‘RANSOM’ HITS O’SEAS

Gibson pic's Asian, Euro bows break records

In a less than compelling weekend frame at the overseas box office, Asia provided most of the thrills, while much of Europe seemed to be Christmas shopping.

“Ransom” posted the biggest December bows ever in top-spot debuts in Taiwan and Hong Kong, stealing a stunning $875,000 and $500,000 from 11 and 23 screens, respectively. The Taiwan preem was 5% greater than BVI’s previous territory record-holder, “The Rock,” while both territories set new records for both Mel Gibson and Ron Howard there.

Pic also nabbed top spot in its first Euro date in Sweden, with $630,000 from 95 screens, BVI’s second-largest bow there after “The Rock.”

Glenn Close starrer “101 Dalmatians” provided BVI with its biggest ever live-action preem in Brazil, nipping a satisfying $1.1 million from 160 screens, while biting off $190,000 from 12 screens in Seoul before going wide in the rest of South Korea on New Year’s Day. Cume is $19.5 million, $9.5 million of that from the “Evita”-crazed U.K., where “Dalmatians” dipped a modest 14% drop in its second weekend.

UIP’s “Daylight” (cume: $12.6 million) dawned on France and Italy with a good, but not special, $2.1 million and $688,768 on 449 and 129 screens, respectively. Contrast that to boffo bows in Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong and Malaysia, where pic garnered screen averages ranging from $25,570 to $13,738 on 30, 30, 25 and 44 screens, respectively.

“Daylight” also nabbed good screen averages, ranging from $8,220 to $4,913 for preems in Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Indonesia and Thailand, while UIP’s “The Nutty Professor” (cume: $123.9 million) inflated an excellent $242,555 from 14 sites in Greece.

‘Jam’ slam-dunk

WB’s “Space Jam” (cume: $8.2 million) had great bows in Malaysia, Taiwan and South Korea, hooping $205,266, $395,247 and $125,518 from 41, 34 and nine screens respectively, while Jean-Claude Van Damme starrer “Maximum Risk” grabbed $70,482 from 17 Turkish screens and $31,501 from five prints in Lebanon.

“The Hunchback of Notre Dame” expanded from 124 to 517 Italian screens, taking $3.1 million in its third lap (territory cume: $10 million). It rose 5% in France to take $4.8 million in its fourth lap and retain top spot with a cume of $24 million. At this rate, BVI believes the animated remake of the French classic may well pass $200 million by the end of the holiday season.

New Line’s “The Long Kiss Goodnight” (cume: $16.5 million) held well in its second laps in Germany and France, while grabbing a good $171,671 from 27 prints in Israel and $126,777 from 28 Belgian screens, plus a soft $157,506 from 40 Finland cinemas.

‘Trek’ take

UIP’s “Star Trek: First Contact” (four-territory cume: $17 million) beamed a good $5.8 million from 589 German sites, while extracting $382,262 from 50 Austrian screens.

In Australia, “Star Trek” and fellow U.S. holdovers “Space Jam” (which dipped only 4% and retained top spot), “101 Dalmatians,” “Ransom” and “Jingle All the Way” overshadowed the preem of Village Roadshow’s romantic Oz comedy “Hotel de Love,” which smooched a so-so $228,387 from 123 prints. But that was the pick of an underperforming bunch of freshmen, which included Sony’s “Fly Away Home” (just $119,958 from 139) and Peter Greenaway’s “The Pillow Book” ($27,329 from six).

BVI’s “Jack” (cume: $18.5 million) had an OK $550,000 bow on 130 prints in Spain, where a generally sluggish box office was blamed on a pre-Christmas shopping frenzy. Fox’s “The Truth About Cats and Dogs” (cume: $19.7 million) charmed a so-so $149,660 from 56 Spanish screens, while WB’s “Surviving Picasso” took $66,931 from 18 screens.

Also in Spain, Danny DeVito starrer “Matilda” managed $363,196 from 116 screens. In a slow week, the best average the Sony pic could muster was $108,475 from 25 cinemas in its U.K. bow, which was better than the dismal $17,782 from 34 sites in Belgium. Other disappointing bows included South Africa, Portugal and Mexico.

The Christmas spirit also continues to elude Fox’s “Jingle All the Way,” which has amassed only $35.2 million from more than 50 territories. Soft landings over the weekend included Venezuela ($56,700 from 24 sites), Portugal ($136,604 from 35), Chile ($27,703 from nine), Indonesia ($128,977 from 38) and Peru ($43,121 from 21).

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