‘Interpreter’ translates well at o’seas B.O.

'Robots' still solid in U.K., Mexico, Oz

“The Interpreter” translated to healthy offshore business and Vin Diesel’s “The Pacifier” provided steady returns at an otherwise mild mid-spring frame at the international box office.

The weekend’s typically lukewarm takings generated little surprise as the season draws to a close, with exhibs awaiting day-and-date tentpoles such as Sony’s “XXX: State of the Union” on April 29, Fox’s “Kingdom of Heaven” May 6 and its “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” May 19, Warner’s “Batman Begins” June 17 and UIP’s “War of the Worlds” June 29.

UIP’s “The Interpreter” turned in a solid performance with $12.6 million at 2,378 playdates in 35 territories during the Friday-Sunday period, as the U.N.-set thriller opened in 19 new markets. As of April 26, foreign cume had hit $27.56 million, with its best take by far in the U.K. at $7.14 million.

In Blighty, “The Interpreter” provided the single bright spot: Overall biz was down 12% from the previous weekend and off 8% from the same weekend last year. Exhibs expressed hope that the April 29 openings of BVI’s “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and “XXX: State of the Union” during the bank holiday weekend can generate some much-needed momentum.

“The Interpreter” dipped just 24% in its soph sesh in the U.K. and retained the top spot by a big margin, with exhibs pointing to the casting of Sean Penn alongside Nicole Kidman. “This is a classic 2+2=5 box office situation: Although their last two pics did not totally connect with audiences in the territory, Kidman alongside Penn is a real crowd-pleaser,” one Blighty booker asserted.

Despite the strong hold, U.K. exhibs opine “The Interpreter” is benefiting mostly from being the most notable release in a soft market.

“The Interpreter,” which led Stateside with $22.8 million on its opening frame April 22-24, showed decent soph sesh legs in many offshore markets: It slipped a mere 9% in Oz, 24% in the Netherlands, 27% in Poland, 28% in Portugal, 11% in Sweden and 18% in Switzerland.

Sydney Pollack-helmed thriller opened at the top in Germany with a 23% share. One Teuton exhib cited Kidman’s wide appeal among local moviegoers along with a glitzy premiere in Berlin — which drew Kidman and Pollack — as a boost, along with the timeliness of being set at U.N headquarters.

In Greece, where pic opened a week earlier than any other market on April 8, the third frame of “The Interpreter” declined 43% to $213,467 at 48 engagements; cume on April 26 totaled $1.53 million.

“The Pacifier” continued to mirror its successful Stateside run ($107 million as of April 26) with respectable returns in offshore markets, taking in $9 million at 2,400 screens in 22 territories during the weekend. Its opening in Mexico was particularly dominant: It matched combined grosses of the next three pics. “The Pacifier” appears likely to keep on tapping into the same family audience as Fox’s “Robots” has during the early spring.

The CGI toon grossed a still-solid $4.8 million at 4,300 playdates in 53 markets during the weekend as it crossed the $100 million mark in offshore cume. “Robots” racked up $120 in the U.S. and went on conquer the U.K. with $22 million as of April 26, Mexico with $10.4 million, Australia with $10.2 million, Germany and Spain with $9.3 million each and France with $6 million. “Robots” will open in August in China, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea.

Sony’s durable “Hitch” underscored its status as 2005’s most powerful draw to date with $3 million at 2,300 sites in 60 offshore territories. As of April 26, the Will Smith starrer’s offshore cume hit $176.7 million to eclipse the domestic total.

UIP’s “Sahara” offered little surprise in a quintet of foreign markets, with performances in line with expectations, led by Blighty with $7.05 million after 18 days and $3.37 million in Oz after 19. Launches in Italy and Spain generated solid but not spectacular results, with both benefiting from the popularity of Spanish star Penelope Cruz.

Spanish box office fell 11% as bookers indicated they were hoping for better results for “Sahara” after Cruz and costar Matthew McConaughey came to Spain to promote the film.

One Italo exhib also noted Cruz carries residual goodwill from toplining Italian film “Don’t Move,” for which she won the David di Donatello, the nation’s highest film honor.

But other exhibs noted overall weekend business registered a 13% drop for the Italian market, which is already gearing up for summer crowd-pleasers. Bookers view Italian day-and-date releases as a major victory after many years of trying to convince distribbers not to hold back the Italian release of big summer blockbusters.

German exhibs also lamented the lack of major blockbuster power at the B.O., as weekend revenue dropped 5%. Local comedy “Barfuss” is holding well, but exhibs stressed it’s benefiting from a lack of strong competition and won’t match other recent German hits like “Der Wixxer,” “Spaceship Surprise” and “Downfall.”

The U.K. saw impressive performance from the opener of Bollywood entry “Wacq” with $396,428 at 34 playdates for an average of $11,659. The Eros release faces competition this weekend from “Kaal.”

In France, Gallic box office was off 7%, even with local surfing comedy “Brice de Nice” continuing to draw decently after three weeks; French exhibs predicting pic will hang in there for a while longer. “We’re still seeing full theaters outside of the university towns, and the adolescent audience is still going strong there,” one said.

French thriller “The Empire of the Wolves” opened with an acceptable bow, though distribs may have been disappointed given the relatively wide launch of 600 screens. French fave Jean Reno stars.

BVI’s “Garden State” grossed a solid $855,149 at 109 playdates amid good word of mouth from across the Atlantic as well as very strong reviews in Gaul. “A cult film about a generation has just appeared. It’s called ‘Garden State.’ Don’t miss it,” wrote the critic for French mag Brazil.

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

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