Will third ‘Matrix’ hold until holidays?

Europe has mixed expectations for sci-fi franchise

Exhibs’ hopes generally were pretty high as “The Matrix Revolutions” began its global invasion Nov. 5 — but not sky-high among those who feared folks who felt let down by the second installment won’t be clamoring to catch the finale.

Among the most bullish assessments, one Italo booker enthused, “Our advance sales tickets were at 10,000 a month ago. We feel sure that whoever saw the second one can’t not go to see the third.” He predicted the Wachowski brothers’ epic will run strongly for at least four weeks, then hang on until Christmas, enjoying greater longevity than “The Matrix Reloaded,” whose earning power was cut short by the summer slowdown.

There was less enthusiasm from one Teutonic exec, who noted, “The early reviews here have been negative and the general consensus is that the franchise was hurt by the cheesy ‘Reloaded,’ which alienated many core fans of the first pic. ‘Revolutions’ is not likely to bring them back.

Prior to the “Matrix” launch, overall biz was fairly buoyant, sustained by school vacations in some Euro territories and muscular holdovers by “Intolerable Cruelty,” “Kill Bill Vol. 1” and local clicks in France, Germany and South Korea.

“Intolerable Cruelty” was the top earner in the Oct. 31-Nov. 2 frame, wooing $10.8 million from 2,065 playdates in 24 countries, and its cume through Nov. 4 flew to $38.3 million, overtaking the derisory U.S. total. George Clooney/Catherine Zeta-Jones starrer had a handy bow in South Korea (about level with “Bridget Jones’s Diary”), although it trailed Korean faves “Great Inheritance” and “Hwang San Bul.” Romantic comedy stayed perky in its soph sessions in Spain and Australia (No. 1 in both) and in Germany (behind the third outing of “The Miracle of Bern”), Belgium and Holland. It triumphed again in its third lap in Italy, where one exhib said, “We haven’t had a purely commercial film like this, where the audience can come in and have a laugh, since ‘Bruce Almighty.'”

Beginning its offshore campaign in the U.K., “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” was a solid No. 2 behind the meteoric fourth frame of “Finding Nemo.” Focus Features was pleased with the turnout for the R-rated pic, although it was below the openings of “Scream 2” and “Scream 3” and the first “Jeepers Creepers.” Yet some British bookers were disappointed, given auds’ fondness for horror, the Halloween release date and its stellar U.S. results.

In its world preem, “In America,” director Jim Sheridan’s semi-autobiographical tale of an Irish family settling in New York, resonated strongly in Ireland and in London but was much less alluring in other key U.K. cities, playing on a total of 87 screens . It’s “too sugary for cynical (U.K.) audiences,” opined one exhib; Fox will expand the release over the coming weeks. Helmer Jane Campion’s steamy “In the Cut” seduced a fair number of Londoners but didn’t set pulses racing in the provinces. It may have suffered from the wave of negative publicity following its London Film Fest debut, some of it bitchily directed against star Meg Ryan.

Gallic comedy “Tais-toi” reigned in its second week in France, riding on the popularity of headliners Gerard Depardieu and Jean Reno. Woody Allen’s admirers turned out in reasonable numbers for the debut of “Anything Else” in France, although slightly down on those who visited his previous pic, “Hollywood Ending.”

Beginning its foreign excursion, “The Human Stain” appealed to upscale auds in Spain, drawn by marquee names Nicole Kidman, whose standing locally is super-high since “The Others,” and Anthony Hopkins. But the romantic thriller based on the Philip Roth novel made less impression in France, where crix lauded the performances but dissed pic as dry and overly academic.

After respectable openings, “Mystic River” held superbly in its soph sessions in Italy, Spain and Holland and in its third in France.

“Kill Bill Vol. 1” kicked along to $47.4 million in 21 territories, driven by a dandy debut in Belgium (Miramax’s third-biggest locally behind “Scary Movie” and “Scream 2”), lusty second stanzas in Japan and Italy and its third rounds in the U.K., Germany and Australia.

“Runaway Jury” opened better in Oz than most courtroom dramas of the past few years but not by much, typifying the waning appeal of the genre.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” sailed along to $339 million, helped by its Turkish entry which was a record for producer Jerry Bruckheimer and BVI’s second-best behind “Signs.”

From ongoing markets, “Bad Boys II’ raced to $111.1 million, with Japan ahead, and “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” hit $106.6 million.

“Daddy Day Care” pulled in a pleasing number of tykes and families in Italy, its last major stop in a foreign tour that has generated a so-so $55.4 million. Add Italy to the lengthy list of markets where “Seabiscuit” barely got out of the starting gates. Italo exhibs had no great hopes for the Tobey Maguire starrer after its U.S. flop, but were shocked at the lack of interest. “We’re still trying to figure out what happened,” said one. “Maybe audiences just didn’t feel attracted to a 1950s America tale, horses and all of that…”

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

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