‘Harry’ conjures B.O. gold; ‘Rings’ set to shine

Tolkien adaptation stirring exhibs as wiz kid builds cume

Exhibs overseas were on a high last week and hoping to go even higher: They are thrilled with “Harry Potter’s” meteoric performance in 37 countries and are eagerly anticipating “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” which launches Dec. 19 in more than a dozen markets, day-and-date with domestic.

Already, several bookers in Germany are predicting “Rings” will eventually outgross “Harry,” which will take some doing, as the boy wizard has conjured up $40.2 million in three weeks in Germany. One Teutonic loop says it has pre-sold 100,000 tickets for the J.R.R. Tolkien adaptation, and others reported SRO midnight previews.

For now, give the wiz his due as “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” (as it’s known in most markets outside Asia) banked $80 million from 8,524 prints last week, propelling cume to $262.2 million. The blockbuster’s $62.3 million haul Dec. 7-9 was an all-time industry record overseas, topping the prior weekend’s $60.9 million from 31 territories.

The Hogwarts saga whistled up $12.6 million, including previews, on an unprecedented 854 screens in France, a record bow for a Hollywood film (beating “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace”) and the industry’s fifth highest in history behind local pics “Taxi 2,” “Would I Lie to You? 2,” “Asterix & Obelix vs. Caesar” and “Les Visiteurs 2.”

Its Italian entry eclipsed Italy’s previous high set by actor-director Leonardo Pieraccioni’s laffer “Fireworks” in 1997. The only distrib game enough to try to compete was the newly resuscitated Italian Intl. Film, which released Antonio Banderas starrer “The Body” — a bad move, as it turned out.

“Harry’s” opener in French-speaking Switzerland was an industry best, surpassing “The World Is Not Enough,” as was Venezuela’s $766,000 on 65, outrunning “The Mummy Returns.” Peru’s $375,000 in six days on 70 was the market’s biggest nonholiday preem.

Wizard weakens in Oz

The fantasy posted record second weekends in Japan (where it’s racked up an awesome $41.4 million in 12 days) and Spain. Coming off a very high peak in Australia, “Potter” plunged by 42%, losing some teens who flocked to rookie “American Pie 2.”

In its fourth orbit in the U.K., the Warner franchise zipped past “Toy Story 2” to become the market’s No. 5 all-time earner.

In its second outing in Argentina, the sorcerer lost his crown to “Monsters, Inc.,” which captured $1.4 million on 179, the industry’s fifth-best animated debut, double that of “Toy Story 2.”

“Atlantis: The Lost Empire” levitated to $56.5 million and is destined to cruise past its modest $83 million domestic result. “Atlantis” notched the third-highest preem for a U.S. toon in Japan, trailing “Dinosaur” and the “Toy Story” sequel, but in Germany it was in the middle-range of Disney animated bows. In both markets it was affected by “Harry’s” slipstream.

Big slice of ‘Pie’

“American Pie 2” ascended to $115.3 million, spurred by lusty bows in Oz (67% ahead of the original) and Spain and Korea’s soph session. After taking tidy sums in the U.K. and Hong Kong, the Robert Redford/Brad Pitt starrer “Spy Game” played smartly in Spain, benefiting from the surge in cinemagoing during the Constitution Day holiday frame.

The Michael Douglas vehicle “Don’t Say a Word” had one of its livelier starts in Mexico and ran strongly in Spain after doing OK Down Under and in Greece and tanking in France. Cume is a ho-hum $20.6 million from 27 markets.

“The Curse of the Jade Scorpion” drew a fair number of Woody Allen aficionados in France, but the Woodman has a much smaller following in Germany, judging by its minor debut there.

The Samuel L. Jackson/Robert Carlyle headliner “The 51st State,” an actioner set in Liverpool, had an underwhelming tryout in Blighty, where “Riding in Cars With Boys” crashed.

(David Rooney in Rome, John Hopewell in Spain and Ed Meza in Berlin contributed to this report.)