Mouse munches B.O.

Roberts' romancers vie very well at box office

Mighty Mouse House distrib BVI dominated a mixed frame, raking in well over $40 million this past week with a swag of record international bows, matched only by “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace,” which topped $450.4 million after taking another $11 million from an otherwise moribund France.

Sterling performances from “Tarzan,” “The Sixth Sense,” “Runaway Bride,” “Inspector Gadget,” “The 13th Warrior” and “10 Things I Hate About You” across various territories pushed BVI’s results sky-high, topping a significant three-month turnaround for Disney’s international arm.

Indie hit “The Blair Witch Project” also performed spectacularly in limited release in the U.K., where school holidays sent box office soaring, while in Italy the Julia Roberts romancer “Notting Hill” was all the rage. B.O. was down in France and Spain, however, only so-so in Germany and unexceptional in Oz, where “Sense” and “Random Hearts” accounted for over half the national tally with little competition.

Disney’s “Tarzan” built solidly on the pic’s two-week platform in Scotland, collecting $9.2 million from 475 sites in six days for a $10.3 million cume. The biggest-ever industry opening for a traditional animation (non-CGI), pic’s foreign cume now stands at $74.8 million following a rapturous overseas reception mirroring the film’s domestic run.

The much-hyped “Blair Witch” also followed domestic suit, taking a whopping $1.8 million from 36 sites in six days, breaking many house records along the way. Tradesters reported people being turned away, auguring well for the pic’s expansion to 400 screens next week.

Likewise, “Bowfinger” and “Run Lola Run” both made the most of positive reviews, opening solidly for $2.3 million from 262 in six days and $120,000 from 20 in three, respectively. Soph “Deep Blue Sea” also showed great legs, dropping just 16% for a 13-day cume of $8.2 million (international cume $43.36 million).

French exhibs complained of a soft market despite high-profile pics such as “Phantom Menace,” which looked to be drifting badly in the sticks as it enters its third week. Disney’s “Inspector Gadget” clocked in second, opening with a not particularly arresting $1.7 million from 500 (international cume $17.8 million).

Local entry Luc Besson’s “The Messenger: Joan Of Arc” was only so-so with $597,416 from 590 on its opening day. However, pic’s audience skewed over 25, and Gaumont is hoping positive word-of-mouth and upbeat reviews will spur business over the long weekend, even though “Messenger’s” length limits the number of screenings per day.