But biz falters below top few titles o'seas

The fall season abroad looked to be gathering steam last weekend, sparked by “Signs,” “Men in Black II,” “Road to Perdition,” “XXX” and even domestic underachiever “Reign of Fire.”

But biz generally was thin beneath the top one or two titles, prompting one U.S. distrib to observe, “Some markets are being driven by a single hit, which isn’t good for exhibition because if you didn’t book that film, you’re hurting.”

The frame’s pacesetter, “Signs” harvested $15.7 million from 2,677 engagements in 25 territories, propelling its cume to $38.4 million.

M. Night Shyamalan’s pic conjured up $5.7 million on 443 screens in the U.K., including sneaks, an all-time record for a BVI live-action release, beating the helmer-writer’s “The Sixth Sense.” The Mel Gibson starrer commanded nearly 50% of the top 10’s receipts, reflecting an unhealthy reliance on one title and sending holdovers like “The Bourne Identity” and “Insomnia” into a tailspin.

‘Signs’ leads way in Mexico

The suspenser spooked Mexico, raking in $2.8 million on 475, setting another BVI live-action record, outgunning “Pearl Harbor” by 22%. It shone in depressed Germany, taking $3.8 million on 839, on par with “Sixth Sense” and “Unbreakable,” repping 40% of the national B.O.

“Signs” mustered a uniformly impressive $670,000 on 79 in Switzerland, $523,000 on 86 in Austria and $250,000 on 35 in Malaysia while powering through its soph sessions in Holland (still No. 1, scoring $1.5 million to date) and Sweden ($1.8 million).

In the final stop of its foreign tour, “Men in Black II” conquered Italy, drumming up $2.6 million on 458, a bit below the original edition. Sci-fi comedy added $5.2 million to its coffers from 2,461 screens in 45 markets, hoisting cume to $230 million.

“About a Boy” befriended a buoyant $1.2 million on 228 in Italy, and its cume topped $63 million, excluding last weekend’s preem in Japan for which figures weren’t available due to a public holiday Monday. The Hugh Grant/Rachel Weisz starrer has romanced a handsome $8.7 million through its fourth lap in Germany; it’s set to launch next month in France, its last major territory.

‘Road’ rules in France

“Road to Perdition” ruled in soft trading in France, arresting $1.4 million on 418 — more than doubling the take of second-placed Gallic rookie “Filles perdues, cheveux gras.” The Tom Hanks starrer purloined a juicy $776,000 on 128 in Korea (trailing local freshmen “Honor of Family” and “Love Story”), and a top-ranked $438,000 on 90 in Taiwan and $240,000 on 50 in Belgium.

The Sam Mendes-helmed period drama typically isn’t opening with all guns blazing but sports sturdy legs, typified by its 27% decline in Spain, where it’s No. 1, collecting $3.4 million in 10 days, and its 29% drop in Germany, earning $3.1 million in 11 days.

Vin Diesel vehicle “XXX” stole a nifty but not exceptional $1.7 million on 300 in Australia, $260,000 on 100 in South Africa and $203,000 on 79 in Turkey — good enough for pole position in each.

“Reign of Fire” was the market leader in Thailand, devouring $640,000 on 114, and in the Philippines with $250,000 on 56. The dragonslayer tale nabbed a swell $450,000 on 68 in South Korea.

‘Freaks’ strong in H.K.

Another limp domestic performer, “Eight Legged Freaks,” is showing more heft overseas, reigning in Hong Kong with $231,000 on 27, despite competition from seven other freshmen. Horror pic’s estimated cume is $20.4 million in 22 countries.

Matt Damon starrer “The Bourne Identity” marshaled a solid $314,000 on 24 in Singapore, $234,000 on 35 in Norway and $208,000 on 44 in New Zealand, but plunged by 44% in the U.K., pocketing $6.5 million in 10 days.

“Minority Report” is fast approaching $100 million, now at $97.3 million, boosted by Russia’s socko $2 million in 10 days, while “Spider-Man” reached $399.9 million, within a whisker of the $400 mill milestone.

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