U.S. box office slump crosses ocean

'Chi' cooking in Oz, Europe

It had to happen. The prolonged U.S. B.O. downturn has percolated overseas — although there was a modest uptick in some markets last weekend thanks to sturdy bows by “The Recruit” and “The Jungle Book 2” and local entries in Spain and Australia.

Six Academy Awards gave “Chicago” a new lease on life Down Under and in quite a few Euro markets, and it bowed brightly in South Korea.

“The Recruit” marshaled $1.4 million on 382 locations in the U.K. ($1.5 million including the one-week West End run, No. 1 a soft frame), $1.1 million on 251 in Italy, $402,000 on 56 in Belgium and $390,000 on 70 in Holland. Spy thriller fell by a moderate 28% in Spain, scoring $2.1 million in 10 days, and by 45% in Mexico, for $1.8 million in ditto.

Rob Schneider caper “The Hot Chick” was the surprising victor in Mexico, taking $1.1 million on 280, 8% bigger than “Meet the Parents.”

‘Jungle’ jumps

The “Jungle Book” sequel drummed up $2.6 million on 673 in Germany, on par with “Mulan,” and $400,000 on 92 in Austria, level with “Toy Story 2” and 15% bigger than “Shrek.” Toon has drawn $36.4 million in 29 markets and looks capable of reaching $80 million plus.

Working Title/Universal’s bushranger tale “Ned Kelly” mustered $1.5 million on 352 in Australia, the third best bow for an Oz pic behind “Moulin Rouge” and “The Dish,” but around 15% less than some exhibs had hoped.

“Chicago” rang up $6.4 million from 2,594 engagements, hoisting cume to $80.1 million in 46 territories. Tuner kicked into South Korea with $1.2 million on 150, a Miramax opening record locally, surpassing “Shaolin Soccer.” Oscar kudos lifted the pic by 44% in its 10th weekend wide in Blighty, upping the total to $25 million; and by 28% in its 10th stanza in Australia, cuming $9.8 million. There were also noticeable bumps in Germany ($3.7 million through its fifth, up 37%) Italy ($5.2 million after its sixth, jumping 30%), Norway, Belgium and Argentina.

Columbia TriStar pick-up “El Oro de Moscu,” comedy set during the Spanish Civil War, rustled up $1.5 million on 307 — the second biggest entry by a local pic in the past two years behind “Mortadelo & Filemon.”

‘Chouchou’ leads

Gallic laffer “Chouchou” continued to dominate France, commanding 46% of the B.O. as it pocketed $4 million in its soph session, dropping just 17% excluding previews, for a cume of $10.1 million.

“The Hours” advanced to $32.8 million in 41 countries, helped by Germany’s reasonable $635,000 bow on just 120 screens, France’s handy $1.8 million in 11 days, Italy’s $4.2 million after its fourth chapter and Spain’s $5.2 million through its fifth.

“Catch Me If You Can” retained pole position in Japan, trapping $2.3 million (off 35%), bringing the 10-day market total to $9.1 million; cume vaulted to $161.2 million, a whisker away from overtaking domestic’s $162.8 million.

“The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” conjured up $2.1 million in its sixth orbit in Japan, lifting the territory’s earnings to $49.3 million, 72% of the original’s lifetime B.O. there. Cume towers at $553.5 million.

‘Devil’ at $48 mil

“Daredevil” captured $6.6 million in 32 territories for 20th Century Fox, boosting cume to an estimated $48 million including New Regency’s markets South Korea and Switzerland. Comicbook actioner saw snappy debuts in the United Arab Emirates ($254,000 on 23), South Africa $251,000 on 65) and Denmark ($197,000 on 60). But the superhero plummeted in its second weekends in Australia (down 54%, tallying $3.3 million to date), France (off 42%, $4.8 million) and Germany (sliding 45%, $3.4 million).

Considering “The Core’s” underwhelming domestic debut, the sci-fier wasn’t a disaster as it launched in the U.K. ($950,000 on 401), Spain ($922,000 on 297) and Mexico ($887,000 on 309).

“Maid in Manhattan” dished up a so-so $268,000 on 74 in Holland and $255,000 on 50 in Belgium, elevating cume to a tasty $39.6 million in 36 territories, with five major markets ahead.

“Cradle 2 the Grave” unearthed $637,000 on 119 in Australia (the frame’s highest per-screen average) and $239,000 on 80 in Thailand, trailing local rookie “Lop Phi Phi Mai Lop.” But the crime caper stole a modest $603,000 on 119 in the U.K. and its opening in Japan was so poor Warner Bros. didn’t bother to report it.

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