‘Baby’ gets bulk of Oscar booty o’seas

'Fockers' still going strong with cume reaching $186.7 mil

The Oscar halo is already shining on “Million Dollar Baby.” In its fourth week in Australia, the gritty drama’s grosses spiked up by 74% March 1, the day after the delayed Academy Awards telecast, and by 49% March 2.

Co-financier Lakeshore Entertainment, which handles foreign rights, says most distribs are adding prints and doing booster campaigns. The biggest expansions are in the U.K. (from 85 to 250), Italy (an extra 50), Spain (35) and Mexico (20). Exhibs generally expect the four major awards will give “Baby” healthy bounces but some don’t foresee much, if any, uplift from the five lesser trophies for “The Aviator.”

One Italo programmer predicts the gongs will boost both pics’ final tallies by around 15%, while another said Clint Eastwood’s film, which was in its second week, could gain upward of 30%, while “Aviator” was in its fifth.

Eastwood/Hilary Swank/ Morgan Freeman starrer has earned $26 million in 29 territories and could double that after it preems in France, South Korea, Germany and Japan.

“The film will gain much more attention now, more press coverage, more interest from moviegoers, and it will definitely mean an increase in viewers, but by how much is difficult to say,” said one German exhib.

That exec did expect “Ray” and “Aviator” would see some benefit, the latter paradoxically being helped by the media highlighting that it missed the best pic and director nods. One French exhib said the awards would add just 2%-3% to the boxing pic, noting that while the Oscars generate a lot of publicity they don’t add much critical weight.

“Aviator’s” cume ascended to an estimated $82 million and with Japan and Russia ahead seems set to cruise past $100 million. Leonardo DiCaprio starrer flew to the top spot on debut in Argentina and held well in its third flight in Oz.

Blizzards and freezing temps depressed the B.O. in Germany (which fell by 19%), the U.K. (down 24%), France (minus 12%) and Spain (off 6%). But Italy was up by 19%, due largely to “Shark Tale,” whose bow was just 8% below that of “Shrek 2.” The toon’s cume topped $175 million; it wound its voyage March 5 in Japan.

The overseas champ for the fifth consecutive frame, “Meet the Fockers” rang up $20 million in 48 territories, and its cume through March 1 jumped to $186.7 million. The Jay Roach-helmed laffer triumphed in its soph sessions in Germany, Austria and France, although dropping more severely than Gallic execs had hoped.

“Constantine” levitated to $58.4 million after spirited debuts in 11 territories and holdovers in 14 countries. Keanu Reeves/Rachel Weisz starrer reigned in Australia, Mexico and Thailand and in its second sesh in Spain, and bowed briskly in Italy and South Korea.

“Finding Neverland” rose to around $51 million in 32 territories after opening respectably on 50 screens in South Korea and weakly in France.

One Gallic exhib said the saga of “Peter Pan” author J.M. Barrie didn’t resonate strongly with auds but griped the campaign didn’t generate enough buzz for its strengths: Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet and costume drama. Pic romped through its third adventure in Spain but waned in its second in Germany.

“Ray” registered its best opening in France, its last major market, where bookers said it has the right ingredients: an auteur-drive film about the life of a great (and much appreciated) artist, whose darker moments aren’t glossed over. Biopic starring Jamie Foxx had a fair start in South Korea and was passable in weather-blighted Belgium; it’s pocketed a modest $27.2 million.

“Hide and Seek” has unearthed $24 million in 25 markets, seizing the top spots in the U.K., Brazil and Hong Kong. John Polson-helmed thriller opened moderately well in Taiwan but meekly in France.

“Hitch” was No. 1 in South Africa, Taiwan and Israel and buoyed by word of mouth in its second turns in Mexico and Brazil. “Sideways” motored along to $20.5 million after decent preems on a handful of screens in several small Asian markets, but crashed in Mexico. Encouragingly for Fox, in its second tours Alexander Payne’s road trip went up by 11% in Spain and eased by 20% in Italy.

In their first offshore tryouts in the U.K., “Coach Carter” didn’t score badly, given U.S. sports-themed films struggle there and elsewhere and some critics found it “preachy”; and “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou” was so-so, released on too many prints (207) for what is essentially an arthouse pic, according to some exhibs.

“Sophie Scholl,” real-life tale of a young German dissident who battled the Nazis in WWII, had a muted debut in Germany after winning the Silver Bears for female thesp and director at the Berlinale.

But one exec thinks it will have legs, opining, “It’s a heavy subject and there have been a few recent films about the Nazi era, including ‘Downfall’ and ‘Napola.’ But it’s received a lot of attention and we’ve had considerable interest from school groups. It’s not the kind of film people flock to on a Friday night.”

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

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