'League' has 'Extraordinary' opening in Asia

As the summer holidays wind down in Europe, audiences rediscovered the moviegoing habit last week, gravitating to “Pirates of the Caribbean” and the “American Pie” and “Lara Croft” sequels.

Meantime, “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” saw a gung-ho start to its foreign adventures in Asia, benefiting from smarter dating than in the U.S., where it was sunk by “Pirates.”

The Spanish B.O. jumped by 55% over the prior frame, the U.K. improved by 24%, and Germany soared by 50%, admittedly from a low base. Ticket sales in Germany hit 1.5 million after having fallen below 1 million for nine consecutive weekends.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” stole $24.2 million from roughly 2,900 engagements in 16 territories Aug. 15-17, and its cume through Aug. 19 vaulted to $78.6 million.

Swashbuckler posted BVI opening records in Spain (also the industry’s fifth-highest ever), Holland (the market’s eighth-best) and Belgium (No. 10 of all time) and the distrib’s second-biggest live-action debut behind “The Sixth Sense” in France. Gallic auds and crix adore Johnny Depp, with Le Monde raving about the “poetic presence” of this “under-exploited” star.

Fueled by word of mouth, “Pirates” sailed blithely through its soph session in the U.K. and its third sojourns in Japan and Mexico.

Local cop caper Bayside Shakedown 2″ reigned in Japan in its fifth sortie, ahead of Chinese actioner “Hero,” which notched the biggest opening in history for a non-Nippon Asian film. “Hero” has earned an estimated $65 million, and $100 million is a no-brainer with the U.K., France, Spain, Oz and Latin America to come.

“American Wedding” partied hearty in the U.K, marking UIP’s second-highest debut this year behind “8 Mile,” although 16% below the previous edition. Laffer was No. 1 again in its second lap Down Under.

In its international preem, “Freddy vs. Jason” was solid in Blighty despite reviews that branded it a cynical Hollywood marketing ploy bereft of plot. But some exhibs opined the slasher pic would have gained more traction from its potent domestic launch had it been released a week or two after “Pie 3,” which targets the same demo.

“Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life” was the victor in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Taiwan and fairly feisty in Brazil, Portugal, Sweden, Norway and Indonesia. It’s pocketed an estimated $24 million in 21 territories.

“Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” ascended to $225 million in 50 markets, propelled by its second outing in France (despite a hefty drop) and its third in the U.K., Germany and Spain.

Sean Connery starrer “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” conquered South Korea (Fox’s fourth-biggest bow locally) and Singapore, and was a strong No. 2 in the Philippines, just behind “Finding Nemo,” whose debut — a BVI toon record, outrunning “The Lion King” — was boosted by extensive previews. Disney/Pixar pic’s cume is a stellar $62.4 million in 21 Asian and Latino territories.

“Bruce Almighty” commanded $858,000 in six days on 103 screens in Argentina, a BVI record in local currency, trumping “Signs,” and another career high for Jim Carrey. Its cume topped $189 million, with plenty of upside, as Japan and France are ahead.

“Daddy Day Care” drew a fair number of kids and families in Germany and Austria. Eddie Murphy starrer has tended $32 million in 27 markets, highlighted by Australia’s $9.5 million and the U.K.’s $8.3 million.

Heartened by the upturn in Germany, one local booker says, “For the first time in a while, we have quite a good mix with action, comedy, arthouse and family entertainment.” There were healthy turnouts for Gallic import “Swimming Pool” and Kiwi drama “Whale Rider.”

Biz saw a 45% upswing in Italy as many cinemas re-opened after the holidays, and “Final Destination 2″ in its final major market and “Bulletproof Monk” injected a bit of life into the sleepy B.O. “Destination 2″ has cumed $39.4 million, $7 million shy of domestic.

Archie Thomas in London, Christian Kohl in Cologne, Sarah Martin in Paris and Sheri Jennings in Rome contributed to this report.

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