'Basic,' 'Pool' sink in France; 'Bruce' mighty in Italy

Ticket sales crumpled like the villains in “The Matrix Reloaded” as the sci-fier lost momentum in its soph sessions last week and auds were distracted by hot weather in parts of Europe and inconvenienced by transportation strikes in France.

However, most exhibs were satisfied with the WB/VRP blockbuster’s holds, pointing to its super-wide release pattern, which enabled the vast majority of fans to catch it in the first week. They say word of mouth generally is strong but it’s suffering from censorship ratings (age 15 in the U.K., 16 in Germany) that exclude youngsters who really want to see it but will have to wait for the DVD.

In its third orbit, the Wachowski brothers’ epic sold approximately 9.1 million tickets worth $55.3 million at more than 9,300 screens in 62 countries May 30-June 1, and its estimated cume through June 3 flew to $260 million.

“Reloaded” plummeted by an average of 52% in the major Euro territories and Mexico but the erosion was more mild in Brazil (down 23%), Russia (off 27%) and South Korea (abating by 28% in Seoul). It was tracking 160% ahead of the first “Matrix” in Italy, 148% up in Spain, and 37% bigger in Germany. The sequel raked in $327,000 on 67 screens, including previews, in Indonesia, a WB record locally, beating the original by a whopping 223%.

The U.K. B.O. retreated by 56% on the prior weekend, France dropped by 35%, Spain by 26% and Australia by 21%. Another factor: Few distribs were willing to risk releasing major films in “Reloaded’s” slipstream, so there were blah bows by “Basic” in France and Australia, “Kangaroo Jack” in Germany (“a silly movie for kids, but even kids don’t want to see it,” sniffed one Teutonic booker), John Malkovich headliner “Ripley’s Game” in the U.K. and “Blue Crush” and “Half Past Dead” in Spain.

Gallic critics panned the John Travolta/Samuel L. Jackson starrer “Basic” as akin to a “laborious version of ‘Snake Eyes’,” and although some praised John McTiernan’s visual style, one wondered when the helmer will make a successful comeback. Francois Ozon’s Cannes entry “Swimming Pool” sank in its second lap in France, hardly justifying the distrib’s decision to up the prints from 360 to an even more ambitious 409.

Much to the surprise of exhibs in Italy, “Bruce Almighty” knocked off the second sojourn of the Keanu Reeves starrer, although it debuted on half as many prints, taking a celestial $5.2 million in five days. Laffer set opening records for Jim Carrey there (doubling “The Truman Show”) and in Singapore (surpassing “Liar Liar” by 30%) and the Philippines” (16% ahead of “The Mask.”)

Launched in Malaysia day-and-date with domestic, “Finding Nemo” commanded 80% of the territory’s B.O., drawing $372,000 in six days on 33 screens, a Pixar record, 20% higher than “A Bug’s Life.”

Reigning in its second stanza in Japan, its last major market, “8 Mile” held stoutly despite a typhoon that hit the country. Eminem starrer’s cume edged past domestic’s to $116.9 million — a remarkable feat considering the rapper isn’t a pop culture icon in many territories.

Nearing the end of its foreign tour, “X2: X Men 2″ captured $425,000 in five days on 132 in India, Fox’s third-biggest entry and the industry’s fifth best, and its cume reached $178.2 million.

After a mediocre run Down Under, “Bringing Down the House” redeemed itself with jaunty preems in the U.K. and Mexico. S&M romancer “Secretary” held well in its third outing in Blighty, fueled by strong reviews and a controversy in the arts pages of the broadsheets; provocative poster of a woman in a skimpy skirt, bent over a desk, didn’t hurt the bottom line either.

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

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more