'Potter' still doing well o'seas

Spider-Man and Shrek are ruling the box office world through the power of sequels while Michael Moore shows potent drawing power in the first foreign forays for “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

The dynamic duo of Sony’s “Spider-Man 2″ and DreamWorks’ “Shrek 2″ dominated in most major markets with the former slinging $50.9 million from 6,723 prints in 50 territories over the July 9-11 weekend while the latter was close behind with $49.1 million in 32 markets.

After 14 days, the web slinger sequel had cumed $126.4 million overseas as of July 13; “Shrek 2″ had topped $270 million. Though Sony issued no estimates, insiders believe that “Spider-Man 2″ should top $60 million during the current frame, given that France, Spain and the U.K. are opening, pushing its cume past $200 million.

In Germany, one of the few markets where both blockbusters were screening, both sold about 1 million tickets each, amounting to nearly 80% of the total ducats in the Teutonic market. Spidey won the weekend battle in its opening with $8.7 million while “Shrek 2″ took $6.9 million in its soph sesh.

One German booker of a multiplex chain was pleased with the figures but said that UIP should have selected an earlier start date for “Shrek 2″ rather than lining it up one week before “Spider-Man 2.” As a result, exhibs were forced to choose between UIP’s desire to keep “Shrek 2″ on the biggest screens and the need to clear those for “Spider-Man 2.”

Theater chain Cinemaxx accompanied the Spidey pic with a marketing campaign on Kellogg’s cereals, and the pic’s start was boosted by its gala premiere in Berlin.

In the U.K., exhibs were enthused following strong reviews for “Spider-Man 2″ and the buzz building July 12 London premiere. The consensus called for a $16 million opening weekend and a cume topping $65 million.

One Spanish booker noted that Sony’s gone all out in several key markets for “Spider-Man 2″ with co-stars Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst going to Spain to tubthump the pic.

“That’s crucial for TV coverage,” he adds. “The marketing push has been spectacular and the box office records in the U.S. filter through these days to a lot of spectators.”

The exhib said the only question is whether “Shrek 2″ will still take some wind out of Spidey since the tooner bowed on June 30 in Spain and is going after many of the same moviegoers. “Shrek 2″ pulled in a 14-day Spanish cume of $20.2 million as of July 13.

The best offshore perf for “Shrek 2″ so far is in the U.K. with $54.8 million, including $13.2 million during the most recent weekend. “Shrek 2″ has performed powerfully in Australia with $30.4 million and in Mexico with $25.7 million.

“Shrek 2″ also showed impressive legs in France, where it dominated the weekend with $7.3 million as it lost only 15% in its third frame. The ogre sequel has cumed $33.4 million as of July 13.

But much of the Gallic focus was directed toward “Fahrenheit 9/11,” which pulled in $3.1 million in its first five days on Gallic soil — an amazing score for the pic that opened on a conservative 222 screens. Pic’s average gross per engagement blew the competition out of the water, as it hauled in $13,847 per copy.

Distrib Mars booked the prints in the more strategic theaters around France, guaranteeing that despite the small amount of engagements, those available would be full. Word of mouth is extremely positive for the Bush-bashing doc, critics have been high on the pic and about 150 additional venues will be added this frame.

“Fahrenheit 9/11″ opened exceptionally well in Blighty, too, with $2.4 million at 132 sites, allaying fears that Moore’s pic would be preaching only to the hardcore political followers. Despite the record-breaking opening for a doc, some exhibs faulted distributor Optimum for not being more ambitious but noted that the pic is going out on 50 more screens this frame.

“Fahrenheit” also fired up audiences in Belgium with $575,000 in 31 venues and in French-speaking Switzerland with $280,000 at 35 sites. The doc will debut July 22 in Holland and the following day in Spain, where strong upscale support is anticipated as opposition to the Bush administration is even more vociferous there than in France.

At the other end of the spectrum, “The Stepford Wives” received a chilly welcome in France and pocketed $854,518 at 300 screens in the first five days, coming in at number six on the list. Exhibs opined that Gauls have no knowledge of the original 1975 release and further noted that “Stepford” received lousy reviews from French critics.

“Stepford” fared little better at the Italian box office with $834,406 in its first five days. “The Punisher,” which led the previous frame with a moderate $377,996, dropped 38% on its second weekend and exhibs doubt it has legs to do any significant work in the future.

Italy won’t see “Shrek 2″ until Christmas and “Spider-Man 2″ is being held back until mid-September. Exhib orgs have set up a series of summer movie incentives, including a Thursday price reduction on entrance fees, but without prominent films there isn’t much to lure auds.

“Around the World in 80 Days,” which has underperformed Stateside, has generated moderate offshore biz, finishing second in the U.K. over the weekend with an opening of $3.04 million from 389 prints including previews. “Days” performed well in the United Arab Emirates with $256,000 from 20 prints for the number one position; it’s cumed $6.52 million internationally.

Warner Bros. continued to see solid perfs from “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” with foreign cume hitting $407.8 million as of July 13. Best numbers came from Blighty ($79.7 million), Japan ($55.5 million), France ($45.1 million) and Germany ($44.7 million).

Archie Thomas in London, Christian Kohl in Cologne, Sheri Jennings in Rome, John Hopewell in Madrid and Liza Klaussmann in Paris contributed to this report.

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