‘League’ as room to breathe overseas

Actoioner tops 'Pirates,' which hits $600 mil overall

Prospects for overseas box office may not be extraordinary for “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” but they certainly seem more than respectable after the superhero epic ended the seven-week winning streak of “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”

“League” led the weekend with $14.6 million at 3,327 playdates in 34 territories, pushing its foreign cume to $51.45 million. The Sean Connery starrer soon will surpass the somewhat middling Stateside total of $66.3 million and is likely to easily top $100 million in foreign coin by the end of its run.

The top perf for “League” came in Germany with $5.1 million at 706 engagements — nearly double the take for the fifth weekend of “Pirates,” with $3.1 million at 938 playdates.

Connery had actively tubthumped the pic in the market, making a well-publicized appearance at the glitzy premiere in Berlin, and is on tap to make a similar push for the upcoming U.K. launch.

“Obviously the film is very European, and viewers here haven’t forgotten timeless characters like Captain Nemo and Dorian Gray,” noted one exhib. “The premise of the story has definitely sparked curiosity and interest. And Sean Connery still has a lot of loyal fans here. It’s fun to see him playing a 19th-century James Bond figure.”

In France, “League” topped the market with $2.67 million at 552 despite mostly downbeat reviews. Pic easily outperformed Connery’s last, “Finding Forrester,” which opened with $1.2 million in 2001.

In its handling of “League,” Fox spurned a day-and-date worldwide opening, opting for the more traditional distribution pattern on the pic with gradual entry into overseas markets after the domestic rollout. It thus avoided the glut of high-profile summer actioners and was able to fine-tune individual marketing campaigns.

BVI’s “Pirates” continued to plunder B.O. booty with $11.1 million at 4,608 engagements, lifting its foreign cume to $310.1 million. It became the distrib’s third pic to cross the triple-century mark overseas after “The Lion King” and “Armageddon.” With its domestic take at $296.3 million, the Johnny Depp starrer also became the 17th pic ever to go past the $600 million mark worldwide.

Sony’s “Bad Boys II” wound up just behind BVI’s “Pirates” with $10.8 million at 2,336 playdates, taking its foreign cume to $43.5 million.

The Will Smith/Martin Lawrence starrer scooped top spot with an impressive $5.3 million in Blighty (including previews of $701,739) at 383 engagements. Although the original did $8.5 million on its opening weekend and reviews of the sequel were less than glowing, exhibs expressed satisfaction with the “as expected” numbers and cited the fan following generated by the first pic and repeat DVD/vid viewing.

“Bad Boys II” also led in Spain with a $2.9 million opening at 407 playdates, indicating the sequel should easily overtake the original — which made just $4.3 million — during its second weekend. Overall Spanish B.O. was up 26% over the previous frame, thanks mostly to “Bad Boys II,” but the jury’s still out about long-term prospects, one booker said.

“It opened well and there really isn’t another big actioner in Spain until ‘Hollywood Homicide’ opens Oct. 24,” the booker said. “But there’s a limited audience for these kinds of films.”

The strategy to open “League” and “Bad Boys II” in key overseas markets in early fall means the pair will have generated most of their foreign coin by the time Warner Bros. stages its massive global day-and-date opening of “The Matrix Revolutions” on Nov. 5.

UIP’s “American Wedding” continued to catch B.O. bouquets with $6.7 million at 1,823 to push its foreign cume to nearly $86 million. Third “American Pie” pic easily topped rivals in Italy with $2.1 million at 356 sites as that market’s overall box office surged 33% over the previous frame.

Italo exhibs were pleased with the results, noting the “Wedding” numbers matched the second frame of “Minority Report” on the same weekend of 2002.

BVI’s second frame of “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” shot up respectable grosses with $5.6 million at 1,193 screens, led by a No. 1 showing in Russia with $1 million at 140 playdates. That was the distrib’s second highest opening in the territory behind “Pirates.”

UIP’s “The Italian Job” also remained a significant B.O. vehicle with $4.7 million at 1,543 playdates; it weathered the storm thrown up by “Bad Boys 2” admirably. With “Bad Boys” targeting its natural aud, “Job” slipped a respectable 32% in its third U.K. frame to finished with $1.6 million amid relatively harsh critical notices.

Warner’s “Matchstick Men” ignited moderate returns with $3.6 million at 1,824 playdates, lifting foreign cume to $10.9 million. In Italy, the caper comedy declined just 4% in its second frame with one exhib noting “Matchstick” appeals to an audience interested in a film directed by Ridley Scott and of a different type from “American Wedding.”

BVI’s “Calendar Girls” continued to show good legs as it dipped 20% in its fifth frame with $2.3 million to lift its Brit cume to $21.1 million, leading U.K. exhibs to note the pic has achieved a breakout from its core audience.

The distrib’s “Finding Nemo” almost managed to crash the U.K. top 10 from only two sites. Toon took a whopping $255,164 and looks set to blow the box office out of the water in the Oct. 10-12 frame when BVI unfurls “Nemo” in a saturation-level 800 additional playdates.

BVI’s “Carmen,” the latest take on Merimee’s classic tale of lust and jealousy, had a muscular three-day Spanish opening of $1.3 million at 180 sites.

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

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