‘Greek Wedding’ wows London, ‘Signs’ shines

Russian B.O. up, Spain down

One of the few bright lights of an otherwise gray September, “Signs” is on course to cross $100 million this week and looks likely to have enough firepower to reach $200 million overseas. That would mark a personal milestone for Mel Gibson, whose career-best, “What Women Want,” peaked at $191 million — and an impressive comeback after his dark “We Were Soldiers,” which drummed up about $35 million.

Biz was wafer-thin in many markets last week apart from “Signs,” the arrivals of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” in U.K. and “Austin Powers in Goldmember” Down Under, and handy contributions from several indigenous freshmen.

M. Night Shyamalan’s pic harvested $23.1 million from 3,650 screens in 28 territories in the Sept. 20-22 frame, and its cume through Sept. 24 jumped to $74.8 million. The suspenser dazzled Japan with $8.5 million in four days, the third-biggest bow for a BVI live action release behind “Armageddon” and “Pearl Harbor.” The Gibson starrer set all-time BVI highs in Spain, beating “The Sixth Sense,” and in Brazil, where it clocked the second-highest preem behind “Spider-Man.” Norway’s $512,000 in five days on 54 was BVI’s second-best entry there after “Armageddon.” Pic demonstrated strong playability in its soph sessions in the U.K., Mexico and Germany.

The “Austin Powers” caper shimmied into Australia as the market’s 13th highest debut, edging out “The Spy Who Shagged Me,” and was the 13th-best opener in New Zealand. New Line’s laffer didn’t click in Mexico, no surprise considering the previous edition fetched just $1.3 million there. The Mike Myers headliner has pocketed about $57 million, and with six major markets ahead, will surely surpass “Spy’s” $104.9 million.

The signs are auspicious for “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” which got a warm reception in the U.K., its first major offshore territory.

In some London situations, “Wedding” outgrossed “Road to Perdition,” which platformed with decent results on 32 screens in the capital, priming its Sept. 27 nationwide rollout. The Tom Hanks/Paul Newman starrer saw reasonable holds in its second sojourn in France and its third in Germany and Spain, although laboring under the handicap which typically faces period gangster tales abroad; its cume is $22.6 million in 23 countries. Aussie director John Polson’s “Swimfan” was hammered by the critics and didn’t make a lot of waves in the U.K., where ticket sales through August were up by a healthy 16% year-on-year.

Plenty of Germans turned out for helmer Doris Doerrie’s “Nackt” (Naked), hooked by its attractive young cast, positive reviews, sexy poster and the tale of three couples at a dinner party who discuss their relationships — culminating in a blindfold test in the nude.

Despite “Signs,” the September B.O. in Spain is tracking 20% below the same month last year, when “Planet of the Apes” and “The Others” were in full flight. British sleeper “Bend It Like Beckham’ failed to score in Spain.

Vin Diesel vehicle “XXX” notched the sixth-highest opening ever in increasingly lucrative Russia, mustering $1.2 million in three days on 162, but plummeted in Oz as “Austin” boogied in. The Sony/Revolution Studios’ actioner has raked in $14.2 million in 22 markets, mostly small fry.

In Italy, “Men in Black II” retained pole position despite a hefty drop, and its cume ascended to $235.4 million. European hit “Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra” made merry in Italy, and its estimated total reached $103 million. “Minority Report” also joined the $100 million club, playing in 44 markets, which means 12 titles have reached that benchmark this year.

“Lilo & Stitch” gave BVI its second-biggest launch for a traditionally animated toon in Oz, trailing “The Lion King,” and its cume climbed to $66.4 million, with the U.K. and Japan to come. “Stuart Little 2” has snacked on $65.5 million in 41 countries, overtaking domestic, helped by OK bows in Norway and Australia (although clearly second choice for vacationing kids behind “Lilo” in Oz).

Still in the doldrums, takings in France slid by 17% on the prior week. Local costumer “Blanche” was No. 1 with merely serviceable figures, riding on the genre’s popularity and the appeal of topliners Lou Doillon (daughter of singer Jane Birkin and director Jacques Doillon) and Carole Bouquet as the Queen of France.

Perversely, French critics praised Kathryn Bigelow’s helming on “K-19: The Widowmaker,” but weren’t enthused by the submarine theme (“regurgitated and has-been,” one sniped), and auds appeared to feel the same way. After sturdy showings in Spain and Mexico, Robin Williams starrer “One Hour Photo” recorded the frame’s healthiest per-screen average in France, and exhibs expect a solid run. Gallic crits raved about “Simone,” its director Andrew Niccol and star Al Pacino, but paying customers were indifferent to the Hollywood satire, as were folks in Spain.

(Ed Meza in Berlin, Liza Klaussmann in Paris, Emiliano de Pablos in Madrid and Lee Simkins in London contributed to this report.)

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