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Dog days of summer result in varied B.O.

'Sum' has no fun in Germany; 'Men' below expectations

Summer vacation — that’s about the only trend evident at the international box office this week. But even that commonality has vastly different implications territory by territory.

The Italian biz is more or less comatose until September. Japanese flocked to the movies during their Obon holidays but the bookers were not reporting. Australia is ho-humming through the last gusts of winter. And in central Europe, floodwaters have wrought havoc from Germany to Slovakia, triggering mass evacuations from threatened areas including Prague.

It was no surprise then that the Germans gave “The Sum of All Fears” a wet welcome. A popcorner wherein neo-Nazi terrorists set off a nuclear bomb in a U.S. city probably wasn’t what they were looking for. The Ben Affleck-Morgan Freeman actioner debuted ahead of a tired pack (“MiBII” in lap four, “Scooby-Doo” in lap two and “National Lampoon’s Van Wilder Party Liaison” in lap three). It earned $3.3 million in six days from a tight 549 screens.

“Fear’s” respectable $24.5 million international cume was likely boosted over the weekend (Aug 16-18) with preems for UIP in the UK and a handful of smaller Euro territories.

This past week in Blighty, B.O. dropped 28% off the previous week’s strong frame. One booker blamed the improved weather and the dearth of major new titles — Warner’s “Eight Legged Freaks” was the only notable opener, earning $1.6 million for the weekend to August 11. Pic’s 10-territory cume to last weekend was about $3 million ahead of preems this weekend in Austria, Germany and Mexico.

The poor performance Stateside for “Freaks” threw a cloud over its international rollout but U.K. exhibs were still expecting it to perform better than it did, after a strong marketing campaign by WB and the benefit of a 12-certificate classification. “MiBII” is still performing below expectations, with a 50% drop. “Stuart Little 2” and “Scooby-Doo” continue to lap up most of the kids’ coin, but that will end this weekend with the nationwide bow for “Spy Kids 2,” which has already performed strongly in neighboring Scotland and the Republic of Ireland.

One U.K. booker isn’t sure what to expect from the next few weeks. There are no blockbusters on the horizon but the likes of “Spy Kids 2,” “The Sum of All Fears,” “Reign of Fire,” “The Guru” and “The Bourne Identity” should keep B.O. ticking over.

Across the Channel, French B.O. was generating a bit more spark with Sony’s “MiBII” single-handedly boosting last week’s B.O. by 47% on the previous week and 30% over the same week last year, and itself racked up a mammoth 58% market share. Pic’s full week total was $12 million, and international cume from 91% of territories is $169 million. Otherwise the August vacations hit full swing, pushing the B.O into the doldrums.

The rain in Spain has boosted B.O. by 11% vs. the previous weekend and brought sunshine to exhibbers, with one exclaiming the results were “more like a fall than a summer weekend.” Chief beneficiary was “The Sum of All Fears,” which grossed a strong first three-day $1.49 million off 298 prints, which the booker attributed to Morgan Freeman’s visit to Spain and an aggressive marketing campaign.

“Stuart Little 2” dropped just 17% in its soph sesh. “Ice Age,” reckoned by word-of-mouth as the best of the kiddies bunch, rose 10%. The other major beneficiary was romantic musical “The Wrong Side of the Bed,” which has surpassed $5.2 million in cume to become the highest-grossing Spanish film of the year.

In Japan, the weeklong Obon (Festival of the Dead) summer vacation usually triggers bumper cinema auds, so “The Sum of All Fears” and stayers such as “Star Wars: Episode 2,” “Ice Age” and local fare stand to gain; totals won’t be in until next week.

In Australia, there was little to note ahead of the preem for BVI’s “Signs” this weekend. Last week, “About A Boy” dropped just 20% in lap two, to take $3 million in seven days (plus sneaks). “Bend It Like Beckham” in lap six dropped just 22% on a modest 94 screens but still held the second spot (cume $4.5 million). Roadshow’s “Birthday Girl,” toplining local gal Nicole Kidman, debuted on 87 to take $278,000 and Col Tri’s “The Sweetest Thing” is still in the frame after three weeks with a cume of $1.6 million.

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