France goes ‘Apes’

Burton pic hauls $8 mil in Gaul; 'Fantasy' strong

Europe threw open its arms to Hollywood this past week, while Japan preferred domestic fare and Australia more than held up its end of the Ledger.

In Europe, “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within” continued its pattern of strong launches in big markets and “Planet of the Apes” cemented its muscular international showing by opening big in France after a strong Euro debut in Blighty a week earlier.

Tim Burton’s “Apes” scored $8 million in one week in France — that territory’s biggest Hollywood opening this year — nudging pic’s international cume to $100.6 million and making it the 14th movie to pass the $100 million milepost in 2001. Pic will open in remaining Euro territories over the next fortnight.

“Final Fantasy’s” international cume has hit $30.7 million after seven weeks of release; it’s showing on 2,851 screens in 32 territories.

‘Spirited’ performance

In Japan, auds continued to flock to Hayao Miyazaki’s animated adventure “Spirited Away,” which has accumulated $129 million after six weeks. Pic’s B.O. dominance is so complete that last week it tripled “Jurassic Park III” and “Planet of the Apes.”

Sony’s “A Knight’s Tale” delivered boffo results in Australia, with a $6,554 per-screen average, confirming that Perth-raised thesp Heath Ledger is tops with Oz teens.

In Blighty, “Apes” dropped 51% in lap two — less than the 60% falloff in the U.S. — and, as expected, is still pulling in crowds.

Meanwhile, Sigourney Weaver-Jennifer Love Hewitt buddy pic “Heartbreakers” topped the freshman class and improved through the week. Helmer Peter Cattaneo’s “Lucky Break,” about a group of prisoners who put on a stage show as a cover for an escape attempt, mustered just $700,000 from 270 screens. Pic was killed by bad reviews.

“Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles” also bombed in Blighty, despite a tour from star Paul Hogan — 13 years was considered too long to wait to resurrect the Aussie folk hero. “Josie and the Pussycats” fared even worse, taking just $114,000 from 120 houses.

In Italy, “Final Fantasy” got lots of notice for its innovations as a CGI feature, but auds were less than impressed, with many still preferring to stay at the beach or vacation elsewhere.

Distribs will be counting on more muscular pics such as “Jurassic Park III,” “Planet of the Apes” and “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” all due in the coming weeks, to really kickstart the new season.

Viva marketing

In Spain, the week’s B.O. results “underscored the importance of marketing” said one exhib. Openers “Final Fantasy” and Spanish pic “Sex and Lucia” notched upbeat results after both received months of promotion.

German B.O. in general failed to live up to expectations after good weather kept auds outdoors. Nevertheless, one exhib noted “the large number of new-media types and PlayStation fans” who ushered “Final Fantasy” into the top spot.

The premiere of date pic “Bridget Jones’s Diary” was especially undone by the sun. “I expected ‘Bridget Jones’ to fare better, but I believe it will still improve over the coming week,” the booker told Daily Variety.

The new German comedy “Lammbock,” which shows the antics of two pizza delivery boys who augment their take-home pay with a marijuana delivery service, was the top homegrown release. Film premiered at No. 8 with $411,404 from 117 copies.

In South Korea, local pic “Bizarre Girl,” in its fourth week of release, more than doubled the individual debuts of “A Knight’s Tale,” “Driven” and “Memento.”

(Lee Simkins in the U.K., David Rooney in Rome, Patrick Breen in Berlin and John Hopewell in Spain contributed to this report.)

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