‘Lion’ still beating ape; ‘Jarhead’ takes U.K.

'Narnia' takes in $80 million over 'Kong'

At the international wickets over the Jan. 13-15 frame, Buena Vista’s “Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” continued to cast its spell on auds, beating out “King Kong” yet again.

Kid lit pic took in more than $20 million from 7,870 playdates, with worldwide cume set to pass $580 million: That’s a full $80 million ahead of Peter Jackson’s “Kong.” Exhibs say “Kong” has been hampered by its three hour-plus running time.

But while the f/x spectacles, including “Narnia,” “Kong” and the latest “Harry Potter” installment eked out further B.O. bucks, some counterprogrammers began making hay, including “Jarhead,” “The Family Stone” and “Brokeback Mountain.”

In Blighty, biz was down a mere 2% from the previous frame, and up 12% from the same weekend a year ago.

Strong showing for the soph sesh of the new year had exhibs upbeat. On the U.K. charts, six pics passed the $1 million mark.

UIP’s war pic “Jarhead” shot to No. 1 in the U.K., with $3,415,431 off of 390 prints, and a chart-topping screen average of $8,758. Bookers credit the pic’s success to a great trailer, a cool, trendy campaign with a Kanye West track backing it and the appeal of a “slightly more cerebral” pic in the post-holiday blockbuster period.

Exhibs feel Sam Mendes at the helm was also a factor that might have gone unnoticed in the States.

“Director-driven films work better in Europe than in the U.S.,” one booker pointed out. Pic also proves that Jake Gyllenhaal’s profile is rising in Blighty.

War pic also managed to bring in female auds, which was a coup.

Meantime, “Narnia” continues to pull in the U.K. punters. Dipping just 36% in its sixth frame, pic has now grossed a whopping $71,624,082 in Blighty.

Bookers attributed the pic’s power to a McDonalds promo that offered free tickets to minors over the frame.But the pic could be in for a battle when Sony’s Jim Carrey starrer “Fun With Dick and Jane” arrives on the scene. It will further face “Zathura” (Feb. 3) and “Chicken Little” (Feb. 10).

A former No. 1 pic in the U.K., UIP’s mighty “King Kong” fell 41% in its fifth frame and to the fifth spot in the charts.

Exhibs remain “roundly satisfied,” but now wonder whether the pic’s running time has limited its potency. Overall, bookers are hesitant to criticize distrib UIP for “Kong’s” perf and instead blame sky-high expectations for the current perception that it hasn’t delivered. “You sometimes get the impression that everyone was expecting Lord of the Rings 4,” one tradester exclaims.

Meantime, Sony’s “Memoirs of a Geisha” shrugged off mediocre reviews to open very strongly in the U.K. Rob Marshall-helmed pic took in $2,032,011 from 241 engagements, for a screen average of $8,432. That per-screen take was just behind “Jarhead.”

Bookers attribute “Geisha’s” success to the popularity of the book in Blighty, and the success of “Chicago” has made Marshall a marketable director in the U.K.

Riding a wave of awards in the U.S., Entertainment’s “Brokeback Mountain” moved to a wide rollout and shot up 20%. The platform release has worked for the Ang Lee-helmed pic, which received a boost this week from its Golden Globes wins.

On the other end of the specialty spectrum, “Breakfast on Pluto” flopped. Neil Jordan-helmed pic did not find receptive auds outside Ireland, and crix were largely dismissive.

Thanks to its U.K. take, “Jarhead” made the most impact of any new pic, while “Narnia,” “Kong” and the latest “Harry Potter” franchise duked it out for blockbuster supremacy.

Deployed in 18 new territories, “Jarhead” stormed $8.5 million all told over the frame. Cume moved to nearly $12.5 million.

In France — where “Narnia” ruled the roost again in its third frame — “Jarhead” bowed in fifth place, taking in $856,803.

Gallic fans of “Narnia” gave the pic a big boost, tossing $2,744,787 into its coffers, from 820 engagements. The pic’s cume there is more than $30 million. The indigenous “Je vous trouve tres beau” nabbed the No. 2 spot, taking in $2,671,666 and nipping at “Narnia’s” heels.

Meanwhile, German auds, perhaps tired of big f/x fare, flocked to Sony’s “Fun With Dick and Jane.” Pic picked up $1.5 million in its second frame, bringing its Teutonic total to about $4.5 million.

“Dick” also enjoyed a boffo Mexican launch of nearly $2 million, marking Jim Carrey’s second-biggest opening in that market. Another “Narnia” counterprogrammer, UIP’s rap drama “Get Rich or Die Tryin'” also scored in Germany, with nearly $1.5 million coming in No. 2.

“Narnia” has raked in more than $25 million in five weeks of release in Germany. “King Kong” has grabbed about $20 million and fell to the fifth spot on the German charts after “Jarhead,” which has taken in $3.15 in the territory so far.

“Narnia” dropped to fifth as well in Italy, dipping 68% at the box office. The fall made for a 34% loss to Italian B.O. overall as compared with the previous frame. Pic is handily beating “Kong” in Italy, like in so many territories.

“Many families go to the cinema once a year — at Christmastime — so a film like ‘Narnia’ satisfied many things that ‘Kong’ couldn’t,” one Italo exhib says. “No one would be able to drag a kid to a film with a 3 hour and 7 minute running time.”

In Spain, too, B.O. fell, by 28%, as the holiday blockbusters began waning: “Narnia,” “Kong” and “Harry Potter” ranked No. 5 No 6. and No. 17, respectively.

In their absence, Fox’s holiday comedy “Family Stone” topped the charts, although it fell 30% in its soph sesh. Pic picked up another $1.1 million and has cumed $2.9 million to date in Spain.

Awards season contender “Crash” landed at No. 2 in Spain, making off with $1 million from 176 prints. That marked the best per-screen average on the charts, at $5,800.

Oz exhibs report that reserving screens for “Kong,” “Narnia” and “Harry Potter” has had a paradoxical effect, with the tentpoles performing under projection while taking up space that could be used by “Fun With Dick and Jane” and “The Family Stone.”

“King Kong” did remain a player in other territories, with $15 million at 6,990 playdates in 57 markets, led by a solid $3.1 million opening at 315 engagements in China. That launch reps the final foreign territory for the pic, and was the best debut for a Universal picture in that market.

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

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