Film quotas push U.S. pix off Spanish screens

At this time of year, screen quotas in Spain make it tough for U.S. pictures to get playdates, as distribs load release schedules to ensure that by Dec. 31 they’ve played the minimum number of European films.

“City of Joy,” which didn’t have to run the quota gauntlet because it’s classified as a British production, and thus has EC nationality, made a fine debut last week.

Elsewhere, “Universal Soldier” electrified business in Germany; “Sneakers” embarked in foreign with fair numbers in Australia; and “Wayne’s World” raised a few laughs in France but doesn’t seem to have hit the Gallic funnybone.

“City of Joy” grossed $ 833,500 on 74 screens in Spain. “Unlawful Entry” managed a moderate $ 506,600 on five days on 71 screens, while Argentine entry “Un Lugar en el Mundo” (A Place in the World) had a terrific debut in Madrid.

‘Soldier’ soars

The top 10’s receipts in Germany climbed by 12% to $ 9.5 million, fueled by “Universal Soldier’s” muscular $ 3.5 million on 417 prints. Teutonic helmer Roland Emmerich and Dolph Lundgren garnered lots of publicity at the Cologne fest and on TV, and Columbia TriStar spent upwards of $ 1 million on the launch.

Pic’s arrival buffeted “Patriot Games,” which dropped 36% in the second week, but Philip Noyce’s thriller is chugging along nicely in Europe and advanced to $ 64 million overseas.

Italo biz stayed perky as “Lethal Weapon 3” broadened in its second week from 47 to 128 prints and nabbed $ 2.36 million. Also invigorating were local comedy “The ’90s” and “Husbands and Wives,” reaffirming that Italy remains one of Woody Allen’s best territories.

The “Lethal” pic posted one of the best openings this year in Greece amid a heatwave with $ 179,000 on 15 screens.

British B.O. plummeted by 53% to $ 7.5 million, inevitable after students went back to school. That was precisely the drop suffered by “Beauty and the Beast,” in its third week nationwide, which now has garnered $ 12.7 million in the U.K.

“Boomerang” continued its sequence of solid European openings by pulling $ 1. 76 million on 250 prints, but it fast shed screens this week to make way for “The Last of the Mohicans.”

Neil Jordan’s “The Crying Game,” debuting at just 12 theaters, was respectable in London, excellent in Ireland.

“Unlawful Entry” had a tepid bow in the capital but 20th Century Fox believes it will connect better in the regions as it goes out on 250 prints. “Husbands and Wives” was sturdy in its second round in the West End but displayed no depth as it ventured into the provinces.

“Beauty and the Beast” had an awesome second lap in France, with $ 10.5 million to date.

“Wayne’s World” seems to have lost something in the translation: After a reasonably strong weekend, weekday numbers fell precipitously, ending with $ 1. 76 million on 206 prints. Its international cume has nudged $ 50 million.

Entering a stagnant market in Australia, UIP’s “Sneakers” averaged $ 7,133 on 73 screens. Pic is attracting older audiences and the distrib thinks it may take a while to get through to the younger set.

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