‘Mummy’ wraps around o’seas B.O.

Currency exchange will give sequel smaller gross

With “Pearl Harbor” waiting in the wings, “The Mummy Returns” has officially rung in the popcorn season, trailblazing Hollywood’s big-budget summer assault overseas, last week charging into 21 international territories.

In a generally soft overseas sesh, “The Mummy’s” $41.1 million international cume from 3,784 screens in 24 territories includes $823,000 from 703 on opening day in France.

The original “Mummy” took $258 million internationally. Despite setting a slew of opening weekend records, U.S. dollar returns for the sequel are expected to be 20% down from the first installment due to the currency exchange rate.

In Australia the Brendan Fraser/Rachel Weisz headliner opened to boffo numbers, but in week two it fell 42% to $2 million. Cume in Oz is $5.7 million for the UIP/Universal release.

In Italy, summer sunshine sent potential cinema auds scrambling outdoors, leaving “Mummy” to remain atop a drab batch, including Kim Basinger starrer “Bless the Child.”

But “Mummy” coaxed more than a million sun-worshiping Germans back to cinemas last week to deliver the best May opening in history. As the only new release in the top 10, it sent exhibs into paroxysms of excitement amid otherwise barren multiplexes.

” ‘The Mummy Returns’ was a sure-fire hit,” says one exhib. “It had a built-in audience who saw the first ‘Mummy’ and wanted more of that action-packed roller-coaster ride.”

In Spain, it was given a wide berth by other distribs fearful of being squeezed in its clutches. The paucity of product spurred one downbeat booker, perhaps with an eye toward the genre, to comment: “These are cursed months in Spain.”

Another disappointing week in France surprised an industry expecting a post-Cannes B.O. boost. Despite attributing last week’s flagging box office to an anticipation of Cannes releases, the tremendous first quarter is slipping into a state of aftermath.

Reps for Italian director Nanni Moretti’s heart-wrenching “The Son’s Room,” top prize winner at the Cannes Film Festival, were disappointed by the post-fest turnout.

“We were wary about how many screens to show the film on, as Moretti doesn’t usually attract a strong following (in France), but with the Palme d’Or, we thought the response would be more enthusiastic,” one rep says.

Distrib’s experimental release of a French language version of the pic didn’t appear to boost attendance, either. On the contrary, the film’s original Italo version seems to be the more popular choice for French cinemagoers.

The landscape is altogether brighter across the English Channel, where the warm weather did not deter auds, which have continued flocking to cinemas since release of “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” helping nudge April admissions to the highest mark there in 26 years. With a public already hellbent on pics, “Mummy Returns” took an excellent $10.5 million in six days — $1 million more than the original.

At the other end of the spectrum, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s directorial debut about dogfighting, the adults-only-rated “Amores Perros,” achieved the strongest opening of any Mexican pic in the U.K. Rave reviews helped deliver $160,000 from just 13 screens for Optimum Releasing.

(David Rooney, Lee Simkins, Katya Foreman, Ed Meza and John Hopewell contributed to this report.)

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