Overseas looks to ‘War’ for solace

With international exhibitors still savoring 2004’s lofty but anomalous box office returns – as opposed to this year’s more earthbound numbers – all eyes are on “War of the Worlds,” hoping it can deliver a taste of last year’s glory. The international media has been exhibiting a backlash against its star’s offscreen exploits (such as a headline in the British Independent, “Why We Hate Tom Cruise”) and against the Paramount/DreamWorks day-and-date strategy (testy German critics lodged an official protest over having reviews embargoed for weeks after the screening). But media reaction doesn’t always reflect audience taste. The bigger question for “War” overseas is summer weather that’s coaxing audiences to stay outside theaters. For “War,” B.O. pundits predict Japan, Russia, the Far East and Latin America seem like good bets. But the bigger question mark is Europe, the land of squirting microphones and high-altitude wedding proposals – which stands for close to 70% of the world grosses.

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