Monster mash cashes in with $55.3 mil in 41 countries

“Van Helsing” ignited overseas even more potently than many exhibs predicted — and they expect the monster pic generally to experience mild drops of 30%-40% in its second weekend as “Troy” sets sail in 47 territories.

Some bookers were sure that Warners’ Brad Pitt starrer would bow bigger than Universal’s action-adventure, despite “Troy’s” higher age rating in some places and longer running time, which will restrict the number of sessions.

In Italy, where the Trojan War epic launches May 21, one programmer forecasts a $6 million opening weekend and believes it could have the earning potential of a “Spider-Man.”

“Van Helsing” snared $55.3 million from 5,254 playdates in 41 countries May 7-9 and its cume through May 11 flew to $64.3 million. That was an opened weekend record for Universal, outgunning “The Mummy” ($46.4 million) and “The Mummy Returns” ($47.2 million) in those markets; neither went out day-and-date.

The $51.7 million weekend tally in UIP’s 38 countries ranks as a company high, dethroning “Mission: Impossible 2’s” $43.8 million opener in 31 nations in 2000.

The balance of “Helsing’s” haul was generated by Russia (a stellar $3.3 million in four days), the Philippines and Iceland, where it’s handled by indies. It’s estimated Universal reduced its exposure to the pricey pic by around $30 million by laying off rights to those territories plus Japan and South Korea.

Hugh Jackman/Kate Beckinsale starrer notched UIP records in Spain (slaying “Hannibal”) and Italy (sinking “Cast Away”) and marked U’s second biggest in the U.K. behind “Love Actually.”

Vampire hunter tale’s entry resulted in dramatic B.O. bounces of 47% in Germany and 46% in Blighty but moderate spikes in Spain (15%), Italy (11%) and France (2%).

“We honestly didn’t expect this kind of business; it’s a fun roller coaster of a movie,” says one elated Teutonic exhib, who anticipated a second weekend drop of only 20%-30%. “Troy” will play better with femmes thanks to the Pitt factor, he thinks.

One Gallic exhib remarks, “I didn’t expect it to do as well as it did; while it wasn’t a historic score, it was very solid.” But he adds, “I think it will have a career like ‘The Mummy,’ which opened well but fell very quickly.”

In Oz, one programmer is hoping for a $5 million-$6 million debut for “Troy” and assumes “Van” would tumble by around 50%.

The monsters mashed “Kill Bill Vol. 2,” which plummeted in its third stanzas in the U.K., Japan, Germany, Australia and Italy. Miramax’s splatterfest has trapped $50.5 million in 30 territories and is unlikely to catch the original’s $110.2 million.

While “Helsing” dominated the biz in most markets, it was another banner frame for local films in France as holdovers “Les Choristes,” “Mariages!,” the English-lingo “Two Brothers” and “La grande seduction” showed remarkable resilience.

“50 First Dates” continued to draw females fleeing the creature feature in the U.K, Germany, Austria, Brazil and Down Under. But the romantic comedy isn’t winning many hearts in Spain, where Adam Sandler is relatively unknown; its cume climbed to $55 million in 33 markets.

“The Passion of the Christ” levitated to $223 million, boosted by an impressive preem in India and Japan’s soph session, where it’s performing admirably considering about only 1% of the population is Christian. Indian distrib Kintop was projecting a seven-day gross of around $250,000 on 51 prints, despite the late release and high levels of video piracy. Religious drama got glowing reviews from the major media in India, and Kintop is confident it will have a long run.

(Norma Nebot in Madrid, Ed Meza in Berlin, Liza Klaussmann in Paris, Sheri Jennings in Rome and Archie Thomas in London contributed to this report.)

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