‘Mission’ a weak No. 1 at Euro wickets

Cruise vehicle falls short at B.O. in first frame

It was Tom Cruise’s weekend to win or lose at the international wickets as all competish cleared the way for the star’s latest vehicle, “Mission: Impossible III,” from UIP.

But any mission of unequivocal B.O. success proved impossible in Europe over the weekend.

Though the star fared better abroad than at home — his pic hit No. 8 on the chart of highest grossing pics ever overseas — key turf in Northern Europe was unimpressed.

Pic hit $70.3 million from 7,390 screens after its first frame, and rose to $83.1 million by midweek.

By contrast, Fox’s CG-animated sequel “Ice Age: The Meltdown” cumed close to $95 million at 8,216 playdates in 45 markets in its first frame in mid-April.

Sunny weather was blamed, in good part, for “Mission’s” shortcomings, leaving bizzers in Northern Europe praying for rain.

UIP countered that the pic should have long legs as its only obstacle was the weather.

Exhibs in some key markets said they weren’t panicking as mid-week biz bumped along, as it did in the U.K. But in other territories, bummed out bizzers were not hopeful.

“We expected the pic to make between $4.5 to $5 million,” said one booker in Spain, where the latest “Mission” took in $3.7 million. “Considering its bad release and the proximity of ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ (‘Mission’) is very unlikely to have long legs. It will probably make under $15 million.”

Another Spanish booker chimed in mid-week, saying: “We can say by now that it is already the first failure of 2006’s blockbusters.”

But the pic was still picking up ground in Asian turf by mid-week: Pic’s South Korean take actually outgrossed all other world turf, including the U.K.’s numbers.

South Korea finished the weekend with $10.5 million, but added biz during the week to come in at $12.1 by Wednesday.

Next in line was the U.K., which ended “Mission’s” first frame with $9.8 million, but wound up at $11.4 in mid-week biz. And France, where the pic made just under $6 million in its opening frame, moved the bar to more than $7.5 by the middle of the week.

However, the U.K. bow was considered soft; France and Germany downright disappointing.

In Blighty, “Mission” helped biz overall leap 47% from the previous frame, and a healthy 14% from the same weekend last year.

Despite any upticks, opening was a bit below expectations as sunny weather was said to dent biz.

“MI3” was a full $1.5 million below expectations, but bookers remain roundly satisfied with the opening which outpaced the U.S. and other Euro locales.

Blighty exhibs also attributed the soft opening to boredom with Cruise’s off-screen antics, Scientology bent and weariness in the franchise. There was also no other cast to attract fans who might not be so fond of Cruise.

But the pic’s legs seem sturdy and a healthy final cume of about $28 million is predicted.

“There is no need to panic. Perhaps expectations were a little too high for the movie as it is the first proper summer blockbuster,” said one U.K. bizzer.

Meantime, “MI3” was no match for sunny skies in Germany, where overall cinema attendance fell 50% from the previous frame as people swarmed outdoors.

Pic, which attracted 316,000 viewers, didn’t come close to the success of “MI2,” which brought in a million more viewers, and garnered $7.7 million on its opening weekend in 2000.

“This was the very first warm, sunny weekend of the year,” said one Teutonic observer. “After our long winter, people are a lot more excited about being outdoors. The weather was the deciding factor: No one wants to sit in a dark theater in this climate.”

Another exhib said that Hollywood’s theatrical product in Germany has been hit by DVD use and declining interest in sequels.

“It’s a good film, but, like most recent Hollywood films, it’s derivative,” said one booker. “People have seen all this before, and more and more people are happy to wait for the DVD.”

French industryites said that the pic’s take there was hurt by an angry press corps and anti-Scientology sentiments that weighed on Cruise’s popularity.

At $7.5 million after a week in release, pic looked unlikely to match Cruise’s “War of the Worlds,” which pocketed about $10.8 million in its first week.

While the first warm weather of the year played a part in depressing Gallic figures, pic’s perf thus far is half of what was expected for it to make the category of a major blockbuster.

Cruise annoyed the French press by ditching a Parisian press conference in April to go baby clothes-shopping.

Italo exhibs said they saw brand fatigue from the “Mission” franchise, as well as the diversion of good weather, and not any publicity challenges for Cruise.

“It was really bad,” complained one exhib. “We should have made a minimum e3.5 million- e4 million. The U.S. market expected $60 million and it only made $45 million.” Pic totaled $3 million in Italy over the weekend.

Cruise’s hopeful reign in Spain was also pretty plain, in what was a soft frame there.

Though “Mission” topped the Spanish charts, taking in $3.7 million from 529 copies, it did not meet expectations.

Pic was also weak in Oz, taking in just under $3 million.

No one counterprogrammed against “MI3,” but “Ice Age: The Meltdown” did pick up some family biz. Pic took in $13 million to bring its total cume to under $410 million overseas.

Reflecting any lack of competish, Japan’s sensation “Umizaru 2: Limit of Love” (aka “Umizaru 2: The Test of Trust” outside Japan) landed at No. 3.

Pic did not go up against “Mission,” which wasn’t in release in the Land of the Rising Sun. And “Mission” might have had a run for its money: “Umizaru” had bows on par with the last “Star Wars” pic and “War of the Worlds.”

Producer Fuji TV predicts the pic will exceed $54 million in its homeland.

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

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