‘MIB2’ shines in slower summer abroad

'Fire' reigning in Belgium, Hong Kong; 'Stuart' sluggish

Several high-profile U.S. films haven’t been tracking as strongly abroad as at home, one factor that explains why the summer season didn’t catch fire in some markets.

“Men in Black II,” however, is one blockbuster that has eclipsed its U.S. result, soaring to $215 million through Sept. 3 on the back of socko debuts in Spain (beating the original by 133%) and Portugal (doubling the first one). “Spectacular,” marveled one Madrid exhib, “especially on a weekend which saw many Spaniards returning from vacation, plus the beginning of the national soccer league.” Amazingly, the sci-fi spoof retained pole position for the fourth week in a row in France; it blasts off Sept. 13 in Italy, its last major market.

“Scooby-Doo” has amassed $105.3 million through Sept. 3, but with only a few Latin territories on the horizon, it won’t match domestic’s $152 million after modest runs in Asia and Germany.

“The Sum of All Fears” bowed at No. 1 in Australia and Italy, without reaching great heights in either locale, and its estimated cume climbed to $60.6 million. The terrorist-themed thriller has yet to invade Sweden and a few minor markets, and looks likely to finish short of domestic’s $118.5 million. One Oz booker said he doubted the Ben Affleck/Morgan Freeman starrer would reach the typical benchmark of success, which is 10% of a pic’s domestic gross in local dollars. The exhib voiced similar reservations about “Mr. Deeds” (which had an OK soph session) and “Signs,” which plummeted in its third round. M. Night Shyamalan’s suspenser launched in Sweden, its first big Euro territory, 35% bigger than the writer-director’s “Unbreakable” and 40% ahead of his “The Sixth Sense.” The Mel Gibson starrer outgunned “Armageddon” by 40% in Denmark but was 18% below “Sixth Sense” in the Philippines.

In Spain, “MIB2” jolted “One Hour Photo” after its snappy opening, while two upscale titles attracted sizable auds: “Monsoon Wedding” and Argentine-Spanish pic “Apasionados,” the latter playing off actress Natalia Verbeke’s popularity in current hit “The Wrong Side of the Bed.”

After muscular preems in Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines and an uncharacteristically tepid outing in Hong Kong, “XXX” seized pole position in Taiwan, commanding $481,000 in four days on 18 screens in the capital Taipei, a tad better than “Vertical Limit.” The Vin Diesel vehicle smashed “The Bourne Identity,” which nonetheless has pocketed a terrif $1.7 million in 11 days in Taiwan.

Kicking off its foreign campaign in Mexico, Fox’s “Road to Perdition” took a classy $1.4 million in five days on 266, including previews. The Tom Hanks/Paul Newman starrer trailed local phenom “The Crime of Father Amaro,” which has raked in $11.8 million in 19 days.

“Lilo & Stitch” drew $534,000 in six days on 30 in Singapore, an all-time BVI animation record, toppling “Dinosaur.” It also notched the fifth-highest toon debut in Malaysia. Its cume moved up to $59.3 million, with Australia, the U.K. and Japan among territories ahead.

In a sluggish frame in Germany, “Stuart Little 2” checked in at No. 2, although one programmer said he’d hoped for a bigger turnout from kids and their parents. Sony’s creature feature’s sortie in Austria was 30% better than the predecessor; it snacked on a tasty $1.6 million in 10 days in China, but squeaked in Italy. With $53.4 million in the kitty and Australia, France, Brazil and Sweden ahead, pic looks capable of grossing $80 million- $90 million.

U.K. exhibs were delighted with “Insomnia’s” top-ranked bow, attributing that to the appeal of topliners Al Pacino and Robin Williams and the hefty video exposure of director Christopher Nolan’s “Memento.” “Insomnia” has mustered an estimated $12 million in 11 markets, buoyed by its perfs in Mexico, Korea and Brazil. “Windtalkers” corpsed in Blighty, where auds abhor war movies, and its cume crept up to $21.7 million in 23 territories.

“Reign of Fire” was tops in Belgium and Hong Kong and held reasonably well in its second laps in the U.K. and Mexico, but plunged in France. The French B.O. dropped by 16% vs. the prior week and was down by 32% from the same week last year, despite a spry showing by Daniel Auteuil starrer “L’Adversaire,” true story of a man who masqueraded as a doctor before killing his wife and children in 1993, then attempting to slay his mistress. Gallic feature docu “To Be and To Have,” saga of a small-town school where kids of all ages must be taught together due to budget cuts, garnered massive critical attention and decent crowds.

Zombie tale “Resident Evil” bared its teeth in Japan, its last major market, propelling its total to $46.1 million, outrunning domestic’s $39.5 million.

Biggest loser of the round was “The Adventures of Pluto Nash,” which landed in the U.K. at a distant No. 17, battered by the critics. The misbegotten Eddie Murphy starrer misfired the previous weekend in France and Spain.

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

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