Fall crop of pix can’t topple topper ‘Signs’

Gibson starrer still going strong, soars to $97.8 mil cume

Never an easy lot to please, exhibs expressed varying degrees of satisfaction last week with the fall biz and freshmen “The Bourne Identity,” “Minority Report,” “Road to Perdition,” “The Tuxedo” and “Austin Powers in Goldmember.”

Tellingly, despite the newcomers, holdover “Signs” was the frame’s top grosser and the kingpin in its soph sessions in Japan, Spain and Brazil and its third laps in the U.K. and Mexico. The Mel Gibson starrer harvested $14 million from 3,424 engagements in 30 territories in the Sept. 25-27 weekend, and its cume through Oct. 1 soared to $97.8 million. By Oct. 4 it was due to become the 13th title to cross $100 million this year overseas.

“Signs” maintained momentum reasonably well in Spain considering the recent trend of steep dives by nearly every Hollywood pic, reflecting strong word of mouth and auds’ enthusiasm for stars like Gibson.

“The Bourne Identity” was a healthy No. 1 in Germany, although one exhib said he was banking on local co-star Franka Potente (“Run Lola Run”) to deliver bigger numbers. The Matt Damon starrer also ruled in France, fueled by positive reviews, most of which harped on its Paris setting, and in Belgium. Spy saga was a solid No. 2 in Australia, trailing the second outing of “Austin Powers.” Early in its foreign escapade, “Bourne” has captured a lively $26.2 million in 20 markets.

Invading continental Europe, “Minority Report” mesmerized Italy, repping a personal best for Tom Cruise, toppling “Mission: Impossible II.” Italos are partial to that kind of sci-fi thriller, typified by “Blade Runner’s” cult status, and Kathryn Bigelow’s “Strange Days,” which resonated much better there than most other places. Moviegoing has picked up in Italy, also buoyed by handy continuing biz for “Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra,” “Men in Black II” and “About a Boy.”

“Minority” was a major draw in Holland and Turkey (notching Fox’s third-highest bow ever, behind “Titanic” and “Star Wars: Episode I”), and its cume rocketed to $105.9 million.

Jackie Chan’s army of admirers lined up for “The Tuxedo” in Singapore, setting a September record locally and the third largest nonholiday weekend, and in five days it racked up $730,000 on 26 screens.

“Austin Powers” took second spot in Spain with OK figures considering “The Spy Who Shagged Me” grossed a modest $3.8 million. One Madrid booker said some of its double-entendres don’t translate effectively, no matter how expert the dubbing. The Mike Myers starrer is tracking ahead of the previous edition Down Under, and its estimated cume hit $64 million.

“Road to Perdition” went wide in the U.K. after its London platform, performing serviceably but below the expectations of one booker who believed Tom Hanks’ visit for the preem should have generated greater interest. “Perdition” has arrested a fair $29.5 million in 27 markets.

Vin Diesel vehicle “XXX” conquered Thailand and New Zealand, and it’s bagged $18.3 million in 25 markets, with all of Western Europe and Japan ahead.

A handful of national pics saw promising preems. Fresh from being named best film at the San Sebastian fest, Fernando Leon’s “Mondays in the Sun” had a high profile in Spain and is generating terrific word of mouth. Folks in France had been itching to see Roman Polanski’s “The Pianist” ever since it won the Palme d’Or prize at the Cannes fest. Gallic comedy “Ma Femme . . . S’Appelle Maurice,” based on a hit play, was dissed by the crits, but paying customers weren’t deterred.

In Germany, “Bibi Blocksberg,” Constantin’s fantasy about a magic-wielding, broom-riding girl whose mom is a witch and dad a mere mortal, wasn’t quite in the “Harry Potter” league but excited plenty of tykes. Sexy relationships drama “Nackt” continues to draw strongly, prompting exhibs to predict it’ll be the first German film to sell 1 million tickets this year.

(David Rooney in Rome, Liza Klaussmann in Paris, John Hopewell in Madrid, Ed Meza in Berlin and Lee Simkins in London contributed to this report.)

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