Oscar noms could spur new auds abroad

Italian exhibs say noms, Globe wins have no B.O. clout

The Academy Award noms figure to be icing on already rich cake for “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” and should help stimulate interest in “Lost in Translation” and “21 Grams.”

It remains to be seen whether the 10 nods will put much wind in the sails of “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World,” which has amassed an estimated $90 million, with Japan and Latin America ahead.

After “Cold Mountain’s” steady but not spectacular runs in the U.K. and Australia, its seven Oscar mentions could help draw folks who might not otherwise be curious to see the Civil War saga as it rolls out in the rest of the world from mid-February.

However exhibs in Italy say neither the noms nor the Golden Globes has any impact on the local B.O.: What really counts are those statuettes to be handed out Feb. 29.

The frame’s champ last weekend, “The Last Samurai” minted an estimated $31.3 million from 5,394 screens in 39 territories and its cume through Jan. 27 topped $213 million. Uniformly strong in Europe, Asia and Latin America and with sundry small markets ahead, the Tom Cruise starrer looks headed for $275 million. Director Ed Zwick’s costumer continued its winning ways in Norway, the Philippines and Argentina and opened in the No. 2 spot in Sweden behind the meteoric “Return of the King.” The samurai saga retained the ascendancy in its eighth stanza in Japan and saw dashing soph sessions in France (still No. 1), Australia (albeit falling more sharply than exhibs expected), Mexico and Brazil.

“The Return of the King” levitated to a majestic $545.1 million and, with Japan slated for Feb. 14, appears capable of hitting $650 million. Peter Jackson-helmed epic rang up an industry record in Italy, 36% bigger than the four-day bow of ” The Two Towers,” and trounced the forerunner’s preem by 53% in Russia. The finale has outgrossed “Towers” in 42 of 54 territories.

“Lost in Translation” has courted an estimated $21 million, buoyed by decent bows on limited prints in Brazil and Mexico and handy holdovers in the U.K., France, Germany and Oz.

Released in a handful of countries, “21 Grams” has pocketed an estimated $11 million. After bagging a sturdy $4.8 million in Mexico, critical fave launched impressively in France and on 40 prints Down Under, and shone in its second turn in Italy. “It’s a difficult film, but it has done well even in multiplexes,” marveled one Italo booker, noting Sean Penn is drawing auds on the heels of the well-received “Mystic River.”

“Scary Movie 3” notched Miramax’s best debut ever in the U.K., beating the combined opening weekends of the first two editions. Spoof has earned a strapping $40 million in 22 territories, including impressive contributions from France and Oz.

Julia Roberts’ admirers turned out in force as “Mona Lisa Smile” was top of the class in Germany, Switzerland and Austria, a healthy second in France and Brazil and third in Holland. “After weeks of ‘guy’ films with lots of swordplay, sorcerers and samurais, viewers were ready for something different,” said one Teutonic programmer. Sony/Revolution pic has grossed $27 million in 29 territories, displaying good playability in its second outing in Spain.

In its offshore preem, “Along Came Polly” was tops in Australia, although some exhibs were hoping for a bigger liftoff after the romantic comedy’s surprisingly stellar U.S. preem. “Underworld” showed a bit of zip in Oz, way ahead of “Torque’s” low-powered entry, while “In America” was all but ignored.

As a primer for its nationwide rollout in the U.K., “Big Fish” platformed at 17 theaters in London, posting a screen average 4% less than that of “A Beautiful Mind,” which may or may not be an omen: That Russell Crowe starrer wasn’t dazzling in Blighty.

Sailing into its final market, “Finding Nemo” set yet another industry animation record in Turkey, unseating “Monsters, Inc.” Disney/Pixar pic cruised to $504. 8 million, the first feature toon to notch half a billion bucks overseas; by Jan. 31 it will have surpassed “Independence Day” to become the eighth biggest title abroad.

“Brother Bear” recorded the second-highest debut for a traditionally-animated pic behind “Mulan” in Hong Kong and BVI’s third best opening after “Nemo” and “Signs” in Poland. “Bear” has snared a juicy $42 million in just 16 countries, highlighted by Mexico’s $12.4 million.

“Peter Pan” fared OK in Singapore but was lost in Hong Kong. Fantasy’s cume is a modest $29 million in 15 markets, led by the U.K.’s solid $14 million and Australia’s disappointing $6.3 million.

“Stuck on You” stuck pretty well in Spain, where the Farrelly brothers have a cult following and auds are partial to low-brow laffers. But Fox’s romp was less appealing in Belgium and Greece; it has collected $17.6 million in 16 markets after reasonable perfs in the U.K. and Mexico but soft results in Germany and Scandinavia.

“The Haunted Mansion” had plenty of visitors in Germany, stunning one exhib who admitted, “It got terrible reviews and it’s a bad film. I don’t understand it, but it’s welcome business.”

After a mediocre start in the U.K., “Paycheck” saw nondescript bows in Germany and Spain. German exhibs were counting on helmer John Woo and the cast to at least guarantee a respectable opening, but execs in Spain weren’t surprised as one said, “Ben Affleck is not a star here and the film hasn’t found an audience.”

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

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