O’seas lament: Send more b’busters

'Mummy' is yummy abroad

With “Moulin Rouge” kicking off its foreign tour with plenty of razzle-dazzle in Australia, and “The Mummy Returns” stalking through 31 markets, you’d have expected cinema owners to be humming happy tunes last week.

But no, exhibs were griping in more than a few territories. The common refrain in Spain: Beneath the “Mummy” sequel, biz was dry like the desert. Those cinemas that could not secure prints of the Stephen Sommers pic were suffering from the “curse of Egypt,” in the colorful words of one Madrid exec, who also attacked “bumbling distribs who think there’s room for only one blockbuster in Spain in May.”

‘Mummy’s’ plunge

German bookers were disappointed with the “Mummy’s” 45% plunge in its soph session, and some Aussie programmers, noting the action-adventure pic plummeted by 42% and 44% in successive weeks, doubt it will match its predecessor, which wound up grossing $A18 million ($9.3 million at the current exchange rate). “There’s not much repeat business in it,” opines one Oz exhib.

“Moulin Rouge” orchestrated $2.7 million on 253 screens (including previews) Down Under, Fox’s fourth-biggest bow after “Star Wars: Episode One — The Phantom Menace,” “Independence Day” and “Dr. Dolittle.” Baz Luhrmann’s extravaganza played to packed houses at upmarket locations, generating good word of mouth, although ticket sales were relatively modest in downmarket areas. The musical, toplining Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor, is drawing widely across the age spectrum, resonating especially well with teenage girls and couples.

“The Mummy Returns” raked in $33 million from 4,311 engagements and its cume rocketed to $74.3 million just three weeks after launching its campaign in Australia and Italy. Pic debuted at No. 1 in 10 markets, most impressively in Mexico (notching the territory’s third-highest opening ever, trailing “Dinosaur” and Tarzan”), the Philippines (also No. 3 of all time, 65% higher than the first “Mummy”) and Singapore (14% up on its predecessor and the third-best behind “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” and “Twister”). Peru’s $225,000 in four days on 54 smashed the local industry’s record and Chile’s $422,000 in five days on 36 stands as the second-highest ever behind the most recent “Star Wars.”

Scoring in France

While France’s preem was the second biggest for a May release, behind “The Fifth Element,” dislodging “Amelie From Montmartre” — which has reigned for four weeks — it came in 24% below the original. Similarly, the Brendan Fraser/Rachel Weisz starrer entered Belgium 30% below the first — but it should be noted that the first “Mummy” had the advantage of bowing during vacations in both markets.

Coming off monster openings, “Mummy Returns” fell by a reasonable 28% in the U.K. and 29% in Argentina, but a heat wave in Spain contributed to a 40% decline. Johnny Depp starrer “Blow” had a respectable debut in Blighty, its first major market, where “All the Pretty Horses” and “See Spot Run” tanked.

In its maiden offshore appearances, “Joe Dirt” proved effective counterprogramming to “Moulin Rouge” in Oz, but bit the dust in Germany, indicating a tough road ahead for Sony’s laffer outside non-English-speaking countries. Teutonic teens often lap up crass comedies, but as one booker notes, the David Spade vehicle lacked the likable, good-looking characters of “American Pie.”

The Sigourney Weaver-Jennifer Love Hewitt starrer “Heartbreakers” checked into Germany at a distant No. 2 in its foreign launch, as one booker notes the older-skewing pic was handicapped by going out at a time of year when few adults usually patronize cinemas.

The omens aren’t propitious for Fine Line’s “The Anniversary Party,” which had few takers in its world preem on 43 screens in France after unspooling at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard. Gallic critics were lukewarm at best, typified by one who declared of the Jennifer Jason Leigh starrer: “Too much verite kills Cinema Verite.”

Prize pic

The Palme d’Or prize has given Nanni Moretti’s “The Son’s Room” fresh legs in Italy, where it expanded to 200 prints in its 12th frame and appears headed for upwards of $6 million, which would be nearly $2 million higher than the helmer’s previous top-earner, “Dear Diary.”

“Son’s Room” spurted by 108% in its second week in France, where distrib/co-producer Bac notes it’s already made more than half of “Dear Diary’s” total there.

After its domestic demise, “Town and Country” had no luck in its first tryouts in Spain and Italy, despite a hefty push by Italo distrib Nexo, which ran TV spots targeting women, and a strong campaign in femme magazines. The rest of the newbies in Italy were DOA, including “Pokemon 3,” “Ordinary Decent Criminal,” “Series 7,” “Woman on Top” and Germany’s “The Princess and the Warrior.”

Korean smash “Joint Security Area” had a sturdy bow in Japan, handled by the same distrib that racked up excellent results with Korea’s “Shiri.” “JSA” fetched $1.5 million for Japanese rights, a record for a Korean import, after “Shiri” cost $1 million.

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