Star sightings turn B.O. gold Down Under

Distribs Down Under are taking full advantage of the Hollywood production lull by nabbing topliners with time on their hands for publicity tours that are translating into bountiful B.O.

Fox’s May bandwagon for “Moulin Rouge,” showcasing helmer Baz Lurhmann and Nicole Kidman, kick-started a two-month cavalcade of stars. Columbia TriStar has since toured David Spade for “Joe Dirt,” Heath Ledger for “A Knight’s Tale,” Rob Schneider for “The Animal” and David Duchovny for “Evolution.”

Duchovny’s visit generated a fistful of page three picture-lead stories in Sydney’s daily newspapers and spurred the pic to A$4.5 million ($2.3 million) in just two weeks, significantly higher than the U.S. take, per capita.

“Clearly some films benefit from these tours, but usually the stars’ availability to come down here is a concern,” says Columbia TriStar film distributors managing director Stephen Basil-Jones. A European tour can cover several key territories in one hit, but Australia’s isolation can make for an arduous and time-consuming trip.

UIP’s Mike Selwyn hopes the recent successes prove the value of such tours, but Roadshow topper Ian Sands feels availability of Hugh Jackman and John Travolta for “Swordfish” and Chris Rock for “Down to Earth” was due more to luck than any other factor.

“It’s a matter of all the stars aligning,” he says.

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