‘Johnny English’ makes wide impression

SARS contiunes to disrupt Asian B.O.

Bumbling super spy “Johnny English” and the start of Easter school vacation sparked healthy B.O. bounces in the U.K., Germany and Australia last week, but there were disappointingly modest upticks in other European markets.

Meanwhile, health fears due to the killer SARS virus continued to depress ticket sales in Hong Kong (where biz at one loop has plummeted by 53% since March 24) as well as southern China and to a lesser extent in Singapore and Taiwan.

“Johnny English” was the standout in the April 11-13 frame, nabbing $20 million from 2,873 playdates in 22 markets: No. 1 everywhere except Denmark and New Zealand. Its cume through April 15 raced to $26.5 million. The Rowan Atkinson/John Malkovich/Natalie Imbruglia starrer beat the bows of Atkinson’s 1997 hit “Bean” in the U.K., Spain, Belgium, Israel and Hungary — a remarkable feat as no one expects “Johnny” to soar as high as “Bean’s” $192 million foreign total. In Blighty, where the B.O. shot up by 59% over the prior frame, one booker admitted he underestimated the appeal of Working Title’s laffer, wrongly suspecting it would be too juvenile for mature auds.

In Germany, where attendances rallied after many flat weeks, one programmer enthused, “Rowan Atkinson is much loved, and ‘Johnny English’ is just the kind of romp moviegoers are looking for.”

After dominating the German Film Award noms, comedy “Good Bye, Lenin!” reclaimed second spot in its ninth lap, becoming the first pic to notch 5 million admissions this year (see story, page 13).

“The Jungle Book 2” was a strong second choice for tykes as it swung into the U.K. (level with “Lilo & Stich” and “Atlantis”) and Spain (although just below “Atlantis”). Toon was top dog in Mexico and handy in Oz, and it expanded nicely in its soph session in Italy. The modestly budgeted pic has racked up a nifty $52 million in 33 markets, with Japan the only remaining major territory.

Receipts improved by 12% in Spain, 6% in Italy and just 2% in France, where cross-dressing comedy “Chouchou” reigned for the fourth straight week. Spanish exhibs were glum, noting rookie “Final Destination 2” was just OK and “The Wild Thornberrys” has flopped. New Line’s “Destination” was a bit more potent in France and Greece, and its estimated total reached $24.5 million in 29 markets.

Warner/Village Roadshow’s “Dreamcatcher” didn’t catch on in Germany (dismissed by one programmer as “another bad horror film”) but was pretty good in Italy and Belgium. Stephen King-inspired pic plunged in Oz, hurt by “Johnny English” and “Fat Pizza,” a gross-out comedy inspired by cult TV series “Pizza,” attracting a broad ethnic audience, similar to that which flocked to “The Wog Boy” in 2000. “Kangaroo Jack” was slammed by the critics for its Oz stereotypes and for taking liberties with the country’s geography, and auds seemed unimpressed.

“Daredevil” ascended to an estimated $69 million in 45 markets, helped by its second sojourns in Japan and Italy, despite a big fall in the latter. One Italo exhib opined, “The target audience is young, and it obviously hasn’t taken off with older adults.”

Get ready to welcome two additions to the $100 million club: “Two Weeks Notice,” which has amassed $99.2 million, and “Chicago,” which has whistled up about $95 million.

Sony had a setback in the U.K. as its band-on-the-run pic “S Club Seeing Double” tanked. Exhibs said the eponymous band’s heyday is well past and the film came out too late. But Sony was cheered by its pickup “Carandiru,” helmer Hector Babenco’s prison drama, which smashed the opening record for a local title in Brazil.

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

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