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Global filmgoers await ‘Episode III’ bow

Kingdom dominates biz during May 13-15 frame

“Kingdom of Heaven” remained a solid if not spectacular performer in its second week in international markets as moviegoers’ attention started to shift towards “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith.”

“Kingdom” dominated business during the May 13-15 frame with an estimated $27.2 million at 6,700 playdates in 98 markets, representing a 49% decline from its launch weekend. Ridley Scott’s Crusades epic had cumed $112 million offshore as of May 17 — more than triple its 12-day domestic take of $36 million.

With the massive grosses expected from “Star Wars,” distribs have shied away from wide openings of any significant titles other than “Kingdom of Heaven” during the past two frames. As a result, biz softened in key markets with Germany and France both down 32%, the U.K. falling 23% and Spain sliding 9%.

“The new ‘Star Wars’ will be exactly what we need at the moment — a real blockbuster,” a German booker asserted.

And exhibs aren’t remotely concerned over the lack of competition for “Star Wars.” “There’s no point in anyone contending with it for the time being,” one U.K. exhib explained.

Distribs believe “Kingdom of Heaven,” starring Orlando Bloom, should continue to generate respectable numbers for several more frames even amid the “Star Wars” frenzy.

“Kingdom” won’t approach the half-billion dollar worldwide mark set last year by “Troy” ($133 million domestic, $364 million international) but should eclipse the totals for two other recent historical pics — “King Arthur” ($52 million domestic, $152 million foreign) and “Alexander ($34 million domestic, $133 million foreign).

Spain saw respectable holdover biz for “Kingdom” with a 33% decline and a soph sesh take that nearly quadrupled the No. 2 pic, local entry “Tapas.”

“It’s a big movie with a well-know director and good actors and the plot suits Spanish moviegoers’ taste,” a Spanish exhib opined. “It feels like it should hold well for some time.”

The “Kingdom of Heaven” declines were more pronounced in Germany at 47% and in the U.K. at 45%, but exhibs noted both markets still had some steam even after topping the $10 million mark.

“Good historical films tend to do well here because Germans know their history,” one German booker explained. “Walk into any bookstore in town and you’ll see dozens of titles on the subject of the Crusades.”

In France, where Pathe is handling “Kingdom,” the pic dropped 44% following a less-than-boffo opening amid mediocre word of mouth and the perception that the relatively recent releases of “Troy,” “King Arthur” and “Alexander” made it harder to market the latest entry.

In Italy, where Medusa is releasing “Kingdom,” bookers pointed to a combo of factors — sunny weekend climate, high ticket prices, general economic malaise and Bloom’s lack of star power — for moderate soph sesh returns.

Moviegoers in Arab nations have shown significant support for “Kingdom,” which portrays the battle for Jerusalem. As of May 17, the UAE had cumed $609,000 and Kuwait had totalled $477,000, followed by Jordan with $86,000, Bahrain with $74,000 and Qatar with $72,000.

The U.K. represented the one foreign market where serious competition prevailed with “Kingdom of Heaven” edging the day-and-date opening of “Monster-in-Law” and the third weekend of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” Exhibs were impressed with “Monster-in-Law,” noting it dented the fourth frame of “The Wedding Date,” which slid 51%, and predicted that the Jane Fonda-Jennifer Lopez comedy will be the least hurt by the “Star Wars” bow.

“Hitchhiker’s” has shown hardiness amid BVI’s sustained campaign but is likely to suffer somewhat from “Star Wars.” “Although the two movies attract the same audiences, ‘Hitchhiker’s’ is everything ‘Star Wars’ is not — one is quirky, the other a slick summer blockbuster,” one booker added.

A pair of respectable performers — BVI’s “The Pacifier” and UIP’s “The Interpreter” — continued to match grosses in their foreign runs with $55.1 million and $56.7 million, respectively, as of May 17. “The Pacifier” has launched in 31 markets while “The Interpreter” has opened in 30.

Mexico has been a particularly strong territory for “The Pacifier” with grosses topping $8 million after four weeks while the best perf for “The Interpreter” has come in Blighty with $12.5 million, followed by $7.87 million Germany and $6.52 million in Spain. One Spanish booker dubbed the Nicole Kidman vehicle as “a source of comfort” amid what’s been a downbeat spring season so far.

In France, “Brice de Nice” neared $26 million after a six-week run with credit given to distrib TFM’s ability to find new outlets to market the surf comedy. French kids and comedians can be heard imitating Brice’s French-surfer accent and his verbal peculiarities.

In Italy, the outlook was less sunny for local pic “Quando sei nato non ti puoi piu’ nasconderti” (When you are born you can’t hide anymore) which opened at Cannes and received more negative than positive press. One exhib said the film performed adequately in the cities but nowhere else.

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

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