Auds playing hooky

O'seas B.O. flat in anticipation of blockbusters

SYDNEY — The annual spring cleaning downturn for foreign B.O. continues as auds go AWOL, the flow of product slows and the current crop of small fry pics hastens to make way for the summer blockbusters, led by “Star Wars: Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace,” in a few weeks.

Of the few weekend preems, it was a minor battle royale between the Sandra Bullock-Ben Affleck romantic comedy “Forces of Nature” and teen horror sequel “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer,” the latter hooking the U.K. top spot with $1.29 million from 279 screens, knocking off “The Waterboy,” down 24% to $1 million from 400. “Nature” took second in the U.K. on $1.2 million from 329, however pic proved a force to be reckoned with in Germany and Oz, where it stole the crown from “I Still Know” and “The Matrix,” respectively

With $1.38 million from 298 German screens, “Nature” was up 42% on “Practical Magic’s” opening, topping “I Still Know” which fell to the No. 2 spot, a second weekend drop of 27%, grossing $1.32 million from 437. “I Still Know” also fell to third place in Spain, slicing $366,690 from 164, bringing the international cume to $37 million.

‘Nature’ awes Oz auds

Down Under, “Nature” gale forced its way to the top, outstripping “Practical Magic” 62% for $1.09 million from 205, and blowing “Matrix” down 36% for a fifth week gross of $694,422 off 217. “Matrix” also had first class preems in Italy and Denmark.

Ranked No. 1, Italy’s “Matrix” bow of $1,451,480 from 306 was the second best May/June opening ever, the best U.S. pic bow of 1999, the sixth biggest Warners bow in Italy and the biggest Keanu Reeves opening there ever, besting “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” 107%.

In Denmark, pic also debuted on top, netting a stellar $283,071 from 40, Warners’ third best Danish opening ever, performing 11% better than “Deep Impact” last year.

“Matrix” continued its blockbusting rollout elsewhere, with an excellent preem in Malaysia and healthy holdovers in Puerto Rico and Singapore. In Malaysia, pic was a top ranker on $373,638 from 52, the highest opening this year, outperforming “Con Air” by 94%.

Meanwhile pic tied for the top spot with “Entrapment” in Puerto Rico, grossing $185,619 from 42, and remains top 3 in Singapore, where pic fell 53% for a third week gross of $162,998. Cume to date is tipping $16 million and rising.

‘Entrapment’ snares B.O.

Sean Connery starrer “Entrapment” began its foreign sojourns with promising bows in Puerto Rico, Singapore and Thailand. In Puerto Rico, “Entrapment” nabbed $201,747 off 35, followed closely by $302,011 from 70 screens in Singapore and $467, 710 off 88 in Thailand. Pic’s weekend cume was $1.07 million across four markets.

Nearing the end of its run, “Star Trek: Insurrection” had a moderate third place preem in Japan, grossing $697,097 from 199. Pic also bowed rowdily in Sweden with $149,734 from 23, up 90% on “Star Trek: First Contact”. Meanwhile, Japan’s affair with “Shakespeare In Love” continued into its second week, down a mere 32% from last week’s lovesick debut for a $5.9 million gross from 189. The Gwyneth Paltrow pic’s cume is now $145 million.

Swedish ‘Crime’ statistics

The Swedish were not so rapt with “True Crime,” a comparatively bloodless debut on $54,144 from 20. Although in Holland the Clint Eastwood starrer opened 23% better than “Absolute Power” and 5% below “A Civil Action,” grossing a polite $65,906 also off 20.

In France, the Eastwood pic is a third place pale rider behind sci-fi cult pic “The Cube,” dropping 32% for $553,783 from 266 in week three. Likewise, Spain has lost 32% interest in “Crime,” raking in $447,529 off 123, Italy dropped 39% for a $167,707 gross from 103, and Germany fell 16.2% taking $287,149 from 147, all over pic’s second weekend in each market.

Back in Oz, “American History X” debuted strongly with $267,000 from 48, coming in sixth place after third place getter “The Craic” on a riotous second week gross of $602,100, down 32% off 151.

Ranked fourth, “A Civil Action” fell 49% taking $294,551 off 161 screens for a foreign cume of $11.5 million and BVI’s “The Other Sister” hit fifth place on $251,145, cume $2.1 million. New Line’s “The Corruptor” also stalled in Oz on $165,763 off 80 over four days.

However, it was all smiles in the fast lane as NL veteran “Rush Hour” finally joined the century club with $100,150,003 international cume.

Also fast approaching the century club is Roberto Benigni’s “Life Is Beautiful,” still with an international cume that does not include Italy standing on the cusp at $99.3 million.