'Constantine' burns up Asian B.O.; French flock to laffers

A combo of the Chinese New Year holidays in Asia, school vacations in the U.K., Germany and Scandinavia and an injection of fresh blood rejuvenated biz in many territories last week.

Auds in Italy went wild for “Meet the Fockers,” the Gauls were much amused by laffer “Iznogoud” and Asians were hot for Keanu Reeves’ latest turn in “Constantine.” Receipts in Italy shot up by 28%, France gained 14% and Spain and Germany were up 11%. The U.K. B.O. slipped by 7% but was still 11% ahead of the corresponding weekend last year.

“Fockers” was a three-peat as the top title overseas, ringing up $20.5 million from debuts in 10 markets and holdovers in 28. The cume through Feb. 15 flew to $119.7 million, heading for north of $200 million, which will eclipse “Meet the Parents'” final tally of $139.5 million.

The Ben Stiller/Robert De Niro/Dustin Hoffman starrer smashed UIP’s opening record in Italy in dollars, nosing past “Jurassic Park,” which local exhibs attributed to the stellar cast and the pic’s cultural resonance. “Marriage and introducing parents are very strongly felt issues here; these things relate to us, and couples have to confront these family situations in much the same way,” said one booker. The Jay Roach-helmed comedy also bowed at No. 1 in Holland, Greece, Turkey and Poland, but surprisingly was beaten in Norway by “Pooh’s Heffalump Movie.” “Fockers” also reigned in its soph session in Spain and in its third in Blighty.

“Constantine,” featuring Reeves as a supernatural detective, raked in a combined $14 million from South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. It was tops in each except Hong Kong, where it couldn’t catch the second weekend of “The Incredibles.”

Showing more heft overseas than at home, Disney’s “Heffalump” triumphed in Poland and Sweden as well as Norway, and was dandy in Denmark.

In France, “Iznogoud” was propelled by a strong campaign including marketing tie-ins that allowed the laffer to be advertised on TV (which is usually verboten) and by the presence of the popular Jacques Villeret, who died recently.

“The Aviator” flew to an estimated $65 million in 34 territories, and has a shot at reaching $100 million. Martin Scorsese’s epic was the market leader on its debut in Australia, Brazil and New Zealand and strong in Taiwan.

“Finding Neverland” enchanted folks in Spain (although exhibs were hoping for a bit more, given the attractive cast), but was less magnetic in Germany and Mexico. One Teutonic programmer said the Johnny Depp/Kate Winslet starrer’s early 20th-century setting and literary connection may have been too esoteric for mainstream tastes. Marc Forster-helmed drama held admirably in Italy, and its foreign cume levitated to $36 million in 24 markets.

“Sideways” posted healthy per-screen averages as it motored into France, Belgium and Norway, but wasn’t appreciated in Taiwan, limited to 12 prints. Fox’s road trip maintained momentum in its second sojourn in Spain and its third in the U.K and Australia. “The charm of the film operates softly, without ever imposing itself, and ‘Sideways’ ends up tasting like a fine wine. Savor slowly,” gushed one critic in France. A solid arthouse performer, it’s bottled $9.6 million in 18 markets and could bubble up to $25 million-$30 million.

Clint Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby” showed reasonable clout as it entered Brazil and Argentina and in its second outings in Spain and Australia. Hilary Swank starrer has pocketed an estimated $15 million in just 10 territories.

“The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie” drew plenty of kids in the U.K. and a fair number in France. Nick toon has grossed a tidy $35 million in 16 markets after successful runs in Germany, Oz and Mexico, though it’s sinking fast in Spain.

CGI kidpic “The Magic Roundabout” pulled in tykes in Blighty and was buoyed by word of mouth in its second adventure in France. New Line’s “Son of the Mask” had an indifferent world preem in the U.K., but not as bad as feared by some exhibs, who say it’s aimed at 5-year-olds.

Spanish import “The Sea Inside” drowned in the U.K., as one booker uncharitably remarked, “In deepest, darkest winter, who really wants to go see a film about a dying quadriplegic?”

In Germany, local bunny toon “Felix” bounded to No. 1 in its second chapter, classed by one exhib as “the perfect film for the very young and parents across the country. There aren’t many films out there for kids, so when a good one comes out, parents have little choice.”

Winding its tour, “The Bourne Supremacy” trapped a nifty $3.8 million in five days in Japan, elevating its cume to $104.2 million.

At the weekend it was beaten by the third stanza of “Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera.” The tuner has grossed $16.2 million in Japan and is poised to overtake the U.K.’s $17 million as its most lucrative market; its cume climbed to $77.7 million.

Entering its first major territories, “Hide and Seek” grabbed the top spot in Mexico and opened brightly Down Under, where the genre usually isn’t popular; it was well hyped by Aussie director John Polson. Fox’s pic bowed OK in Russia (although well behind “Blade: Trinity”) and Sweden.

After being dismissed as much ado about nothing in Britain, “The Merchant of Venice” had a respectable preem in Italy, where exhibs think it will have legs, appealing to upscale auds.

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

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