Slow autumn B.O. clears way for local pix

'Charlie' continues to claims #1spot o'seas

Without much new product flowing overseas from Hollywood over the Sept. 30-Oct. 2 frame, Warner Bros.’ “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” was able to capture the top spot on the international scene for a fourth week in a row.

Tim Burton-helmed pic is flirting with the $220 million mark abroad, having played particularly well in the U.K., where it has cumed $64.9 million.

France has added another $27.3 to “Charlie’s” recipe for success, and Japan has stirred nearly $29 million into the pot.

With little U.S. product vying for overseas’ auds attention, local productions were able to take some attention away from the studios’ leftover summer blockbusters.

In the U.K., biz overall was up 5% compared with the prior frame, but down 9% from the same weekend last year.

One bright spot in Blighty is UIP’s Brit lit pic “Pride and Prejudice.”

Jane Austen adaptation is carrying biz in the U.K.: Pic dipped just 24% in its third frame and remains on course for a £20 million ($35 million) final cume there. Exhibs feel “Pride” has compensated for other pics’ under-performance.

Meantime, New Line’s “A History of Violence” has been buoyed by excellent reviews, and played second behind “Pride.” David Cronenberg pic brought in roughly $2 million, including $265,134 in previews, from 345 screens for a per-screen average of $5,787.

Word of mouth is said to be in line with crix responses; bookers are predicting a soph sesh drop-off of less than 25%.

“Goal!” failed to find the net in the U.K.: The soccer pic played well on Saturday and Sunday, but soft on Friday, which indicates it is working best as a family film. Exhibs feel Buena Vista Intl. could have done more to market the pic directly to kiddies. Reviews were mixed. Bookers are reporting, however, that the Newcastle-set pic is playing “better the further north you go.”

“The underwhelming bow is clearly a problem for the first film in a planned trilogy, and the DVD campaign is now key,” says one concerned exhib.

John Singleton’s “Four Brothers” did solid biz, a pleasant surprise for U.K. bookers who praised UIP’s bullish campaign. Pic looks set for a $5 million final cume in the U.K.

In Germany, Constantin’s local production, “The White Masai” was strong enough to boost B.O. booty by a whopping 85% from the previous frame.

Of the African love story, one exhib says: “Viewers have taken to the story of ‘The White Masai,’ it’s gotten strong word of mouth. It’s an exotic drama with broad appeal.”

Pic defended the top spot from new entries “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” ani pic “The Little Polar Bear 2,” Russian fantasy “Night Watch” and East Germany military comedy “NVA.”

“There was something for everyone — a romance, a comedy, a kids’ film, a fantasy adventure and an East German comedy that did especially well (there),” says a Teutonic exhib. “No one film did great, but all together, the movies resulted in improved box office revenues.”

The same exhib predicted “NVA” would have strong legs. Pic, a nostalgic and humorous look at life in the East German army during the Cold War, from “Berlin Blues” director Leander Haussmann, enjoyed the week’s best per-screen average in its opening frame, $7,117 from 155 prints.

Spain also had a local phenomenon in Santiago Segura’s “Torrente 3: El Protector.” Pic broke the record for biggest opener ever in Spain: From Sept. 30 to Oct. 2, “Torrente” grossed $8.6 million from 465 prints, and accounted for 60% of total B.O. in Spain over the frame. Pic was the most awaited local product of the year in Spain, and exceeded all predictions. Original “Torrente” opened to $1.1 million in 1998, and “Torrente 2” bowed to $4.2 million in 2001.

Thanks to the pic, biz in Spain grew 89% as compared to the prior weekend. The project, directed, written and toplined by Segura, follows an ex-cop who takes a special assignment as the bodyguard of the Euro M.P.

“The marketing was just the best one movie could get,” says one booker. “The key was the involvement of Santiago Segura in the promotion.”

Also performing well in Spain were holdovers “Monster in Law” and “Brothers Grimm.”

In Italy, B.O. rose just 5%, as no films made a major impact. “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” held on to the top spot in its second frame with a drop of 4%. Pic has picked up E5.4 million euros.

“Bewitched,” in its first weekend in Italian cinemas, took the second slot, doing good biz considering the pic’s particularly American bent. Perhaps boding poorly for the pic’s future, one Italo booker says, “the film isn’t as good as the TV series” and that “Will Ferrell isn’t very known here.”

A local highlight was “Romanzo Criminale” (Crime Story), which finished fourth at the box office. Pic is a hit, particularly in Rome.

In France, local pics ruled the day, as in so many other Euro territories. “Il ne faut jurer… de rien!” took the top spot there, with “Les Ames grises” taking the third slot and “Entre ses mains” in fourth.

Turf will get an influx of new Hollywood pics however, with “Four Brothers” and “Brothers Grimm” coming into play.

(Ed Meza in Germany, Archie Thomas in the U.K., Esther DePrado in Spain and Sherri Jennings in Italy contributed to this report.)

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