'War' continues assault on overseas B.O.

Just call it “La Guerre des Mondes.”

Thanks to a boffo showing in France, Steven Spielberg’s Tom Cruise starrer “War of the Worlds” continued to drive the overseas box office this week — handily crossing the $200 million mark in its second weekend amid solid competish from Fox’s “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” and “Fantastic Four.”

But the U.K. repped a low point for world B.O. biz, with the terrorist attacks, hot weather and lack of a bona fide blockbuster all taking a toll. Overall biz was down by 44% from the previous weekend, and 48% from the same weekend last year.

In France, “War” opened with $11.5 million in its opening sesh — and shot up to $12.5 million during the week at 848 playdates. That result was good enough to make it UIP’s second biggest Gallic opening weekend ever, and the biggest of all time for Paramount or Cruise.

Korea was also a key to “War’s” battle plan, giving the pic $10 million in its first week. As of Wednesday, alien invasion pic stood at $214 million overall internationally.

Meantime, “Sith” made waves of its own, edging past the $400 million mark overseas as of Thursday. That boost came largely from Japanese biz where the pic took in more than $17 millionfrom preview screenings and opening week results.

“Fantastic Four” opened in only a handful of markets, but results were impressive, with an overall take of $20 million by midweek for the superhero ensembler.

Mexico marked “Four’s” best showing, repping 63% of the project’s market share, with $6.5 million. Also adding to “Four’s” bottom line were Australia ($3.7 million) and Brazil ($2.3 million).

Another title to hit a milestone during the week was UIP’s “Madagascar,” which passed the $100 million mark internationally.

Rounding out the top five international releases for the week was Warner Bros. “Batman Begins,” which hit in playdates.

Bombing reactions

In the U.K., “War” dipped a respectable 44% in its soph showing. Pic’s opening tally was north of industry expectations throughout last week.

One pic undoubtedly affected by the bombings was Pathe’s local horror opener “The Descent,” a claustrophobic frightener about an ill-fated, all-female group of cave explorers.

The double-decker bus which was blown up in Tavistock Square had a giant ad for “The Descent” emblazoned across its side. Pathe has now re-jigged its campaign to focus on the film’s excellent reviews, but bookers seem to feel that the damage has already been done.

Argentine import “Bombon: El Perro” continues to prove a sensation in the U.K. Despite the weather and London’s bombings, pic slipped just 11% in its fourth frame.

In Germany, “War” held its position at the top, though it couldn’t stop B.O. overall from dropping 23% from the previous week.

Besides “War,” not much else popped locally.

” ‘War of the Worlds’ had no competition,” said one Teutonic exhib. “It has had free reign.” However, he added that it has been a slog in the theater biz this season. “It’s hard to get people into theaters when it’s so nice out. People prefer to sit in beer gardens or go out to the lakes.”

With a cume of $13.5 million, “War of the Worlds” already has become the fifth most successful pic of the year in Germany after “Star Wars: Episode III,” “Hitch,” “Meet the Fockers” and “Kingdom of Heaven.”

In contrast, Warner Bros.’ “Batman Begins” has only managed $5.9 million in its four weeks in release here.

Exhibs expect strong showings from upcoming pics “Fantastic Four,” “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” and German comedy “Siegfried.”

In Spain, the box office dropped a mild 7% from its previous frame, but “War” failed to make the impact it has in other territories after the pic fell by almost half.

“A drop of 47% augurs a short future for the movie,” said one booker. “It won’t make big numbers for more than three or four more weeks.”

Others said Spanish biz on big pics is generated on opening weekends only.

“Audiences are migrating toward (other) forms of entertainment,” said one Spanish exhib. “It’s obvious that DVD is winning the battle. And I mean not only legal DVDs.”

“War” will have very little competish over coming weeks in Spain.

“There are very few new films this summer which can put up a fight when confronted by ‘War,’ if ‘War’ were to have good legs,” said one booker. “But it doesn’t seem to have legs, and the summer lacks blockbusters except maybe for ‘The Island’ (Aug. 5) and ‘Fantastic Four’ (Jul. 15).”

In Italy, the week’s B.O. took a 19% nosedive compared with the previous frame.

“War” remained tops despite a 42% drop in biz.

Italo bookers expect “War” to wage its money-making campaign for another three or four weeks. But overall, the market is performing 20% below expectations.

“I don’t know if we can recoup (our losses) from September through December,” one Neapolitan booker said.

One bright spot was the genre pic “Boogeyman,” which did modestly well on it’s weekend release.

Many bookers also complained that Italy is being left out of Hollywood’s day-and-date release schemes, giving less support to launching pics there, and giving pirates more time to steal pics off the Internet.

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

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