Pic sets record in S. Africa, nabs 37.6 mil cume

The peaks and troughs that characterize each new popcorn season Stateside are now well and truly evident worldwide.

This weekend Sony’s “Spider-Man” completed its worldwide web with the widest-ever rollout in Latin America (except Colombia).

Pic preemed in Europe and Australasia two weeks ago, followed last week by a record-setting South African bow — $467,000 from 100 screens in 3 days — and Japan’s $11 million 4-day total (including previews) from 496 screens.

The 11-day cume from 20 territories (not including Latin America) is $37.6 million.

Scheds are generally schizoid due to Fox’s rollout of “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones” in 73 international territories May 16 and 17, day and date with the U.S.

Not on the Fox list are Japan and South Korea — host countries for the Soccer World Cup (May 31 through June 30) — India, and soccer-mad Latin America where “Spidey” already had the sked.

In Blighty UIP’s “About A Boy” held sway for a third week while newcomers “Slackers,” “I Am Sam” and “Dog Soldiers” failed to impact. “About A Boy’s” total on Working Title’s home turf, the only territory where it has opened, is $15.8 million.

Frighteners normally fare well in the U.K. but local action-horror “Dog Soldiers,” ($990,000 from 313 sites in 3 days) from tyro helmer Neil Marshall didn’t.

Pic is about an army patrol that gets attacked by werewolves in the remote Scottish Highlands. Panned by critics, “I Am Sam” surprised nobody when it mustered just $221,000 from 124 sites — international cume is $40 million from about 20 territories.

“Panic Room” continued its pattern of strong holds, good word of mouth ensured drop of just 27% for an 11-day cume of $7 mil.

Story was even better in France where in week three it dropped just 14% for $5.1 million cume, Belgium dropped 23% in week three and week four Germany and Oz also held well, no doubt in part due to a lack of competition.

“Panic Room’s” 30-territory cume is $44.1 million. Its chance of surpassing the $100 million mark will be evident after its May 18 Japanese preem.

In Germany neither “Hard Ball” nor “The Count of Monte Cristo” made it into the top ten. B.O. witnessed an overall drop in attendance by 39%, to 1.2 million, fanned by good weather and a paucity of product.

One observer described the drop-off as “the 19th-week-itch,” claiming that the 19th week of the year has always been one of the slowest for theaters. The corresponding weekend in 2000 saw 900,000 tix sold in 2001 there were 640,000.

“Blade II” remained atop the totem but suffered a drop in attendance from 700,000 to 200,000 in its soph sess. International cume is at $61 million, with nearly every territory open.

In France the usual May movie blues are in full swing with all eyes to Cannes for a glimmer of excitement.

That said, Gerard Pires’ follow-up from his domestic smash-hit “Taxi,” “Riders”, defied poor reviews to debut atop the chart with $1.8 million from 472 screens.

Pic starring Natasha Henstridge, Stephen Dorff, Steven Berkoff and Bruce Payne tells the tale of gang of young ne’er-do-wells who manage to pull off hold-ups due to their incredible talent in extreme sports.

In Italy the widest new release was New Line’s medical emergency thriller “John Q.,” backed by an action-oriented campaign built around Denzel Washington’s Oscar win.

Local distrib Nexo was upbeat about the result, especially in multiplexes where it premed much stronger that it did in the U.K. Weekend total was $776,315 in 247 theaters international cume is now $15.5 million.

UIP fared well with Josh Hartnett starrer “40 Days and 40 Nights,” which earned a solid screen average and good weekend results, besting “John Q.” and chart-topper “Ice Age” on a per-engagement basis. Other openers from the majors – Fox’s “Soul Survivors” and Warner’s “The Majestic” — were a sorry lot that don’t look to be around long.

Same goes for Medusa’s U.S. indie “The Anniversary Party,” which took a lousy $94,917 on 104 screens. Surprise of the week was Fandango’s pre-World Cup release of Brit biopic “Best,” about 1960s soccer star Georgie Best, which clearly benefited from the Italian mania for the sport with the country’s top screen average of $4,571. Weekend total was $41,141 in nine theaters.

In Spain good weather and rotten films also wreaked havoc with exhibbers hoping “Clones” will mark a ‘before’ and ‘after’ for 2002 Spanish B.O. Best of the new bows was Heather Graham-starrer, the erotic “Killing Me Softly,” which made a so-so $392,114 off 220.

Warner/Roadshow’s “Queen of the Damned” continued its dismal international rollout, cume is now $9.4 million. Preems in Brazil and Mexico last week must have been pretty grim for studio to refuse to release the numbers.

(John Hopewell in Spain, Lee Simkins in the U.K., David Rooney in Italy and Liza Klaussmann in France contributed to this report.)

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