Horror scares up auds in U.K., Spain

Blighty auds head for 'Cabin,' France dumps 'Divorce'

Exhibs who pride themselves on being able to accurately forecast how films will perform got some surprises last week, not all of them pleasant.

U.K. bookers were blown away by the preems of “Finding Nemo” and the unheralded “Cabin Fever” as well as the record-breaking London platform of “Kill Bill, Vol 1.”

Programmers in France were sorely disappointed with the turnout for “Le Divorce,” considering the Paris setting and helmer James Ivory’s local rep, despite its failure in the U.S., Blighty and Spain.

“We expected more from this film, but some people didn’t even know it was made by Ivory,” opined one Gallic exhib. “The poster was very bad: They felt they had to add little photos of some of the French actors, and it just didn’t work.”

While Aussie execs were pleased with “Calendar Girls'” debut they were hoping for more after its heady run in its native U.K, and they, along with distrib Hoyts, were floored by the lack of interest in “Gettin’ Square,” a local crime caper toplining David Wenham and Sam Worthington.

Receipts in the U.K. shot up by 45% while France fell by 25% and ailing Germany slipped by 15%.

“Bad Boys II” did its bit to keep pay windows busy, notching No. 1 bows in 10 markets including Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Holland, Belgium, Denmark and Hungary.

“Like all sequels, kids know what they’re getting when they go see ‘Bad Boys II,’ and fortunately Will Smith remains a popular star here. The film should hold well into next week,” said one Teutonic exec.

Actioner, which experienced typical drops in its soph sessions in the U.K. and Spain, has amassed $67.4 million in 41 territories, tracking way ahead of the original which grossed $75.6 million overseas.

“Finding Nemo” surged to $110.1 million, spurred by the U.K. which was BVI’s second-biggest toon opener behind “Toy Story 2” (which launched during holidays) and the industry’s 10th best ever. Fish tale is the all-time animated champ in 15 markets and is yet to play in Continental Europe.

Exhibs were relieved that bootleg “Nemo” DVDs, which had been circulating in the U.K. ever since the pic bowed domestically in May, had no impact on the opening, and that weekend telecasts of soccer and rugby matches did not dampen the B.O.

“Cabin Fever” came in around 30% higher than most execs had projected, benefiting from an effective TV campaign and auds’ appetite for horror.

Despite its 18 rating, “Kill Bill” set a new 3-day record at the UCI Empire Leicester Square, beating “Mission Impossible,” hyped by ubiquitous posters featuring Uma Thurman brandishing a samurai sword. Exhibs were expecting a weekend nationwide haul of more than $5 million for Tarantino’s splatterfest.

“The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” was the victor in Italy, Taiwan and Japan, although the Nippon figure was no better than ordinary in a weak frame.

Italo exhibs weren’t overly impressed with the Sean Connery starrer’s entry and noted its polarizing auds and will probably fall sharply, as happened in Germany and Australia.

Superheroes saga held well enough to retain the lead in its second turn in France, and its cume jumped to $72.1 million in 32 markets, heading for $100 million.

“Spy Kids 3D” drew lotsa kids in Mexico and Brazil and a reasonable number in Japan, elevating cume to $18.2 million in 10 territories.

Strong holdover biz propelled “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” to $322.8 million, while in Germany the adventure sailed past “Armageddon” to rank as producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s most successful pic.

“Freddy vs. Jason” enthralled the Spanish, who love horror, but was less appealing in Italy, where the genre isn’t as popular and one exhib said the title characters are passe. New Line pic has rustled up an estimated $11 million in 15 markets after faring OK in the U.K. and Mexico.

Add France to the list of territories where “Seabiscuit” got off to a slow start, handicapped in the view of one exhib by lack of publicity and a “very American” poster.

But reviews were positive and those who’ve seen the pic like it, so the film might find its legs this week as schools start vacation.

(Archie Thomas in London, Sheri Jennings in Rome, Liza Klaussmann in Paris and Ed Meza in Berlin contributed to this report.)

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