‘Mummy,’ ‘Moulin’ mesmerize o’seas

Top pics battle it out but overall foreign B.O. soft

Audiences around the world plunged back to the past last weekend as Aussies embraced the Paris of 1900 as romanticized in “Moulin Rouge” and folks in 31 territories dug the 1930s-set “The Mummy Returns.”

The “Mummy” sequel raked in an estimated $26 million and its cume rocketed to $69 million just three weekends after it kicked off its foreign campaign in Australia and Italy.

The problem for exhibs in many markets is that beneath Stephen Sommers’ actioner, biz is very soft as other distribs steered clear of it and the June arrival of “Pearl Harbor.”

In its offshore preem, “Moulin Rouge” delivered a high-kicking $1.9 million in four days on 253 screens (including previews) Down Under, marking 20th Century Fox’s third-biggest bow in the territory behind “Star Wars: Episode One — The Phantom Menace” and “Independence Day.”

Oz exhibs noted Baz Luhrmann’s extravaganza played to packed houses at upmarket locations and is generating good word of mouth, although ticket sales were not nearly as impressive at cinemas in working-class areas, where, in some cases, the “Mummy” ruled in its third weekend.

“Moulin,” the lavish musical toplining Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor, is drawing widely across the age spectrum and is resonating strongly with teenage girls and couples. The curtain rises on Fox’s pic next weekend in Taiwan and New Zealand.

“The Mummy Returns” debuted at No. 1 in 10 markets, led by France’s $3.4 million on 703 prints (the second-biggest May entry there behind “The Fifth Element”), Mexico’s $2.8 million on 290 (the industry’s third-best trailing “Dinosaur” and Tarzan”) and the Philippines’ $1.1 million on 139 (No. 3 of all time in the territory, 78% higher than the first “Mummy”).

The Brendan Fraser/Rachel Weisz starrer clocked $1.08 million on 49 in Singapore (48% up on the original and the market’s third-biggest behind “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” and “Twister”), $730,000 on 63 in Belgium, $410,000 on 81 in Colombia, $366,000 on 36 in Chile (second highest ever behind the most recent “Star Wars”), $305,000 on 52 in Greece and $219,000 on 54 in Peru (an industry record).

‘Mummy’ makes coin

Coming off monster openings the prior weekend, the Universal/UIP release experienced acceptable falls in its soph sessions in major markets, coining $4.3 million in the U.K., (off 43%), scoring $15.4 million in 10 days; $3.3 million in Germany (down 45%), ringing up $10.6 million in 11 days; nearly $2 million in Spain (sliding 38%) for $5.8 million to date; and $550,000 in Argentina (slipping 23%), advancing to $1.5 million.

B.O. figures in some countries either were not available or are estimates due to Memorial Day and a Monday public holiday in the U.K.

In its first offshore appearances, Sony’s laffer “Joe Dirt” proved effective counter-programming to “Moulin Rouge” in Oz ($540,000 on 167) but tanked in Germany ($112,000 on 181), indicating it might struggle outside non-English speaking countries.

Ilustrating the brittle state of many markets, the Sigourney Weaver-Jennifer Love Hewitt starrer “Heartbreakers” launched in Germany in its first major tryout at No. 2, scamming a mediocre $525,000 from 274 locations.

New Line’s drug saga “Blow” couldn’t get arrested in the U.K. ($597,000 on 151), where “See Spot Run” had no bark or bite ($251,000 on 313). Warner Bros.’ kidpic also stiffed in Mexico.

After its domestic demise, New Line’s “Town and Country” doesn’t seem destined to redeem itself abroad, judging by its skimpy $202,000 bow on 140 in Spain.