in the U.K.; its cume is $71.5 million. “The Matrix” topped $186 million.Jean-Claude Van Damme starrer “Universal Soldier: The Return” bombed in Italy slumped by 57% in its soph session in Spain. “The Waterboy” also stiffed in Italy.

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