Early opening pays off for ‘Interpreter’

'Pacifier,' 'Ring' continue to draw o'seas auds

An eclectic trio of pics — “The Pacifier,” “The Interpreter” and “The Ring Two” — generated most of the vitality in offshore markets during an otherwise sleepy midspring period.

Key European markets registered declines, with Germany off 26.7%, Italy sliding 12%, France down 10% and the U.K. off 7%, while Spain posted a 6% gain.

Performances were typical for the period, with moviegoers awaiting the launch of summer blockbuster season, but chilly compared with outsize totals of the same frame of 2004, which saw an Easter weekend dominated by “The Passion of the Christ” with $25 million in 53 markets to lift its cume to $162.5 million.

“There hasn’t been a big event film that brings auds out to recuperate this slow spring,” one Italian exhibitor said.

“The Pacifier” narrowly led the April 15-17 period with $9.1 million at 1,908 engagements in 22 territories, with the top numbers coming from Germany, where the comedy was titled “Der Babynator” and marketed as a an Arnold Schwarzenegger-type comedy along the lines of “Kindergarten Cop.” Teuton exhibs aren’t predicting long legs, however.

“There were no other new films last week, so it didn’t have any competition,” one noted. “We don’t expect it to hold very strongly, but it did attract young viewers who are familiar with Vin Diesel.”

“The Pacifier,” which has topped $103 million domestically, has generated its top offshore total in Australia with a $5.7 million cume after 25 days. Its fourth frame topped UIP’s launch of Nicole Kidman’s “The Interpreter” — but Oz was the only major market where “The Interpreter” failed to finish first.

UIP reported “The Interpreter” had cumed $11.38 million in 16 offshore territories as of April 19, in a rare instance of the foreign launch preceding the domestic. Universal had originally planned to release the thriller in February, but when it was pushed back to April 22, UIP decided to retain the mid-April launches due to lack of competition and Kidman’s availability to promote the pic.

Best results came in Blighty, where the thriller scored 50% better than opening weekend projections. Exhibs credited UIP with a solid campaign and noted the pic and Kidman received great coverage from the London preem, which took place a day before release.

” ‘The Interpreter’ capitalized on a marketplace there for the taking,” one exhib opined.

In Spain, “The Interpreter” easily topped the soph sesh of “The Pacifier” and the third frame of “The Ring Two.” UIP targeted a core upscale 25-39 demo, and focused on ads in financial dailies and promo tie-ins with a bank, Internet and cell phone partners.

Kidman pics have a history of strong performance in Spain, with “Cold Mountain” and “The Hours” taking in far higher grosses than in Germany or France. Exhibs also asserted that only Kidman and Julia Roberts possess the drawing power among femme stars to open a film in Spain.

Bookers believe “The Interpreter” can retain respectable numbers in coming weeks, since Spain’s film fans also admire director Sydney Pollack and co-star Sean Penn, who received a San Sebastian fest lifetime tribute two years ago.

“The Ring Two” continued scaring up significant grosses for UIP, with $69.3 million as of April 19. The sequel easily led in Italy, where it performed better than other recent horror titles such as “The Eye 2.”

Italo exhibs explained “Ring 2” benefited from the solid performance of the first edition, and noted the film has its strongest appeal with teenagers.

In France, local surfing comedy “Brice de Nice” dominated business, with $14.5 million in a dozen days, with a 31% drop in its soph sesh, outperforming recent comedies “Iznogoud” and “The Daltons.” Exhibs attributed the solid numbers partly to unusual marketing by distrib TFM, a joint venture between TF1 and Miramax that used Internet fan sites and flyers in high schools around the country.

French auds also continued to show respectable support for “Million Dollar Baby,” which has grossed $14.26 million after four weeks there. Clint Eastwood’s Oscar winner has been programmed on an unusually high number of French screens for an auteur film, with 450 screens its first week and 525 its fourth. Pic’s offshore cume is $92 million as of April 20.

Rather than go day-and-date in all markets as Sony will next weekend with “XXX: State of the Union,” distribs have been limiting openings for other pics to targeted territories. Fox, for example, scored well in the U.K. with “The Amityville Horror,” which matched previous Fox release “Hide and Seek” despite concerns the genre is overexposed.

“Sahara” dropped a respectable 27% in Blighty. Pleased exhibs attribute the success to the pic’s “all-day appeal and a recognizable cast.”

“Be Cool” continued to post lukewarm numbers for Fox, with a foreign cume of $28.3 million as of April 19.

Italy saw a downbeat launch for “In Good Company.” Bookers said its campaign should have focused more on stars Dennis Quaid and Scarlett Johansson.

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

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