Bullock takes Teuton in soft sesh o’seas

'Mexican' tops in Japan, Italy

As a barometer of the B.O. low pervading much of Europe, “Miss Congeniality” reigned in Germany for the fourth straight week, untroubled by rookies “Valentine” and Gallic import “The Crimson Rivers,” while local films held sway in France and Spain.

The combined star power of Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt was enough to ensure No. 1 debuts by “The Mexican” in Japan and Italy, and “Bridget Jones’s Diary” kept U.K. cinemas humming, sliding by a reasonable 23% after a monster preem, scoring $24.6 million in 13 days. The Renee Zellweger-Hugh Grant starrer is tracking ahead of “Notting Hill” in the same frame, and might have enough legs to catch the latter’s £30 million ($44 million) U.K. cume. Also stimulating biz in Blighty was “Spy Kids,” which was a big weekend draw but inevitably plunged during the week after kids returned from vacation.

In its offshore preem, “The Tailor of Panama,” John Boorman’s spy thriller toplining Pierce Brosnan and Geoffrey Rush, attracted a healthy turnout in London but was less alluring in the provinces. “The Hole,” Pathe’s lottery-funded teen chiller, was panned by the critics but garnered respectable figures in the U.K.

Gore Verbinski’s “The Mexican” stole a nifty $4 million in six days on 242 screens in Japan, a luminous $2.8 million in six days on 325 in Italy and a pretty good $727,000 in five days on 192 in Brazil. The big challenge for the kidnap caper will be to avoid the precipitous second-week falls it has suffered in Mexico, Argentina and Israel.

Unseated by “The Mexican,” “Hannibal” nonetheless stayed perky in Japan, fetching a tasty $16.9 million in 19 days, and its cume reached $155.8 million, fast closing in on domestic’s $163.8 million.

“Miss Congeniality” climbed to $66.5 million on the back of a $9.3 million frame on 2,600 screens in 37 markets. The Sandra Bullock starrer courted a hot $1.7 million in six days on 230 in Mexico and a mild $265,000 in the same period on 50 in Sweden.

In a slow week in Germany, one booker rated “Crimson Rivers” as a fine film but noted that French fare normally has a tough time attracting auds accustomed to Hollywood glitz. Constantin’s comedy “Maedchen Maedchen” showed remarkable longevity in its fourth lap, considering its target audience is teens.

Luc Besson has the distinction of producing the two titles atop the Gallic B.O. — thriller “Yamakasi” in its third round and rookie “15 August,” a midlife crisis saga, helmed by Patrick Alessandrin, about three guys who have to cope with kids and housework when their wives abandon them for a few days.

“Enemy at the Gates” took a moderate $750,000 in four days on 200 in Italy, pumped by director Jean-Jacques Annaud’s promo trip to Rome. The WWII epic opened OK in Taiwan, but was overshadowed by fellow frosh “15 Minutes.” The New Line pic’s cume is a slim $14.8 million from 17 territories.

Two films that competed in last year’s Cannes fest finally saw daylight in Italy: Michael Haneke’s “Code Unknown,” retitled “Stories,” registered well at 11 theaters, benefiting from star Juliette Binoche’s exposure in “Chocolat”; Liv Ullmann’s Ingmar Bergman-scripted “Faithless” was thinly attended at 10 houses, despite strong reviews and media coverage for the director’s visit.

“The Emperor’s New Groove” bopped along to $62.8 million, fueled by handy contribs from France, Mexico, Italy and Australia. Another holiday attraction, “Rugrats in Paris,” has rustled up $18.9 million in 13 countries.

Simon Wincer’s “Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles” had a jolly second sojourn in Oz, easing by 22%, helped by lousy weather and the school vacation.

Steven Seagal’s comeback vehicle “Exit Wounds” had a solid foreign launch Down Under. In its first offshore tryout, Revolution Studios’ “Tomcats” wasn’t as embarrassing in Oz as it was in the U.S., but that’s not saying much.

“Men of Honor” whistled up $938,000 in five days on 240 in Spain, where local phenom “Torrente 2” ruled in its fourth outing and Guillermo Del Toro’s horror pic “The Devil’s Backbone,” toplining the popular Eduardo Noriega, was a crowd pleaser, demonstrating Spaniards’ appetite for quality genre pics.

Sam Raimi’s “The Gift” notched respectable figures in France and Spain, and is generally playing more broadly overseas than in did in the U.S. without reaching stellar heights. Only 12 territories into its foreign cruise, the thriller’s cume is set to pass domestic’s $11.9 million.

“Remember the Titans” kicked off in France at around the same modest level as “The Hurricane,” underlining how U.S. films with sports and black themes pose tough marketing challenges. “Titans’ ” cume is $14.8 million, a shadow of domestic’s $115 million. “Dude, Where’s My Car?” crashed in France, another dud in a foreign trip that has yielded decent results only in Germany ($5.1 million) and the U.K. ($4.8 million); the crass comedy’s $22.5 million cume doesn’t stack up well against domestic’s $46.6 million.

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