‘Rings’ towers above o’seas B.O.

Sequel 37% higher than 'Fellowship,' breaks records

Current worldwide B.O. champ “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” has already shown serious foreign legs in its first five days, grossing $88 million, or 16% of the foreign cume for “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.”

“Towers,” which opened in 26 territories, was 37% higher than the five-day mark for “Fellowship” and set opening-day records in many markets. Blighty led the way with $20.4 million, or 22% of the $90.2 million cume for “Fellowship” in the territory.

Germany’s first five days for “Towers” hit $17 million, or 23% of the $73 million final B.O. for “Fellowship” in that market, while Spain’s $7.1 million debut for “Towers” amounted to 25% of Spanish cume for “Fellowship.”

Scandinavia totaled $10 million for “Towers” and France brought in $9.8 million, compared with $8.2 million for the first five days of “Fellowship.” South Korean B.O. totaled $4 million.

Rolf Mittweg, New Line’s worldwide marketing and distrib prexy, said the improved perf for “Towers” compared with “Fellowship” stemmed from a trio of factors:

  • A 15% rise in the number of playdates to more than 5,400.

  • Expansion of the audience through the shipping of 35 million DVD and VHS units of “Fellowship.”

  • Pay TV bows of “Fellowship” in the United States and Korea.

“Towers” also has dominated the U.S. box office, ringing up $102 million in its first five days. Its worldwide total is already 22% of the final worldwide cume of $860 million for “Fellowship,” which owns the fifth highest worldwide mark after “Titanic” at $1.8 billion; “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” $968 million; “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace,” $923 million; and “Jurassic Park,” $920 million.

Shooting for second

Mittweg predicted “Towers” will wind up second on the list, displacing “Sorcerer’s Stone.” It will open in Australia at 425 playdates on Thursday, during that territory’s Boxing Day holiday, and on Friday in Brazil, followed by a Jan. 17 launch in Italy and a late February opening in Japan.

Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” also continues to show impressive foreign strength after six weeks in release, grossing $31.1 million for an overseas cume of $396.8 million and a worldwide cume of $625.6 million. “Secrets” has totaled $78.8 million in Japan, $72.6 million in Blighty, $51.8 million in Germany, $17.1 million in Spain and $14.6 million in Australia.

“Secrets” finished second in France with $5.7 million to lift the French three-week cume to $30.2 million. Sequel came in third in its third weekend in Italy, with $1.8 million at 630 sites, behind local entries “Natale Sul Nilo” and “La Leggenda Di Al John e Jack.” Its Italo cume is now $13.2 million.

The opening of “Secrets” led in Hong Kong with $1.55 million and 24,299 admissions at 73 playdates — the highest number of screens ever for a U.S. film and the biggest opening for 2002 in that market, beating “Spider-Man” by 6%.

Another high-profile performer, “Die Another Day,” remained a potent player with $13.7 million to lift its foreign cume to $143.4 million and its Blighty total to $45.8 million, making “Day” the top grosser of the 20 Bond pix in that territory. Pic posted a record opening in India with $1.1 million at 261 sites and finished second in Indonesia with $488,106 at 73 venues.

Twentieth Century Fox Intl. reported the foreign cume for “Minority Report” hit $196.8 million, including $18 million in Japan, where the Tom Cruise vehicle declined just 28%.

Chinese-language epic “Hero” shattered all-time box office records in its native land Friday, taking in a domestic gross of just under $1.45 million on its first day of release.

The Zhang Yimou-directed pic, known locally as “Ying Xiong,” opened in 200 theaters nationwide and broke attendance records at every one, according to distrib Miramax Films.

In its 26 Beijing runs alone, “Hero” grossed more than $230,000 despite inclement weather. Theaters sold out all shows and even added more showtimes as early as 6 a.m. and as late as 2a.m. to meet the demand.

Pic, set amid the upheaval during the unification of China at the start of the Quin dynasty in 200 B.C., stars action-pic mainstay Jet Li, as well as fellow Chinese thesps Jiang Wen, Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung Chiu Wai.

(Justin Oppelaar in New York contributed to this report.)

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