Eastwood and Tarantino divide Euros

Mixed monies for US helmers

The Brits adore Quentin Tarantino but feel lukewarm about Clint Eastwood, who is revered by the French. The Germans aren’t hip to Tarantino (or violent fare nowadays) and while the director has cult status Down Under, he’s not resonating strongly with traditional action fans.

All that was pretty clear last week as “Kill Bill, Vol. 1” and “Mystic River” gyrated wildly in their first major markets. It was a frenetic frame in France as receipts shot up by 62%, and there was a 9% upswing in Italy and slight gains in Germany, U.K. and Spain, as a bunch of Euro films drew crowds.

Exhibs in Blighty lauded the “blockbuster” numbers for Tarantino’s “Kill Bill, Vol. 1,” crediting the “virtuoso filmmaking” and the saturation campaign, and were delighted with the sizable female turnout. The splatterfest topped the bill in Oz although some bookers were hoping for a bigger bang after the huge media coverage for the visits by helmer and co-star Daryl Hannah. Femme assassin saga suffered from its age 18-plus rating in Germany, where one programmer opined, “This is a kung-fu fantasy, just the kind of film kids want to see, but they can’t.” Pic showed more heft in Austria (benefiting from a less restrictive rating) and Poland, but wasn’t potent in Hong Kong, where Chinese films are dominating.

“Mystic River” gave Eastwood his third-biggest preem in France behind “A Perfect World” and “Space Cowboy” (which both launched on more prints), fueled by crix who saw it as a haunting depiction of America trapped in “an infernal cycle of violence.” One opined it was unjustly ignored at the Cannes fest and another put it on the same pedestal as “Unforgiven.”

The Sean Penn/Tim Robbins/Kevin Bacon starrer did OK in London but was thinly attended elsewhere, disappointing exhibs who said the dark subject matter is a turnoff. “River” chalked up healthy per-screen averages in French-speaking Switzerland (a personal best for Eastwood) and Belgium.

The frame’s champ, “Bad Boys II,” arrested $16.2 million on 4,525 engagements in 50 markets, hoisting cume to $89.2 million. It’ll easily top $100 million but by how much will hinge on how it fares in Japan late next month, its last major stop. Buddy-cop caper ruled in France, Russia and Portugal and in its soph sessions in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and Holland. Although the sequel’s Italian bow nearly doubled that of the original, some exhibs said it’s playing well in urban multiplexes but not in the provinces.

Beginning its offshore travels, “Intolerable Cruelty” reigned in Italy (Universal’s sixth biggest entry locally), fed by buzz from its Venice fest screening and the high profile of George Clooney, who owns a house on Lake Como. Romantic comedy was No. 1 in Brazil and handy in Mexico and German-speaking Switzerland but so-so in action-oriented Taiwan. The Coen brothers’ pic is almost certain to get a much warmer reception in Europe, where folks generally are more partial to that kind of sophisticated humor than Stateside auds. UIP modified the TV spots to accentuate the Coens.

Sony didn’t think “The Rundown” means much overseas and retitled it “Welcome to the Jungle” or variations of that. The Rock headliner was NO. 1 in Singapore and Malaysia, without setting either market alight, but, oddly, corpsed in Taiwan.

Driven chiefly by a buoyant opening in France, “American Wedding’s” cume climbed to $101.4 million in 40 markets, marking Universal’s fifth release this year to cross the century, joining “8 Mile,” “Johnny English,” “The Hulk” and “2 Fast 2 Furious,” and the industry’s 19th.

“Finding Nemo” surged to $124.7 million in 26 territories, buoyed by its socko second outing in the U.K., with continental Europe and Japan ahead.

“The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” levitated to $87.3 million in 35 countries, redeeming domestic’s puny $66.4 million — testimony largely to Sean Connery’s undimmed stature overseas. U.K. exhibs who had feared the Fox film would be a train wreck were thrilled with the opening, and one noted it’s drawing young males who are “too embarrassed” to go to “Nemo” and too young to see “Kill Bill.”

Teutonic auds embraced “The Miracle of Bern,” saga of a child’s relationship with his estranged father, set against the 1954 World Cup soccer championship (when underdog Germany defeat Hungary.) One booker said it drew people who rarely go to the cinema, but some soccer fans weren’t happy as they expected more football and less family drama.

Gauls were curious to catch “Janis and John,” actress Marie Trintignant’s last film before she died Aug. 1 after a violent fight with her b.f. Bertrand Cantet, lead singer of rock band Noir Desir. It’s a comedy about a small-time crook who has his wife and an out-of-work actor masquerade as Janis Joplin and John Lennon to swindle his 1960s-fixated cousin out of his inheritance.

Pic is the first directed by Samuel Benchetrit, the ex-husband of Trintignant, and it features her former companion Francois Cluzet as Lennon, as well as her dad, Jean-Louis Trintignant.

Biz in Spain was sustained by rookie “Underworld” (which overshadowed fellow frosh “Once Upon a Time in Mexico”) and sterling holds by local clicks “Football Days,” “Carmen” and “Take My Eyes.” Sexy item “The Dreamers” held stoutly in its second turn in Italy, where helmer Bernardo Bertolucci is a favorite son, but was a snoozer in Spain, where his films usually appeal to a niche aud.

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

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