‘Gigli,’ ‘Matchstick Men’ tank in U.K.

'Pirates' still afloat; French tix jump by 29%

The B.O. battleground was littered with corpses last week as U.K. auds shunned the misbegotten “Gigli,” “Matchstick Men” and Aussie outlaw tale “Ned Kelly”; the French said non to “Legally Blonde 2”; and the Spanish were in no mood for “Le Divorce” or “Veronica Guerin.”

Popularity in the U.S. proved no guarantee of success overseas, as “Seabiscuit” discovered in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Hence there were no threats to “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” which ruled for the seventh straight weekend (the longest reign since the “Titanic” marathon of 1998), capturing $13.6 million from 4,500 engagements in 46 markets. Through Sept. 30 cume surged to $295 million, heading for a probable $330 million. Skull-and-crossbones flew atop the B.O. for the fourth consecutive frame in Germany and in its third in Australia. Johnny Depp/Orlando Bloom starrer now ranks as BVI’s biggest live-action release in the U.K., outspooking “The Sixth Sense”; and in Italy, beating “Bruce Almighty.”

Early in its rollout, “S.W.A.T” triumphed in Japan, outgunning “XXX” but a bit below “X-Men 2,” and in South Korea.

France was one of the few bright spots as ticket sales jumped by 29%, propelled chiefly by Jet Li starrer “Hero,” playing to the Gauls’ appetite for Asian actioners and costumers. Also benefiting the pic, “Hero” was christened with the “Spectators’ Label” at the UGC chain (rated by folks who catch an advance screening), which meant it got huge exposure at all UGC sites. Estimated cume hit $93 million, with five major markets to come.

“The Barbarian Invasions” was a strong No. 2 in France, where it’s had a high profile since nabbing the screenplay and actress prizes at the Cannes fest; best Canadian pic nod at the Toronto fest helped too. Critics were divided, some hailing it as a “superb film that makes you laugh and cry” while others felt it was ultra-conventional and “indecently self-satisfied.”

Cashing in on Johnny Depp’s notoriety in “Pirates,” “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” began its offshore adventures smartly in Germany, Austria and the Philippines but less impressively in Blighty, where some exhibs said the pic didn’t get a big push and it should have opened as stoutly as “Underworld” did the prior weekend.

UIP put plenty of effort into “Seabiscuit” in Germany, including extensive screenings designed to build word of mouth. Reviews were positive although some critics found the pic about the champion racehorse overly patriotic. “It’s a great story, but it’s a period film and perhaps not that interesting to German viewers; it might just be too remote,” opined one Teutonic exhib.

“The Italian Job” led the field in Spain, although some bookers were disappointed with its figures, with one blaming the distrib’s decision to use the original title rather than a moniker that better reps the pic. Mark Wahlberg/Charlize Theron held nicely in its second turns in the U.K. and France; estimated cume is a handy $39 million in 30 territories.

“Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life” showed some spunk debuting in Australia but plummeted in its soph sesh in Japan, wounded by “S.W.A.T.” Angelina Jolie starrer has earned a fair $75 million in 42 territories, with Italy the only remaining major market.

There were warm receptions for “American Wedding” in Belgium, Hungary and Thailand, and cume climbed to $77.5 million in 17 countries as the pic has proved a crowd-pleaser in the U.K., Germany, Spain and Holland.

Local Brit comedy “Calendar Girls” flashed its legs in its third stanza in the U.K., but the prospect of watching middle-aged femmes disrobe didn’t grab the Italians or Belgians. In Italy folks can see grannies competing on TV gameshow “Velone,” so as one booker asked, “Why go to the cinema for more and have to pay for admission?”

“The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” conquered Denmark and Malaysia and reigned in its third sojourn in Mexico; Sean Connery vehicle has amassed $35.8 million in 28 markets.

Toni Collette starrer “Japanese Story” (a Samuel Goldwyn Films pickup in the U.S.) saw a handsome world preem in its native Oz, a strong draw in suburban plexes and rural areas as well as arthouses. Aussie comedy “The Wannabes” was unwanted, a disappointing follow-up to director, co-writer and star Nick Giannopoulos’ hit “The Wog Boy.”

Unlike the Brits, Germans and French, Italos sparked to “Matchstick Men,” feeding off its exposure at the Venice fest, their fondness for thrillers and the sizable local followings for director Ridley Scott and topliner Nicolas Cage.

Rave reviews in the U.K. for Scottish-set thriller “Young Adam” didn’t translate to significant B.O. as some execs opined the release was far too wide for what is essentially a raunchy arthouse pic.

Archie Thomas in London, Emiliano De Pablos in Madrid, Liza Klaussmann in Paris, Ed Meza in Berlin and Sheri Jennings in Rome contributed to this report.

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