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Gaul amiable to ‘Amelie’

Local pix continue streak

PARIS — Helmer Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s $10.3 million fantasy-romance “Amelie of Montmartre” took in more than $6 million in its first week on 432 screens as French films continue to storm the domestic box office.

Pic swept past Brad Pitt/Julia Roberts starrer “The Mexican” and notched up an aud satisfaction level of 78% — tops so far for 2001. Critics’ praise and word of mouth helped stir up interest; one in two cinemagoers was aware of the movie before it came out.

Pic stars Audrey Tautou as a waitress who somehow improves the lives of her neighbors in Montmartre.

The producers could not wait for Cannes’ artistic director Thierry Fremaux to decide whether “Amelie” would be chosen for the fest, so they released it April 25. But the movie will show on the Croisette in a pioneering free, open-air screening May 13.

Distrib rights have been sold to all major territories, with Miramax grabbing North American rights at AFM on the premise of the script and a promo reel alone, according to reps at UGC Intl., the pic’s French distributor. Rights for smaller territories in South America and Asia will be sold at Cannes.