Big hits leaving little room for other pix

Those rampaging “Pirates of the Caribbean” grabbed most of the B.O. booty last week, leaving few pieces of silver for other titles. That underlines a recurring problem for exhibs: little or no spillover biz beyond the top one or two titles.

“People go to see specific films; they don’t go to the cinema to catch any film,” noted one Madrid booker, who says many Hollywood pics have been underperforming unless they’re original, in the vein of “Pirates” and “Bruce Almighty.” An Italo exhib concurred, “Concentration on one title has been a market tendency for a long time.”

Typifying the B.O. languor, receipts tumbled by about 35% in Spain and Germany while France fell by 30% and Italy dropped 21%.

King of the world for the fifth consecutive weekend, “Pirates” pillaged $29.7 million on 5,139 screens in 43 markets, and its cume through Sept. 16 soared to $244.1 million. With that wind in its sails, swashbuckler is destined to top $300 million. Gore Verbinski-helmed adventure smashed BVI live-action opening records in Australia, New Zealand and Denmark and notched the second-highest debut ever in Greece, seizing $1.2 million in five days on 95, behind the first “Lord of the Rings” pic. It reigned in its soph sessions in Italy, South Korea and Germany, where one exhib marveled, “It’s a terrific picture for all age groups; we have grandparents coming with their grandkids, mothers and fathers and teenagers.”

Without scaling great heights, “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” was the victor in Mexico, Brazil, Thailand, Belgium, India, Argentina and Indonesia. But mixed word of mouth may be a worry for the Sean Connery starrer, judging by its steep drop in Spain, although still No. 1. “League” has captured a respectable $24.1 million in 21 territories.

After a promising one-week platform in London, BVI’s comedy “Calendar Girls” was the pin-up in Blighty, outstripping the bows of “Billy Elliot” and “The Full Monty” (which launched on far fewer screens).

“Bad Boys II” saw fast starts in Sweden and Norway, overtaking the lifetime earnings of the original in both. But the actioner was hurt by an age-18 tag in Mexico after being hobbled by similarly restrictive ratings in Malaysia and Singapore. Cume is $20.8 million in 18 markets, highlighted by South Korea’s $8.2 million.

“Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde” drew a fair number of kids in Oz. The original grossed a modest $45.2 million abroad, so it’s no surprise that the sequel, with its off-putting Washington, D.C., setting, has collected just $22.5 million in 18 territories; the U.K. and Germany have been the brightest spots.

“Bruce Almighty” reigned again in France despite a plunge that reflected the overall soft market. Jim Carrey starrer has earned a lucrative $212.2 million ($193 million in BVI’s markets plus $19.2 million in Spyglass’ territories), with Japan ahead.

Domestic dud “Hollywood Homicide” was DOA in Germany, Austria and Singapore and only fair in Russia and Taiwan after blah runs in Oz, Mexico and the U.K. “For many viewers, it’s just another L.A. cop film, nothing special, and Josh Hartnett is not a big name here,” said one German exhib, who thinks it might do better on video/DVD. It has scraped up a measly $6.7 million in 22 territories.

“Down With Love” wasn’t totally unloved in Spain, but it flopped in France and was so-so in Taiwan and Russia. Renee Zellweger/Ewan McGregor starrer was damned with faint praise by one Gallic critic who found it “luxuriously stupid, totally frivolous and entertaining.”

“Turn Left Turn Right,” a romantic comedy co-directed by Johnnie To and co-produced by Warner Bros., triumphed in its native Hong Kong, wooing $1.2 million in five days on 38, and was sturdy in Singapore.

Marketed in France as an arthouse pic, German import “Good Bye, Lenin!” showed its appeal is considerably broader with a socko debut on 89 screens. After an impressive sojourn in Ireland and the U.K., “Veronica Guerin” struggled for air in Germany, stifled by lack of awareness of the real-life saga of the Irish journo whose investigations into the drug trade led to her murder.

“Good Morning, Night,” a fictional take on the 1978 abduction and murder of Italo Prime Minister Aldo Moro, held strongly in Italy, spurred by media gripes about its failure to win the top prize at the Venice fest and promo efforts by distrib RAI 01.

(Ed Meza in Berlin, Emiliano De Pablos in Madrid, Liza Klaussmann in Paris and Sheri Jennings in Rome contributed to this report.)

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