See the light o’seas

'Ocean's,' 'Monsters' beat violent pix at B.O.

Audiences overseas keep craving light, bright escapist fare, with Europeans unwilling to pay money to see war sagas or Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Those trends were pretty clear last week as “Ocean’s Eleven” and “Monsters, Inc.” dominated the biz in many markets, “Black Hawk Down” was in the no-go zone in France, Spain and Belgium, and “Collateral Damage” misfired in Italy and Germany.

Meanwhile, “A Beautiful Mind” and “Ali” rolled out in key territories with varying results.

Still the pacesetter, “Ocean’s Eleven” raked in $19.1 million from nearly 4,500 engagements in 46 territories over the Feb. 22-24 weekend, and its cume through Feb. 27 topped $188 million, streaking past domestic.

The ensemble comedy caper reigned in Brazil, stealing $1.6 million in five days on 296, outrunning “The Matrix” and “What Women Want.”

Showing terrif stamina, casino heist had the tills ringing in its second stanza in the U.K., its third in France and its fourth Japan, where it was still No. 1.

“Monsters” manufactured $12.2 million on 2,900 screens in 27 countries, tallying $132.2 million through Feb. 27.

The Disney/Pixar toon smashed the all-time animated record in Israel and retained pole position in its third outings in the U.K. (where it’s now BVI’s second-biggest earner ever, behind “Toy Story 2”) and Spain.

After four weekends in Germany, it has overtaken the “Toy Story” sequel’s lifetime gross there.

“Black Hawk Down” had spirited debuts in Australia (in a close tussle with fellow rookie “Ali”), Taiwan and Mexico. In France, however, the Somalia battle saga faced tough competition from Gallic holdovers “Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra” and “8 Women” as well as “Eleven,” and it took a critical pounding.

“The inverse of Coppola’s ‘Apocalypse Now,’ it makes a mockery of politics and seems like it was conceived to appear on a PlayStation,” sniped one critic. ” ‘Black Hawk Down,’ with a complete absence of political reflection, ends with a lachrymal ode to the heroism of Uncle Sam’s soldiers,” said another.

Its estimated cume is $24.7 million from 21 markets.

“Ali” went wide in the U.K. after its London platform, with mediocre results as exhibs remarked that sports-related films usually struggle to find auds, and it didn’t get much help from the mixed reviews.

“A Beautiful Mind” may have been hurt by surprisingly critical pans in its London platform, but exhibs were expecting it to resonate well in upmarket locations (less so in the sticks) as it expanded to around 340 prints March 1.

The Russell Crowe headliner posted impressive numbers in Italy (the market leader), Spain, South Korea (also No. 1) and Portugal.

Ron Howard’s drama dropped by a mild 21% in its soph session in France (after a tepid entry), and eased by single digits in Belgium, Israel and Finland, portending leggy runs.

After buoyant bows in Korea, Brazil, Mexico and Southeast Asia, “Collateral Damage” hit the wall in Italy and Germany and collapsed in its second weekend in Spain.

One Teutonic exhib opined that Schwarzenegger has joined a “growing list of stars who no longer appeal to today’s younger auds, including Sylvester Stallone, Michael Douglas and Robert Redford.”

Ticket sales in Germany were depressed by a paucity of hits, the diversion of the Winter Olympics, icy, windy weather and end-of-the-month empty pockets.

There was a chilly response to “Run Lola Run” director Tom Tywker’s “Heaven,” romantic drama toplining Cate Blanchett, mirroring the general reaction to its Berlin Intl. Film Festival screening.

In Italy, not even Arnie’s promo visit and the presence of Italo actress Francesca Neri in the female lead piqued much interest in “Damage.”

Surveying the perfs of “Behind Enemy Lines,” “Collateral Damage” and “Black Hawk Down” in Spain, one booker laments, “It’s clear Spaniards still aren’t ready for Yank actioners. I just hope March brings rain and better takings.”

Inevitably slowing down after a phenomenal run, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” peaked at $622.6 million, spurred by China’s socko $6.2 million in four weeks.

There’s still plenty of life left in “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” which levitated to $446.8 million, boosted by Poland’s lucrative $4 million in 12 days and Russia’s $4.9 million in 20 days.

France’s “Amelie” crossed $100 million (helped by Mexico’s tasty $243,000 in four days on 69), the fifth foreign-lingo title to reach that pinnacle overseas in history, joining Gallic compatriot “Asterix & Obelix vs. Caesar,” Japan’s “Spirited Away” and “Princess Mononoke” and Italy’s “Life Is Beautiful.”

“Shallow Hal’s” estimated cume hit $42 million, driven by lusty second turns in Germany and Mexico, Korea’s merry opener and an OK debut in Taiwan. With Japan and France ahead, Fox’s laffer seems headed for north of $55 million.

“Rabbit-Proof Fence,” director Phillip Noyce’s 1930s set saga of the “stolen generation” of Aboriginal children, delivered sturdy numbers as it launched nationally in Oz after sneaks the two previous weekends.

One programmer says its fate rests on how well it holds.

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

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