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‘Wallace & Gromit’ animates o’seas auds

Pic beat out 'Charlie' during the Oct. 7-9 frame

UIP’s claymation pic “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit” continued summer’s trend of family fare dominating the overseas scene.

Pic beat out Warner Bros.’ “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” to land the international B.O. crown during the Oct. 7-9 frame.

“Wallace” has played particularly well in Australia, where it opened Sept. 15 and has taken in more than $7 million to date.

Mexico was also a bright spot for “Wallace,” and the pic has yet to bow in Blighty, where it is expected to do boffo biz. Pic has so far brought in $4.9 million in its U.K. previews.

Also in Blighty, the blaze at the Aardman warehouse in Bristol has been front-page news, and of course has given the pic a healthy dose of free PR. Bookers are confident the heightened awareness will propel biz.

“The Corpse Bride” and “Nanny McPhee” are two more new pics expected to beef up Blighty B.O., which was off 18% from the previous frame, and 21% compared with the same weekend last year. Those drop-offs were misleading, however, because they don’t take into account the bread “Wallace” scooped up in previews.

With “Wallace” looming in Blighty, UIP sci-fi title “Serenity” took top spot at the box office, riding high on surprisingly strong reviews. Cult title is playing well during the week — boasting $181,000 on Monday, and $195,000 on Tuesday — which points to good word of mouth.

Meantime, Russian horror pic “Night Watch” could only manage to make it to the eighth spot from 184 screens thanks in part to mostly unfavorable notices. But exhibs still praised Fox’s campaign: One booker says the studio “did a great job of concealing the fact (that ‘Night Watch’) is subtitled.”

Buena Vista Intl.’s Brit entry “Kinky Boots,” from the producers of “Calendar Girls,” just about met bookers’ expectations. Reviews for the pic — starring Chiwetel Ejiofor as a transvestite hoofer who helps save an ailing shoe factory — were encouraging. But one exhib says that “due to the slightly risque subject matter — transvestites and general kinkiness,” the pic is “a tough sell.”

“Boots” was made for walking during the week: It took in $117,000 on Monday, and a respectable $170,000 on Tuesday.

Meantime, U.K. epic “Pride & Prejudice” continues to play well.

Roman Polanski’s “Oliver Twist” met modest expectations but could not exceed them. Pic played best in London, and bookers attribute a so-so bow to a perception that “it is an obvious treatment of overly familiar material.” Reviews were respectful, not gushing. Like “Pride,” “Twist” is playing well by attracting tykes in the day and adult film lovers by night.

B.O. also dropped in France by 10% compared with the prior frame. Good weather was partially to blame for the drop, and some top 10 films felt the impact sharply.

Gallic pic “Never Say Never” was down 54%in its second frame. Pic, which received poor reviews but drew auds with stars Gerard Jugnot and Jean Dujardin, suffered from poor word of mouth along with balmy weather, which kept auds away from the movies.

Even so, “Never” landed in second place, highlighting a weak market.

Coming in at No. 1 in France was Miramax and Terry Gilliam’s “The Brothers Grimm,” pulling in a solid $3.2 million in its first week. Pic had a strong $9,085 per-screen average, ensuring that its 356 screens will be upped this week.

Gilliam is a fave in France, and Matt Damon and Monica Bellucci played large roles in drawing French interest. Heath Ledger is not as well known in France.

French are also awaiting Tim Burton’s “Corpse Bride” eagerly. Pic’s PR machine has been hard at work.

Bowing in France last week were Michael Haneke’s Daniel Auteuil/Juliette Binoche starrer “Cache,” which took the No. 3 slot, and John Singleton’s “Four Brothers,” which came in at No. 4.

Good weather also hurt the German box office, which dropped 27% last weekend compared with the prior frame.

“The Brothers Grimm,” the tale of two Teutonic storytelling siblings topped the German charts, squeezing out “The 40 Year Old Virgin.” UIP’s “Virgin” has taken in $4.7 million so far in Germany and has also been playing well in the U.K., where it has topped $13 million.

While “Grimm” was grim for many crix in the U.S., pic “appears to have struck a chord with German audiences,” one exhib notes. “It’s an amusing fairy tale of a movie, and with Matt Damon, Heath Ledger and Monica Bellucci, it has three attractive stars. Terry Gilliam has a small but loyal fan base here.”

“The Dukes of Hazzard,” the only other new entry last week in Germany, opened at No. 6 with $742,140 from 293 copies. “(TV’s ‘Dukes’) was never really that popular here, so not many of today’s filmgoers are even aware that the film is based on the old series,” notes an exhib. “It just looks like another silly comedy to be rented on DVD.”

Italo B.O. was one territory to jump slightly, rising 2% over previous frame’s numbers.

Sony’s “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” made a decent splash. “The film has performed in line with expectations for a horror pic,” one exhib says. “The young public does like this type of film, and it shows in the results.”

Local product performed well in Italy. “Romanzo criminale,” in its second week, increased its biz by 7% showing a solid hold and a cume of x2.2 million.

In Spain, B.O. dipped 22% from the previous frame. That drop was not as big as expected after the smash “Torrente 3” scored Spain’s biggest opening weekend ever and headed into its second frame.

Pic fell 49% but still brought in $4.4 million in its soph sesh. Until “Torrente’s” bow, the biggest Spanish movie of 2005 was “The Longest Penalty in the World” which released March 8 and cumed $6 million.

“Wallace” had a hard time translating with Spanish auds. Pic opened in the third spot there, making $996,070 from 225 prints.

” ‘Wallace and Gromit’ made a disappointing bow,” says one Spanish booker. “But it could have legs, as the (market) lacks animation product.”

(Ed Meza in Germany, Archie Thomas in the U.K., Esther de Prado in Spain, Liza Klaussmann in France and Sheri Jennings in Italy contributed to this report.)

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