Spring’s B.O. woes

Frosh frigid o'seas; exhibs waiting for 'Menace'

Exhibitors in many territories were cursing Hollywood last week as a bunch of U.S. loser pics ventured abroad, deepening the B.O. malaise in most of Europe and Asia.

“It’s the doldrum days for cinemas” overseas, admitted one U.S. major exec, who is confident biz will rally when “The Matrix,” “Entrapment” and “The Mummy” start rolling out in the next month or so before the arrival of the “Star Wars” prequel.

Last week, exhibs were scraping by with such middling freshmen as “The Faculty” in Germany, “8MM” and “Message in a Bottle” in the U.K., and “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer” in Spain.

They got no joy from debutantes “Ravenous” in Australia and Singapore, “A Civil Action” in Germany, “Psycho” and “The Hi-Lo Country” in Italy, “In Dreams,” “Breakfast of Champions” and “Arlington Road” in France, “t First Sight” and “Plunkett & Macleane” in Spain and “Ever After: A Cinderella Story” in Japan.

‘Crime’ pays o’seas

Warner Bros.’ domestic dud “True Crime” had promising international launches in France (where Clint Eastwood is revered) and Belgium, though it’s struggling to find auds outside Paris. Dire word of mouth socked David Cronenberg’s “eXistenZ” in its soph session in France.

After blitzing Australia and New Zealand, “The Matrix” stormed into Singapore, its first Asian territory, pulling $580,000 on 26 screens, the best opening of the year there.

The Aussie B.O. has held up much better this year than many other markets, with receipts in the first quarter down just 2.7% on the year-ago period. A record Easter and a strong following frame will probably have wiped out the deficit through the end of April.

U.K. tradesters said biz was dismal apart from a middling bow by “8MM” (estimated foreign cume: $27.5 million) and spry second laps from “An Ideal Husband” and “Happiness.”

Teutonic woes

In Germany, one booker summed up the frame as a “catastrophe.” “The Faculty” debut here was mediocre as cume topped $14 million, highlighted by a pretty good three weeks in the U.K.

New releases fared poorly in Spain as well, though “I Still Know What You Did” started briskly despite a glut of teen-appeal titles. Columbia TriStar’s thriller had $30 million in the till before its weekend preem in Germany and engagements to come in the U.K., Italy and Japan.

Italian cinemas are winding down early for the summer hiatus, relieved a bit by “8MM’s” sturdy second week.

Solid holdovers

“Message in a Bottle” (cume: $26 million from 28 countries) fared OK in Turkey and South Korea. “Shakespeare in Love,” still earning decent coin in 13 countries, moved up to $135.2 million, while fellow Oscar honoree “Life Is Beautiful” keeps ticking over, reaching $48.3 million in Italy and $93.3 million in the rest of foreign. “Payback” climbed to $62.4 million and “Patch Adams” hit $53.5 million.