Jedis stand up to competish from ‘MiB II’

'Lilo & Stitch' also doing well worldwide

The biggest star overseas this summer clearly isn’t a thesp: it’s computer-generated FX and animation. To be sure, Tom Cruise’s star power is resonating strongly in “Minority Report” and there’s no doubt Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are drawcards in “Men in Black II.” But tech wizardry is the dominant element in most films that are filling cinemas.

After the distractions of the World Cup, the season is tracking ahead of last year in markets such as the U.K., France and Australia, but lagging in Germany and Spain.

George Lucas’ skills in visual artistry (if not characters and dialogue) ensured a record-shattering weekend launch by “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones” in Japan, edging out previous champ “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” In its first four days, the Jedis rang up $16.3 million, and Fox is confident the pic will have enough oomph to eventually match “Episode I’s” stellar $110 million haul in Japan.

“Clones” also clicked in China, capturing $1.6 million in four days on 200 screens, faring especially well at the handful of theaters equipped with digital projection. The sci-fier was the top-earner in the July 12-14 frame, mustering $18.9 million in 50 countries, and its cume through July 16 rocketed to $254.6 million.

However, Lucas’ epic plunged in its soph sessions as those “Men in Black” muscled into Korea (where the pic set an industry record for a U.S. release), Mexico (No. 6 of all time) and Brazil (the third biggest ever). The Smith/Lee Jones vehicle posted the third highest debut ever in Taiwan and withstood the Jedis’ invasion fairly well in Japan. In the second weekend of its international orbit, “MiB2” drummed up $17.3 million from 2,625 screens in 12 markets, and its cume topped $38 million July 16. Stablemate “Spider-Man” flew to $351.3 million, eclipsing the first “Men in Black” to rank as Sony’s biggest grosser in history overseas.

“Scooby-Doo” delivered Warner Bros.’ second best bow in the U.K. behind “Harry Potter,” as the market spiked up by 29% over the prior weekend and 45% vs. the same weekend last year. The animated canine was top dog also in France, Portugal and Greece. “Scooby’s” cume raced to $33.9 million in 18 markets.

“Ice Age” dawned in Spain as the second highest toon debut behind “Monster’s, Inc.,” spurring its tally to $152.9 million, with Japan ahead. One Madid exhib marveled that attendances for “Ice” were as strong in the evenings as during the day and noted its per-screen average was ahead of “Shrek’s” opening stanza. The other standout in Spain is local tuner “The Wrong Side of the Bed,” which was the only holdover to show a jump, and is already the second highest-grossing Spanish pic of the year after Pedro Almodovar’s “Talk to Her.”

“Lilo & Stitch” has fetched a tasty $33.2 million in 24 markets. The Disney pic’s entry in Hong Kong was the third highest for a traditionally-animated title, and it retained pole position in Germany and Austria. “Lilo” had a juicy third round in Mexico but in France it’s been overwhelmed by Spidey and “Ice Age.”

In France, “40 Days & 40 Nights” was savaged by the critics (“This veneration of the new male is a prehistoric idiocy which isn’t even funny,” sniffed one) and garnered a tepid response from paying customers. However, the romantic comedy has wooed a jaunty $41.5 million for UIP, overtaking Miramax’s modest $38 million domestic result, with Japan ahead.

“Minority Report” held moderately after an illustrious opening in the U.K. Pre-crime is paying off for Steven Spielberg’s thriller, which has minted $35.4 million from just 13 markets. Domestic dud “Bad Company” fizzled in Blighty, where one booker quipped that co-star Chris Rock “seems to be doing an impression of Eddie Murphy, which doesn’t even work for Eddie Murphy these days.” “Resident Evil” wasn’t bad in the U.K., where “Devdas” continued the run of fine performances for Bollywood pics with the second-biggest preem ever for an Indian import.

Teutonic distrib Constantin’s gambit of reissuing last year’s blockbuster “Manitou’s Shoe” didn’t come off, as exhibs opined that folks didn’t want to revisit it. Gallic import “8 Femmes” engaged arthouse auds but missed the mainstream in Germany.

Helped by a smart start Down Under, “Blade II’s” estimated cume hit $64 million, cruising past its domestic total and the original’s offshore tally of $61.1 million; New Line’s Wesley Snipes starrer is yet to play in Italy, Hong Kong and a handful of smaller fry.

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

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