Smaller territories take to ‘Alexander’ bow

Blighty biz sees 46% drop at the B.O., Italian takings falls 21%

“The Incredibles” remained robust amid otherwise lukewarm returns from rival entries last week such as “The Polar Express,” while “Alexander” conquered mid-sized territories as it prepped for entering major markets.

Despite “The Incredibles,” British biz slid 46%, while Italian takings fell 21% and the Gallic biz declined 17%. In Germany, where the Pixar toon hadn’t opened, B.O. edged down 0.8%.

“Alexander” opened at No. 1 in 16 of its 17 markets and generated a two-week cume of $18 million as offshore audiences showed their continuing affection for sword-and-sandal epics. Oliver Stone’s tale of the Macedonian legend opened at No. 1 in Greece, Latvia, Mexico, Norway, Portugal, Serbia, Singapore and the UAE; its soph seshes led in Croatia, Denmark, Malaysia, Russia and Turkey.

Best perf for the Colin Farrell starrer came in Russia, where the 10-day gross hit $6.58 million, making it the market’s eighth-biggest 2004 release. “Alexander” placed second last weekend in Taiwan with $197,451 at 110 playdates for a 10-day cume of $1.9 million; its Mexican debut copped $1.34 million for a 27% share and was 14% above “Gladiator.”

Turkish 10-day cume hit $1.1 million while Swedish takings total $927,357 in that period. The Greek opening weekend numbers appeared impressive with $948,356 at 83 screens — in line with “Troy,” “Harry Potter,” “The Lord of the Rings” and local hits “Touch of Spice” and “The Brides.”

“Alexander” will open in Germany on Dec. 23, followed by South Korea on Dec. 31, France on Jan. 5, the U.K. and Spain on Jan. 7, Italy on Jan. 14 and Japan in early February. A Spanish booker says the date makes sense since the major holiday pics will have played out by then.

“I anticipate a few very good first weeks for ‘Alexander,’ ” the booker predicts. “It’s a big film and a very interesting one, I believe, but I am not sure if it will be in the line of ‘Troy.’ I know that it hasn’t done all that well in the U.S., but I believe that European audiences will like it more than American ones.”

One German exhib opines that the pic, which has received strong coverage in the local press, will show more traction in the Teuton market than in the United States due to its historic themes. An Italo exhib predicts local biz will be “colossal,” based on star appeal and story but in Blighty, industry expectations have been muted following U.S. returns.

As expected, BVI’s “The Incredibles” dominated in major markets with $36.3 million at 4,398 playdates during the Dec. 3-5 weekend. The CGI toon showed solid staying power with second-weekend declines of less than 33% in the U.K., Spain, France and Italy.

Cume for the sixth Pixar pic from two dozen territories through Dec. 8 hit $110.7 million, placing the Pixar CGI toon on track for easily topping $300 million by the end of its run. With school vacations coming soon in many markets and Germany opening this weekend, rival distribs expect that “The Incredibles” will remain at or near the top through the end of the year.

“The Incredibles” also easily surpassed “Polar Express” in head-to-head competition by nearly 3-to-1 in markets such as France, Italy and Spain. Overall, “Polar Express” had cumed $29.06 million in two weeks through Dec. 8 in 25 markets.

One Italian exhib says that “Polar” hasn’t done poorly but would have performed far better had “The Incredibles” not been around. “We haven’t had kid pics out on the market and then there are two of them, so audiences are divided,” he adds.

A Spanish booker notes that the original “Polar Express” story by Chris Von Allsburg is virtually unknown on the Iberian peninsula. “It bowed too close to ‘The Incredibles’ and audiences prefer the guarantee of Disney,” he adds.

In France, “Polar” finished fourth, well behind “The Incredibles” and local entries “36 Quai des Orfevres” and “Narco.” Its lackluster perf was attributed to a saturation of the market by “The Incredibles” as well as a general lack of interest among adults.

“Polar” business appeared more promising in the U.K., where it was showing at three Imax 3-D sites and grossed $201,939 at four playdates. Ten of the 13 shows at the London Imax cinema sold out.

Overall U.K. biz was off 46% from the previous weekend and 19% from the same weekend last year with exhibs reporting that Christmas shopping is denting biz considerably. “The shopping factor is hurting business by at least 10%,” one booker opines. “Shopping mall car parks are full to bursting.”

“Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason” continued to pull down decent offshore numbers with cume topping $112 million as of Dec. 8 — nearly half of that from Blighty with $58 million after four weeks. “The film did good business but we were expecting a bit more,” notes a booker, who also blamed Christmas shopping for pulling away patrons.

BVI’s “National Treasure” posted respectable returns in Oz and Germany, pulling its foreign cume to $16.1 million as of Dec. 8 from seven territories.

Archie Thomas in London, Norma Nebot in Madrid, Ed Meza in Berlin, Liza Klaussman in Paris and Sherri Jennings in Rome contributed to this report.

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