Exhibs await day-and-date ‘X2’ launch

'Johnny' #1 in U.K., Germany; doing well in Europe, Oz

“X-Men” to the rescue! Exhibs overseas were eagerly anticipating the weekend launch of “X2” in an unprecedented 93 territories as biz had subsided to generally low levels after the Easter bounce.

Typifying how much cinemas are counting on the double-shot of Fox’s sci-fier and Warner’s “The Matrix: Reloaded” this month, one Madrid booker opines that anyone who could not grab a print of either might as well close. Fox was unleashing “X2” at approximately 5,600 theaters abroad, a company record but not an industry high (both “Harry Potters,” for example, blanketed more screens). Understandably, few distribs were game to release big films last weekend, so the mainstays were holdovers “Johnny English” and “The Jungle Book 2,” rookie “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” and a far less obvious drawcard in “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” in Italy.

“Johnny English” was the pacesetter again in the April 25-27 frame, mustering $13.3 million from 3,136 playdates in 27 countries, and its cume through April 30 topped $80 million. It’s a cinch to surpass $100 million with Japan, France and South Korea ahead. The Rowan Atkinson starrer nabbed a jolly $291,000 in five days in Greece but bowed weakly in Taiwan, where the B.O. has been devastated by SARS virus scares. Despite the health worries, the Working Title laffer experienced no worse than average drops in its soph sessions in Hong Kong and other Southeast Asian markets.

Bonny “Johnny” was No. 1 for the third weekend in a row in the U.K. and Germany and had lively third frames in Spain, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland and Oz.

“How to Lose a Guy” was the front-runner Down Under and in Mexico and solid in Italy, Switzerland and Turkey. Good word of mouth sustained the romantic comedy in its second laps in Blighty and Germany.

“Dreamcatcher” reigned in its second turn in Spain, where auds have a hearty appetite for chillers, but opened tamely in the U.K., battered by crix. Stephen King-inspired tale has garnered a so-so $27.2 million in 39 markets.

The “Jungle Book 2” sequel levitated to $73 million, eclipsing domestic’s $47 million, buoyed by its fifth frame in Germany (“it’s a must-see for kids and the only film out right now for the young ones,” notes one exhib) and its third stanzas in the U.K., Spain, Mexico and Australia.

“Anger Management” opened in top spot in Taiwan, Singapore and the Philippines without scaling great heights and held fairly well in its second lap in Australia.

Early in its travels, “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” was the champ in Italy, capitalizing on the all-star cast, a strong trailer and a clever marketing campaign by local distrib Eagle. However, the pic based on U.S. gameshow host Chuck Barris’ exploits was all but ignored in Germany, limited to 98 screens, as one exhib snorted, “It might do O.K. in some specialized theaters, but for most viewers, ‘Who’s Chuck Barris? Who cares?’ ”

“The Life of David Gale” was tops in Paris and suburbs but not as appealing in the provinces, resonating with Gauls who are disgusted by America’s death penalty. The Kevin Spacey starrer hasn’t caught on elsewhere, collecting a skimpy $11 million in 21 markets.

Invading India, its final market, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” conjured up $341,000 on 102, 45% up on the original and a WB record locally, although trailing the third weekend of Indian blockbuster “Hero.” “Potter’s” cume is a towering $607.4 million.

In Spain, comicbook adaptation “Mortadelo & Filemon: The Big Adventure” reached $23.6 million, surpassing “Torrente 2” to become the second-highest-grossing local film ever, behind all-time champ “The Others,” which made $29 million.

(Sheri Jennings in Rome, John Hopewell in Madrid, Ed Meza in Berlin, Liza Klaussmann in Paris and Archie Thomas in London contributed to this report.)

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