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‘Bat’ wings clipped at Japan B.O.

European exhibs last week were griping that the weather was a lot hotter than the B.O., while Israelis flocked to “Pocahontas” and Japanese auds were underwhelmed by “Batman Forever.”

But some Euro tradesters were expecting a hefty upswing over the weekend as “Die Hard With a Vengeance” kicked off in Germany, Austria and Holland, and “Batman Forever” flew into Spain. John McTiernan’s pic grossed an estimated $700,000 on opening day (June 22) on more than 500 prints in Germany, cuming a 4-day tally of at least $4 million.

In Japan, “Batman Forever” made a mild $2.2 million in five days on 167 prints, some 80% of “Batman Returns”‘ opening. The result was no great surprise, since the earlier Batpix weren’t worldbeaters in Japan, although co-star Jim Carrey might have given the latest outing a lift on the back of “The Mask,” which grossed nearly $35 million there. The Batman comics were not popular, and it seems the Japanese have not warmed to the caped crusader, seeing him as an ordinary guy who does clever things, rather than a superhero of Superman’s ilk.

But the Warner pic faces virtually no competition until the July 1 arrival of “Die Hard 3,” and the Japanese preem should not be regarded as a leaden omen for its prospects elsewhere.

‘Pocahontas’ debut

Another pic going out concurrently with the Stateside debut was “Pocahontas,” which unspooled at the flagship Rav Chen theater in Tel Aviv, nabbing $40,000 in six days. That was up on “Aladdin’s” $34,000 but behind “The Lion King” which holds the house record at $57,000. If “Pocahontas” winds its foreign run somewhere between those two behemoths, Disney could not be displeased. The animated pic debuted in South Africa and Colombia over the weekend and enters Brazil and Mexico June 30 and Korea July 1.

There’s been plenty of action in Latino territories, where the “Die Hard” sequel has ponied up $11.1 million in 27 days (already beating the entire gross of “Die Hard 2”). In its first foreign dates, “French Kiss” has romanced a handsome $1.3 million in nine days on 71 screens in Brazil, and a fair $990,000 in 18 days on 27 in Taiwan. However, “Kiss” sank by 55% in Taiwan as the Bruce Willis actioner stormed in with an all-time, record-breaking $2 million in six days at 11 theaters – a phenomenal $184,000 average. That was a propitious start for Buena Vista Intl.’s new banner, which took over from previous distrib Era.

“Braveheart” conquered Brazil with a stout $1.5 million in six days on 128, and galloped into Mexico with $408,400 in three days on 132. The epic posted the second biggest opening ever for Fox Intl. in Korea (behind “Speed”), collaring $500,000 in five days at 10 theaters.

In Australia, “Braveheart” showed sturdy legs in its third round, off 29%, while “Die Hard 3” had a solid fourth. Both were fierce competition for “Crimson Tide,” which wilted by 35% in its second, and may have benefited from being given more breathing space. “The Quick and the Dead” and “Tank Girl” both tanked. “Casper” hauled in an excellent $1 million on paid previews ahead of the June 22 bow Down Under.

The friendly ghost is a wow in Singapore, scoring $2.1 million in two weeks on 23, and in Colombia with $396,000 in five days on 27.

French exhibs glumly said ticket sales in Paris stayed low (tallying 445,000), not helped by the distraction of a nationwide music fest featuring lots of street concerts. “Dumb and Dumber” had an unremarkable start, one tradester noting that for Gallic auds, its brand of humor can be “difficult.” Only French pic “La Haine” (Hate) in its third lap kept its head up.

German bookers were looking forward to “Die Hard 3” after another blah week and the uninspiring debut of “The Brady Bunch Movie,” which one labeled a “truly shameless gesture.” After a product drought, some theater owners complained that they’ll have to squeeze in too many new releases in late July/August.

Baking weather and dreary films sent Spanish receipts diving, and in Italy the cinema season all but expired after the Festa del Cinema promotion ended June 15. Italo distribs quietly buried a few losers including “In the Army Now” (retitled “Operation Desert Storm”), “The Mangler,” “Asterix Conquers America” and “The New Karate Kid.”

British exhibs were pleased with “Bad Boys'” opener and the second week of local comedy “Jack and Sarah” (the latter boosted by a money-back-if-not-satisfied promotion) but had little else to cheer.

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