'Mexican,' 'Miss' spark sluggish markets

Amid generally listless spring trading, “The Mexican” debuted at No. 1 in Japan and Italy, and “Miss Congeniality” wowed Mexico and Sweden over weekend, while no freshmen could challenge the ascendancy of holdovers in most other markets.

The U.K. rocked, driven chiefly by “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” which racked up $6.1 million in its soph session on 421 prints (slipping just 10%) for a territory cume of $21.4 million. The Renee Zellweger-Hugh Grant starrer is tracking 23% ahead of “Notting Hill” in the same frame and might have enough legs to match the latter’s eventual gross of £30 million ($44 million).

Also stimulating biz in Blighty is “Spy Kids,” which jumped by 31%, nabbing $1.8 million on 405, hoisting its 10-day tally to $5.8 million. In its first foreign tryout, “The Tailor of Panama,” John Boorman’s spy thriller toplining Pierce Brosnan and Geoffrey Rush, dressed up a reasonable $410,000 on 113 in the U.K., where “The Hole,” Pathe’s lottery-funded teen chiller, was D.O.A. with $972,000 on 322.

‘Mexican’s’ guns blazing

Gore Verbinski’s “The Mexican” stole a nifty $2.3 million in two days on 242 in Japan and $1.8 million in three days on 324 in Italy. The big challenge for the Brad Pitt-Julia Roberts starrer will be to maintain momentum better than it has in Mexico (tumbling by 39%, earning $1.9 million in 11 days), Argentina (plunging by 61% for $534,000 in the same frame) and Israel (down 55%, tallying $406,000 in 11).

“Hannibal” dished up $2.1 million in its third course on 357 in Japan (sliding 35%), minting $15.8 million to date; its cume hit $154.3 million.

“Miss Congeniality” levitated to $64.5 million on the back of a $7.3 million frame on 2,600 screens in 37 markets. The Sandra Bullock starrer courted $1.2 million on 230 in Mexico (78% ahead of “Erin Brockovich” and 50% up on “Notting Hill”) and $214,000 on 50 in Sweden (beating “Meet the Parents'” bow by 18%). The WB-Village Roadshow pic still reigned in its fourth lap in Germany, cuming $12.4 million.

“Enemy at the Gates” took an OK $577,000 on 177 in Italy, according to a service that monitors 75% of the B.O., and $323,000 on 46 in Taiwan, in the latter blitzed by “15 Minutes,” which initialed with $517,000 on 40.

The Robert De Niro starrer’s cume is a paltry $14.7 million from 17 territories, with France’s $4.6 million through its third weekend the best result.

“The Emperor’s New Groove” climbed to $60.6 million, paced by France’s $5.3 million through its fourth round, and Mexico’s $4.9 million, Italy’s $3.8 million and Australia’s $2.5 million, all after its third. Another holiday fave, “Rugrats in Paris,” has rustled up $18 million in 13 countries, including $8.8 million in 17 days in the U.K. and $3 million in 18 days in Australia.

Aussie reception

Simon Wincer’s “Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles” had a jolly second sojourn in Oz, easing by 9%, collecting $2.3 million in 11 days, helped by lousy weather and the school vacation. “Exit Wounds” landed Down Under, in its foreign launch, with a solid $606,000 on 147.

“Dr. T and the Women,” romantic comedy starring Richard Gere and Helen Hunt, wooed $753,000 on 216 in Spain, per a report that tracks 80% of national receipts; same report had “The Gift’s” entry at $570,000 on 160.

“Men of Honor” notched one of its stronger bows to date in Spain amid a generally soft foreign voyage, mustering $742,000 on 240; its cume is $20.4 million. In France, auds shunned “Remember the Titans” ($14.4 million cume, with Japan the only major market ahead) and “Dude, Where’s My Car?” ($22.3 million cume; still to play in Sweden, Taiwan and Italy).

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