Blah 'Mandolin' bow fails to tune up frame

It was one of the bleakest weekends of the year at cinemas overseas, and not even the world preem of “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” in the U.K. could raise the tempo.

On paper, it seemed like a winning combination: “Shakespeare in Love” helmer John Madden, hot producer Working Title and thesps Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz.

Bur the Greek-set romantic drama drummed up $2.5 million in three days on 382 screens, a distant melody behind “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” which penned a stellar $3.9 million in its fourth stanza on 421 (off 22%), elevating the territory total to $38.1 million.

“Mandolin’s” bow compares unfavorably with “Shakespeare in Love’s” $3 million on 314, and although it was 40% better than “The English Patient,” the latter launched on 266 prints — 30% fewer. The U.K. result poses a marketing challenge for Universal, which is releasing the pic domestically in August.

But there was some consolation for Working Title. The producer is responsible for the top two titles in the U.K.

Ahead of a blah bow by “Along Came a Spider” ($943,000 on 300), “Spy Kids” keeps hanging on in the U.K., ringing up $8.4 million through its fourth frame.

Food for thought

Universal and MGM had cause to celebrate as “Hannibal” ascended to $167.5 million, driven by Japan’s $25.9 million through its fifth course, to knock off domestic’s $164.5 million.

“The Wedding Planner” took pole position in Germany with $1.5 million on 571 screens, a market that normally sees the top earner commanding $2 million-$3 million. The Jennifer Lopez starrer dethroned Sandra Bullock, whose “Miss Congeniality” had reigned for five straight weeks.

The ultra-consistent “Miss Congeniality” brought in $4 million from 2,367 engagements in 43 territories, hoisting cume to $81 million, boosted by a sturdy preem in Finland and strong holdovers in Argentina (tallying $649,000 in 10 days, slipping 25%) and Brazil ($1.6 million in the same period, down 7%).

“Exit Wounds” isn’t catching fire abroad, typified by lifeless debuts in Germany ($993,000 from 501 prints), Austria ($111,000 on 56), South Korea ($329,000 on 57) and Israel ($108,000 on 30).

The Steven Seagal/DMX headliner did register more strongly in the action markets of the Philippines, posting $284,000 on 54 in Metro Manila (ranked No. 1, Warner Bros.’ best bow of the year in that territory) and Thailand, nabbing $253,000 on 72.

Little ‘Honor’

French auds largely ignored “Men of Honor” (scraping up $345,000 on 198), but the Robert De Niro/Cuba Gooding starrer was more enthusiastically received in Belgium ($200,000 on 40) and Holland ($121,000 on 41). Cume is $23.8 million, led by Mexico’s $4.4 million, Taiwan’s $2.2 million and Spain’s $2.2 million through its third mission; the Navy divers’ drama drowned in the U.K., Oz and Brazil and was soft in Italy.

After corpsing in Mexico and Australia, domestic loser “Say It Isn’t So” connected more effectively in Spain, mustering $692,000 on 223. But Fox’s crass comedy bombed in Brazil and Taiwan.

In Australia, “The Mexican” stayed aloft in its second weekend, capturing $2.3 million so far, ahead of freshmen “13 Days” (a solid $327,000 on just 66 prints) and “Valentine” (a weak $274,000 on 129).

Nearing the end of its foreign run, “Chocolat” reached $65.1 million, spurred by Japan’s sweet $2.1 million in nine days.

New Line’s “15 Minutes” moved along to $17.4 million, helped by Mexico’s $1.2 million in 10 days, France’s $4.6 million and Spain’s $2.1 million. With Japan, Korea and Australia ahead, it has a shot at overtaking domestic’s meager $24.3 million.

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