SARS leaves Asian B.O. gasping

Europe, Oz auds flock to 'English'

The start of the Easter school vacation in Europe and Australia and the arrival of “Johnny English” proved a potent combo last weekend, while the B.O. in parts of Asia continued to suffer from auds’ fears of contracting the killer SARS virus.

A spy spoof starring Rowan Atkinson, “Johnny English” nabbed a hair below $20 million from 2,873 playdates in 22 markets, seizing top spot everywhere except Denmark and New Zealand.

While no one expects “Johnny” to reach the heights of Atkinson’s “Mr. Bean” (which minted $192 million internationally), the latest pic actually beat “Bean” bows in the U.K., Spain, Belgium, Israel and Hungary.

Boffo in Blighty

The Working Title production grabbed $5.4 million on 452 screens in Blighty (33% ahead of “Bean” and 5% bigger than “Catch Me If You Can”). “Johnny” nabbed $4.5 million on 778 in Germany (100% higher than “About a Boy”); $1.47 million on 316 in Spain; $1.44 million on 214 in Oz; and $1.2 million on 265 in Italy.

“Johnny” was bonny in Switzerland ($847,000 on 64), Austria ($741,000 on 107), Belgium ($648,000 on 58), Holland ($660,000 on 111), Portugal ($409,000 on 50), Scandinavia (a combined $1.1 million), Russia, Poland and Israel.

“The Jungle Book 2” was a clear second choice for tykes, fetching $2.3 million on 477 in the U.K, $850,000 on 220 in Spain and $250,000 on 255 Down Under. Toon ruled in Mexico with $800,000 on 350 and it pocketed $6.9 million in 33 markets, hoisting cume to $50.2 million, with Japan ahead.

Kiwis take ‘Manhattan’

“Maid in Manhattan” brought in $179,000 on 50 in New Zealand (beating “English’s” $165,000 on 45) and its cume climbed to $49.4 million, with Spain and Brazil opening this weekend.

Warner/Village Roadshow’s “Dreamcatcher” took an uninspiring $1 million on 408 in Germany, a fair $768,000 on 221 in Italy and $190,000 on 35 in Belgium. Stephen King-inspired pic plunged by a worrying 55% in Oz, tallying $1.2 million in 11 days, hurt by Atkinson’s film and local gross-out comedy “Fat Pizza,” which cooked up $700,000 on 101– the market’s best per-screen average.

“Shanghai Knights” drummed up a moderate $625,000 on 183 in Australia and dropped by 43% in the U.K., scoring $2.3 million in 10 days.

In Brazil, helmer Hector Babenco’s prison drama “Carandiru” captured $1 million on 289, a record for a local pic; Sony has worldwide rights via Sony Pictures Classics.

Kowloon blues

In Hong Kong, one exhib says ticket sales have plunged by 53% since the SARS outbreak, lamenting, “The entire situation is unprecedented and sad.” One U.S. distrib estimates the health scare has depressed the B.O. by 15% in both Singapore and Taiwan.

“Daredevil” ascended to an estimated $66.4 million in 45 markets, helped by Japan’s $4.1 million in nine days (off by 30%) and Italy’s $2.4 million in 10 days (down 43%).

Get ready to welcome two additions to the $100 million club: “Two Weeks Notice,” which has amassed $99.1 million, and “Chicago,” which stands at $94.1 million, with Japan opening this weekend.

Local cross-dressing comedy “Chouchou” reigned in France for the fourth consecutive weekend, uncovering $2.2 million, upping the market total to an impressive $16.7 million.

“Final Destination 2” checked into France with a ho-hum $1.4 million on 405, and Spain with a solid $970,000 on 297, elevating its cume to $23.9 million in 29 markets. New Line pic’s best results are the U.K.’s $9.3 million and Germany’s $3.6 million.

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