'Hannibal' tops menu of tasty int'l spread

A record-busting bow by “Hannibal” in Italy and potent preems by local laffer “Would I Lie to You 2″ in France, “Unbreakable” in Japan and “102 Dalmatians” in German-speaking territories and Spain highlighted a fertile weekend frame overseas.

Launched in Italy day-and-date with the U.S., “Hannibal” devoured $4.6 million in three days on 450 prints, an all-time record for a U.S. release, narrowly surpassing “The Blair Witch Project,” which was handled by the same distrib, Filmauro. The result is significantly ahead of all the major U.S. hits of the past year, including “Cast Away,” “Meet the Parents,” “Mission: Impossible 2″ and “Gladiator.” And it was only about $60,000 shy of the opening-weekend record for an Italo production, held by Leonardo Pierracioni’s comedy “Fireworks.” Filmauro plans to expand “Hannibal” to 500 prints this weekend.

The cannibal saga didn’t eat all the competition, though, as “What Women Want” waltzed in with a terrif $2.7 million on 360 screens — testimony to the popularity of Mel Gibson and local auds’ fondness for romantic comedies.

‘Lie’ convinces Gaul

In France, “Would I Lie to You 2″ attracted 2.2 million viewers, earning an extraordinary $11.3 million in five days on 827 — the best bow ever for local distrib Warner Bros. in that market and the industry’s second-highest in history. The sequel to France’s top-grossing national pic in 1997, “Lie 2″ is a buddy movie about North African Jewish guys in Paris’ rag trade district, helmed by Thomas Gilou.

Gallic fare is dominating the French B.O. of late, with period actioner “Brotherhood of the Wolf” ranked second its soph session (tumbling by 43% in the greater Paris area) and comedy “The Closet” at No. 3 in its fourth lap (down 37%).

The meteoric “Cast Away” scooped up approximately $11 million from approximately 3,200 engagements in 29 countries, hoisting its cume to $116 million. Its stellar scores include South Korea’s $3.4 million in 10 days, Hong Kong’s $2.3 million in 19 days, Germany’s $22.7 million, the U.K.’s $17.7 million, Italy’s $11.3 million and Australia’s $8.5 million.

Auds push ‘Limit’

The consistent “Vertical Limit” roped in $8.3 million from 3,270 screens in 46 markets, lifting the cume to $100.4 million, which dwarfs domestic’s $68 million. Martin Campbell’s action-adventure hauled in $987,000 in three days on 286 in Brazil and $3.3 million in 10 days in Spain (sliding 26%), reigning in both markets.

“Unbreakable” conjured up $4 million in two days on 250 in Japan and $323,000 on 65 in Poland, ranking as BVI’s second-biggest bow in both markets, behind “Armageddon.” All told, the Bruce Willis headliner rang up $6.5 million, sending its cume to $122.6 million.

Dog caper “102 Dalmatians” raced to $63 million on the back of a $8.2 million frame and is set to overtake domestic’s $64 million en route to $100 million-plus after it unspools in Japan on March 10. Disney’s family pic fetched $2.4 million on 671 in Germany, $944,000 on 230 in Spain, $527,000 on 75 in Belgium and $489,000 on 80 in Austria — in each case comfortably beating the original pic’s take in those territories.

Benefiting from the staggered school vacation in France, “Dalmatians” improved by 3%, tallying $5.4 million in 12 days, while “Rugrats in Paris — The Movie” initialed with $533,000 on 432 — an inauspicious international preem.

Jay Roach’s “Meet the Parents” whistled up nearly $1.1 in three days on 230 in Mexico and $4.6 million in 10 days in Italy (off just 29%), and its cume topped $110 million. Domestic dud “Proof of Life” is showing more heft abroad, posting a sturdy $1.1 million on 52 in Taiwan and commanding 54% of the weekend business in Taipei. After an indifferent start to its foreign campaign in Brazil and a few other Latino markets, “The Emperor’s New Groove” is hitting high notes in Scandinavia, notching $346,000 on 127 in Sweden (No. 2 behind local fave “Hans Och Hennes.”) and taking pole position in Norway ($227,000 on 64) and Denmark. Winding its tour of duty abroad, “Me, Myself & Irene” was blah in Japan, scraping up $233,000 on 144; its cume is an unimpressive $56.3 million.

(David Rooney in Rome contributed to this report.)

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