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‘Erin’ goes abroad

Roberts' star power boosts o'seas debuts

An injection of appealing films revived ailing B.O. last week in the lead-up to the spring school vacation in much of Europe and Australia, though some exhibs lamented the absence of genuine blockbusters.

Julia Roberts’ star power, which arguably is even brighter overseas than at home, ensured winning debuts for “Erin Brockovich” as it began its international campaign in seven Euro territories, including Germany, the U.K., Spain and Sweden.

The legal drama’s bows were a little below the entries of “Runaway Bride,” which isn’t surprising as romantic comedy is a more accessible genre, but Columbia TriStar Intl. is confident “Erin” will have long legs, mirroring domestic.

“Julia Roberts fills cinemas. The figures were good in the U.S. and they are good here,” notes one German booker, who was also cheered by local fave “Harte Jungs” (Hard Lads), which drew plenty of teens in its soph session.

“Erin,” from helmer Steven Soderbergh, minted an estimated $12.1 million from 1,978 screens, including terrif weekend sneaks in Australia ahead of its April 13 launch there.

‘Little’ big in Oz

“Stuart Little” notched Col TriStar’s second-best opening week ever Down Under, behind “Men in Black,” and charmed auds in Italy — hyped by Geena Davis’ visit last month — and Colombia. Sony’s mouse has cumed about $51.3 million, with all of Europe and Japan ahead.

“Pokemon” had dashing debuts in Belgium and France (beating “A Bug’s Life” and the original “Toy Story”), second behind Gallic megahit “Taxi 2,” and did hot biz at previews in the U.K. The cume in WB’s markets (excluding Japan and the rest of Asia) is $21.4 million.

With $227.5 million in the till, “Toy Story 2” zipped past “The Hunchback of Notre Dame’s” $225.6 million to now ranks as Disney’s fourth most popular animated release abroad. Its Japanese haul of $27.6 million near the end of its fifth lap makes it that market’s third biggest U.S. animated grosser, trailing only “The Lion King” and “Aladdin.”

Still basking in the Academy Awards afterglow, “American Beauty” sailed to $164.8 million. Minus any help from Oscar, “The Green Mile” marched on to $98.2 million and by April 17 will rank as only the fourth hit to cross $100 million overseas this year.

“Scream 3” had a fiery entry in Spain, registering a better per-engagement average than “Erin.” It also opened brightly in Taiwan and had a reasonable second outing in Japan. “Three Kings” stole a so-so $1.1 million in five days on 171 in Japan; it’s cumed $47.1 million.

After a decent perf in Israel, “Mission to Mars” had a moderately good bow in Australia, where “Galaxy Quest” was just OK in its maiden foreign appearance. Following its lucrative runs Down Under and in Singapore, “Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo” (cume: $13 million) had lively debuts in Mexico and Brazil but stiffed in Argentina, where auds hanker for more sophisticated fare. “Deuce” kicked off its Euro campaign in German-speaking territories over the weekend.

“Double Jeopardy” had a respectable preem in France but was sub-par in Belgium; its cume reached $50.2 million.

‘Sunday’ drive

“Any Given Sunday” enjoyed its warmest Euro reception thus far in Italy, a notable result given soccer’s popularity there, fueled by good reviews, lots of media coverage for director Oliver Stone’s promotional appearance in Rome and Italo auds’ affection for Al Pacino. But the football drama fumbled in Mexico and fell by a worrying 49% in its second in the U.K.

Among national releases, “Love, Honor and Obey,” a North vs. South London gangster yarn toplining Ray Winstone, Jude Law and Kathy Burke, was dissed by the critics but drew a fair number of patrons in the U.K. In Spain, “The Art of Dying” has stamped itself as the local standout of the year in just its second lap, as one booker enthused, “Spaniards are partial to horror films. Here they were seduced by the sexy, young actors.”

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