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‘Mind’ matters in Oz

'Soldiers' falters o'seas

Japan was jumping last week thanks to monsters and Hobbits while biz in Europe lagged, “A Beautiful Mind” did the math impressively in Australia, Turkey and Taiwan, and “We Were Soldiers” began its foreign campaign with figures well below what you’d expect from a Mel Gibson vehicle.

“Monsters, Inc.” seized pole position in its soph session in Japan, pocketing $5.2 million on 535 screens (improving by 19%), tripling the debut of “2002 Doraemon,” the latest edition in Toho’s long-running toon series. In 11 days, “Monsters” has manufactured $16.7 million, beating “Shrek’s” lifetime Japanese cume. Disney predicts its animated pic will at least match “Pearl Harbor,” which captured $56 million in Japan. “Monsters'” overseas cume through March 12 soared to $166.6 million, spurred by lucrative holdovers including Spain, where it’s reigned for five straight weekends.

“The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” was a strong No. 2 in Japan, earning $4.7 million in its second adventure on 580 screens, dropping by a trifling 6%. Peter Jackson’s blockbuster has minted $19.5 million in 11 days, and New Line and local distrib Nippon Herald are shooting for $80 million to $90 million. Through March 12, its cume was a towering $480 million.

“Beautiful Mind” drew the sizable army of Russell Crowe fans Down Under, outperforming “American Beauty” by 133%, and fetched $347,000 in four days on 51 in Taiwan and $350,000 in five days on 60 in Turkey. However the Ron Howard-helmed drama was less alluring in Sweden and the Philippines. After so-so bows in the U.K. and Germany, “Mind” experienced very mild drops in both countries, and saw spirited third rounds in Spain and Italy. Its estimated cume reached $43 million in 22 markets, with France as the only real weak link thus far.

Purely from holdovers, “Ocean’s Eleven” cruised to a lofty $228.8 million in 49 territories, retaining the lead in its fourth stanza in the U.K. and in its second in South Korea. Vietnam War saga “We Were Soldiers” landed in Blighty in fourth spot, indicating folks have had their fill of cinematic conflict after “Black Hawk Down” and “Behind Enemy Lines.” “Soldiers” was similarly somber in Greece and Singapore.

A sturdy performer in Latin America and Asia but a loser in most of Europe, “Black Hawk Down” commanded second spot in Brazil (outgunning “The Rock” and “Enemy of the State”) and was No. 1 in Thailand. Its estimated cume including the markets handled by Revolution’s distribs topped $35 million, tracking well below its U.S. arc.

Gallic import “Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra” led the field in Germany, where one booker noted, “It was a decent opening. ‘Asterix’ enjoys a lot of popularity in Germany among both kids and adults who grew up on the comics, and we expect strong long-term business.”

In a weak frame in France, Gallic films continued to dominate, with holdovers “Asterix” and “8 Women” joined by “Monsieur Batignole,” a WWII drama about an ordinary French man who is confronted with the realities of the Vichy government through his friendship with a Jewish boy. That pic and “Amen.,” Costa-Gavras’ Third Reich tale, which eased by just 25% in its second outing, demonstrate France’s continuing fascination with the events of that war.

In France, “Shallow Hal” was thinly attended, not delivering what auds usually expect from the Farrelly brothers, and “John Q.” looked sickly in its foreign preem, reflecting the tough sledding abroad for films set in the U.S. health-care system, as “Patch Adams” found.

“Gosford Park” was the best of the freshmen in Italy, its British pedigree, cast and director Robert Altman all resonating with upscale viewers. The Oscar-nominated murder mystery also opened strongly in Spain, prompting one exhib to proclaim, “Finally, Altman has a critical and commercial success in Spain.”

“Legally Blonde” followed in the vein of “Clueless” and “Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion” as the kind of laffer which translates poorly in Italy, where “Hardball” was yet another misfire in the Yank sports genre. “God’s Banker — The Calvi Affair,” pic about a widely chronicled Vatican banking scandal, was given lots of press attention, but sparked limited interest in Italy.

“Ali” hit the canvas in its second bout in Italy, missing young folks who have little interest in boxing and no knowledge of the subject. The sole major foreign acquisition of Cecchi Gori in more than a year, the biopic hasn’t improved the fortunes of the beleaguered company.

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

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