‘Island’ establishes o’seas beachhead

Warners performing well abroad

Proving you don’t need a strong U.S. launch to float a pic overseas, Michael Bay’s sci-fi actioner “The Island” topped the international box office for the second week in a row.

Pic has cumed almost $85 million abroad for Warner Bros., with particularly strong perfs in Asia and some Euro turf, including France.

In South Korea, “Island” has washed up a whopping $20.5 million through the Aug. 19-21 frame.

Warners also continues to roll in dough internationally with Tim Burton’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Pic has cumed more than $111.4 million to date in 37 markets.

Rounding out the top five through Aug. 19-21 were Fox’s “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” which benefited from a strong Spain bow; Buena Vista Intl.’s “Herbie: Fully Loaded”; and UIP’s “The Skeleton Key.”

In Blighty, overall biz was sluggish, off 20% from the previous weekend, and down 21% from the Aug. 19-21 previous year. Weather there was sizzling, and not conducive to cinema-going for U.K. film fans.

“Charlie” remained in the top spot in its fourth week in the U.K., and has taken in a sweet $54 million so far. Though the Burton pic dipped 41%, U.K. exhibs were thrilled. “‘Charlie’ has already far outstripped final cume expectations, so anything else is a bonus,” said one. But others are concerned that the charmed pic is “sucking the life out of all other family-orientated fare.”

“Bewitched” met Blighty industry’s cautious expectations after the pic drew mixed notices.

Luc Besson’s “Unleashed” took sixth spot in an unremarkable Brit market. Jet Li starrer had good reviews, but did not excite U.K. auds. Pic looks set for a $2.5 million-$3 million final cume.

Indie pic “Crash” held incredibly well in its soph showing in the U.K., thanks to strong word of mouth and solid notices. Bookers credit Pathe with a canny release date and promo campaign. “There is so little quality product out there aimed at an adult audience that the timing was perfect,” said one exhib. Pic looks set for a solid run in Blighty — one booker suggests “Crash” could top the $9 million mark.

With a much smaller release — 23 screens — Miranda July’s “Me and You and Everyone We Know” also scored with auds tired of formulaic summer blockbusters. Pic is being released by Optimum in the U.K.

In Spain, B.O. rose 39%, compared with the previous frame, as temperatures plummeted to fall levels all over the country.

Explained one booker: “There’s no doubt that rainy weather helps the movies. Especially in summer, when most of the people are on holiday and more reluctant to stay in.”

Most impressive was the debut of Fox’s spy pic “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” which took in $5 million, the third biggest opening of the year after Fox’s “Star Wars” and UIP’s “War of the Worlds.” “Smith” had not figured to make a boffo bow in Spain.

“I expected (‘Smith’) to open at $3 million, or even $4 million,” said one booker. “But $5 million was beyond all expectations, considering last week’s disastrous results.” The same booker highlighted the importance of promotion for the pic’s success, while another pointed to the off-screen gossip surrounding the films stars, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, as a determining factor.

But that perf didn’t match the sunny memories bookers had of last year: Through the third weekend of August, Spanish B.O. in 2004 was $536.2 million. Over the same period in 2005, the take is just $408 million. Pics that have underperformed in Spain include “Charlie,” “Sin City” and “The Island.”

Teutonic B.O. continued its slide, dropping 26% from the previous weekend, as new entries failed to capture auds’ imaginations.

With little competition, “Skeleton Key” reached No. 1 in Germany, barely beating out “Sin City,” which dropped to second place in its second week.

Only other new entry, Sony’s “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo,” could not seduce the masses.

“After weeks of rain and ugly weather, people just could not ignore the sunny weekend,” explained one booker. He also noted there weren’t any must-see titles.

Gallic B.O. was boosted by “Island’s” healthy take of $3.65 million in its opening frame at 640 sites. Warner’s “Charlie” has also had a hold on France. Pic has cumed $20.5 million there to date.

In Italy, B.O. jumped a massive 154% from the previous weekend’s numbers, which had been reported at the height of the country’s summer holidays. But overall, Italo B.O. was down just 7% as compared with the same frame last year, with few new titles in release.

Meantime, New Line’s “Wedding Crashers” is showing legs in various markets. Pic launched in Taiwan, and took in $4.3 million from slightly less than 1,500 screens internationally.

(Archie Thomas in London, Ed Meza in Germany, Esther De Prado in Spain and Sheri Jennings in Italy contributed to this report.)

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