'Chronicles' debuted with $41 mil in 13 markets

Harry Potter finally ran into some competition from another bigscreen adaptation of a kids’ classic, but the wizard was still able to battle to the top of the international B.O. during the Dec. 9-11 frame.

Warner Bros.’ fave magician “Potter” has now passed the $414 million mark overseas from 56 markets.

Coming in second, Buena Vista Intl.’s “The Chronicles of Narnia” debuted with $41 million in 13 markets, besting “Potter” in Germany and the U.K., among other territories.

The one-two punch meant family pics continued their dominant run overseas, and also set up “Narnia’s” ambitious Christmas expansion plan.

Waiting in the wings to quash those hopes is UIP’s behemoth “King Kong,” with a worldwide day-and-date launch.

In the U.K. alone, buzz on “Kong” was frenzied, with bookers predicting a three-day opening, including previews, of close to $20 million. Projections in Blighty were riding at a bigfooted final cume of $70-$80 million.

Buzz is also building in France and Italy on “Kong,” where the pic has been getting good reviews and, in turn, crossover buzz.

Japan should also prove an easy target for the great ape, though other Asian territories, like Hong Kong, may be tougher sells.

Thanks to the boffo “Narnia” bow, Blighty biz was up by 35% as compared with the previous frame, and up 28% from the same weekend last year.

“Narnia” met the expectations of exhibs, and became BVI’s biggest opener in the U.K. Industryites attributed the powerful opening to a combo of factors, including the book’s popularity with local auds.

BVI’s efforts paid off after the unit made a massive commitment to push “Narnia” in the U.K..

Final cume predictions are between $53 and $60 million, and bookers even predict “Narnia” can play alongside “Kong” with a projected dip of approximately 35% in its soph sesh.

Meantime, “Potter” dipped 56% in its fourth frame, which did not perturb bookers very much.

“It lost prints, and you have to look at what it dropped from,” observes one. “Close to $4 million for a fourth weekend, set against a massive opening contender is still a great result.”

“Potter” has now passed the £40 million ($70 million) mark in the territory.

Aside from the special f/x fare, Warner Bros.’ docu “March of the Penguins” cracked the top 10, playing on just 46 screens.

Nature docu posted the third-best per-screen average behind “Narnia” and “Potter” in the frame. U.K. bookers were pleased with the bow and remain confident it will have good legs.

“It is not a weekend movie, and will run and run due to word of mouth,” says one optimistic exhib. Bizzers predict “Penguins” will march to between $2.5 and $3.5 million in the U.K.

“Narnia” goosed German B.O. by 11% over the previous frame. Pic pulled in north of $6 million, from 1,056 copies, without nearing “Potter’s” power in its Teutonic bow.

One German exhib says that “Narnia” was attracting more kids than adults so far, and was unlikely to bring in the older auds that are keeping “Potter” in the black.

“It’s a wonderful holiday movie for the family,” says one German exhib of “Narnia.” “But maybe it’s too nice and clean to interest young adults, especially with ‘King Kong’ on the way.”

“Narnia” was the only new entry in the German top 10.

The BVI pic couldn’t help the Spanish B.O. very much, which fell 10% from the previous frame; a series of bank holidays took a bite out of the pic’s prospects.

Weekend Spanish cume came in at $12.4 million. ” ‘Narnia’ did well, but it is not another ‘Harry Potter,’ ” grouses one booker.

But bookers say “Narnia” will have legs in Spain, and they trust it can reach roughly $15 million. (“Potter’s” most optimistic forecasts give it $20 million in the territory.)

Second biggest Spanish bow after “Narnia” was “The Ice Harvest,” ranking No. 12, with $247,560.

“‘Narnia’ had a fabulous trailer and promotion, but one disadvantage: C.S. Lewis’ tales are not well known in Spain,” says one booker.

In Spain, “Potter” ranked second. But the pic hit a disappointing $1.8 million after falling 60%. Cume in Spain is now $19.2 million.

Even without “Narnia” in France yet, “Potter” still slid 50% in its Gallic soph sesh.

Dip helped pull the carpet out from under the overall Gaul B.O., which fell 22% compared with the previous frame, despite new entry “Chicken Little” from BVI.

“Potter” still managed to conjure up $9.8 million in its second week in France, grossing an average of $10,350 for each of its 950 screens, while “Chicken” scratched a No. 2 finish, pocketing $3.9 million.

Local kiddie pic “Kirikou et les betes sauvages” bowed in the No. 3 spot, grossing $2.3 million in its first week. Pic is a followup to the popular “Kirikou and the Sorceress,” which bowed in December 1998.

Gallic B.O. continues to respond to kidpics, a trend that has become increasingly visible as grosses continue to lag.

With “Narnia” yet to travel to Italy, B.O. there took a 41% tumble. A bank holiday on Dec. 8th sent many out of town for a long weekend and away from cinemas.

To date, Potter has made $20.6 million in Italy in three weeks of release.

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

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