'Narnia' on track to become BVI's top live-action film

Underlining the worldwide power of family friendly films, BVI’s “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe scored a fifth straight weekend victory at the international box office with $13.2 million in 48 markets during the Jan. 20-22 frame.

The “Narnia” streak is the longest since BVI’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” led in foreign grosses for seven consecutive frames during the summer of 2003. “Titanic” set the all-time record in 1997 with nine straight victories.

Heading into the final weekend of January, “Narnia” was on track to go past the $355 million offshore gross for “Armageddon” to become BVI’s top live-action film. “Narnia,” which won’t open in Japan and China until March, probably still has enough in the tank to surpass $660 million worldwide (combined foreign and domestic) — a milestone that would allow it to supplant “The Sixth Sense” as Disney’s top worldwide live-action film.

U.K. and Italian moviegoing receipts edged down 3%, while Germany was off 5%, thanks partly to sub-zero temps. But other key markets posted notable increases, with Spain surging 14% and Australia gaining 8%, and both markets benefiting from adult-oriented awards contenders starting to gain traction via launches for “Memoirs of a Geisha” and “Brokeback Mountain.”

With its expansion into key territories, “Geisha” and “Narnia” were the only pics to crack eight figures over the sesh with $10.6 million at 1,550 playdates in 22 markets. “Geisha,” which is handled by Spyglass on the foreign side, has showed only moderate heat Stateside with $52 million.

“Geisha” launched impressively in Spain with $2.6 million at 206 engagements. One Spanish booker said long-term prospects looked solid due to an appealing trailer and residual good will from director Rob Marshall’s “Chicago,” which grossed $11.7 million in Spain.

In Oz, “Geisha” easily outperformed the day-and-date launch of “Underworld Evolution” with $2.09 million at 200.

In Germany, “Geisha” opened above expectations with $1.41 million at 206, just behind the launch of Uma Thurman laffer “Prime.” “Both films did quite well considering neither is really aimed at the young target demographic,” one Teuton exhibitor noted.

Bookers were impressed that films performed respectably amid a record-setting cold wave. “There were very few people who ventured out into our Siberian winter,” one observed.

“Memoirs” held a respectable 10% in the U.K. soph sesh, with exhibs citing the popularity of the original book as a key factor. Overall foreign grosses for “Geisha,” handled via a wide variety of distribs, had topped $39 million as of Jan. 25.

“Brokeback Mountain” managed to crack the top five films of the weekend with $6.73 million at 910 screens in 10 markets. Top numbers came from the U.K. with $1.88 million on 275, down only 17% and giving “Brokeback Mountain” a Brit cume of $8.47 million after three weeks.

In Spain, “Mountain” notched a second-place launch with $1.6 million at 160 with one booker noting that the pic had played best in urban centers. “There’s no doubt this film benefited from all the pro and con buzz around this topic,” the booker added.

“Brokeback” also performed well with a third-place finish in France with $1.49 million at 155 and fourth in Italy with $1.07 million at 202, where it’s translated as “The Secrets of Brokeback Mountain.” Italian exhibitors assert that the multiple awards plus the Venice Golden Lion have helped the Ang Lee pic, adding that the subject matter probably has helped pump up the curiosity to see it.

Pic’s openings led in Taiwan with $349,000 at 69, in French Switzerland with $123,000 at 18 and in Israel with $47,000 at 10.

On the same weekend that Sony’s “Fun With Dick and Jane” joined the $100 million club domestically, the Jim Carrey laffer opened in the U.K. and with $3.5 million at 422 sites to easily beat the disappointing launch of “Underworld Evolution” with $2 million at 295. “Fun” has gone into 31 markets overseas and generated $30 million offshore as of Jan. 25.

“Fun” also managed to edge the sixth weekend of “King Kong,” which is fading fast. “Kong” had cumed $312 million as of Jan. 25, with the top figures coming from the U.K. with $50.8 million, France with $25 million and South Korea with $24 million.

UIP’s “Get Rich or Die Tryin'” launched respectably in the U.K. with $1.8 million at 300 in five days and in Oz with $908,210 at 117 in six days. Though critics mostly disliked “Get Rich,” Brit exhibitors expressed pleasure over pic’s pull for young audiences.

In Germany, however, “Get Rich” failed to live up to its title, sliding 54% in its soph sesh — by far the biggest drop among holdover pics.

Italian biz received a kick from local soccer pic “Eccezzziunale Veramente Capitolo Secondo,” which attracted young auds, and from Woody Allen’s “Match Point.”

Allen’s thriller nearly matched the opening weekend to drive that market’s cume to a beefy $5.4 million with bookers citing strong word of mouth, the pic’s London setting plus Allen’s promo efforts. “He is a great director who is certainly more European in style and who we understand,” one exhibitor noted.

“Point” has also totaled $4.4 million in four weeks in Germany.

(John Hopewell in Spain, Michaela Boland in Australia, Sheri Jennings in Italy, Archie Thomas in the U.K. and Ed Meza in Germany contributed to this report.)

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