Foreign auds tire of blockbuster fare

Japan, Argentina feed 'Machines'

Asian exhibs saluted Arnold Schwarzenegger last week while bookers in Europe were fretting about a different kind of terminator: the increasing tendency of U.S. tentpoles to burn out just as fast as Stateside.

Scorching weather in most of Europe did zap ticket sales but some programmers said that merely worsened the attrition of “Charlie’s Angels 2: Full Throttle” and “The Hulk.” More worryingly, one cinema owner in Spain sees a pronounced shift in moviegoers’ tastes, opining, “U.S. blockbusters are losing their interest for Spanish auds. It’s as if they’ve reached the end of a line. The public’s disconnecting, and once it goes away it will be difficult to get it back again.”

Another exec in Madrid lamented, “Despite all the new investment in multiplexing, the B.O. remains soft: pics bow well or so-so-ish, then drop off fast.”

U.K. receipts tumbled by 41%, France fell by 36%, already-ailing Germany declined by 26% and Spain abated by 10%.

Arnie’s “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” clocked the industry’s fifth highest preem in Japan, handled by Toho-Towa. Released elsewhere by Sony, sci-fier notched an opening record for a Hollywood film in Thailand and the industry’s second biggest behind Thai epic “Suriyothai”; the third-highest in Malaysia, sans sneaks; the 10th largest in the Philippines; and the 11th in Singapore. In Argentina, its entry was the second-best ever behind “The Matrix Reloaded” in local currency. “T-3” captured approximately $20.8 million on 1,600 screens in 14 markets July 11-13 and the estimated cume through July 15 flew to $32 million, including a lively soph session in Russia after a record debut.

The “Angels” caper advanced to $85.8 million in 45 territories. Femme fatales opened at No. 1 in Germany (29% below the original in euros, although just 6% less in dollars), Spain (8% less in local), and Austria (4% shy). Sequel outperformed the predecessor by 40% in Mexico but couldn’t catch the second sesh of “Finding Nemo,” and by 66% in Brazil. McG-helmed actioner held reasonably well in its third sojourn in Japan but plummeted by 45% in its second in the U.K.

However, one London booker said this kind of popcorn pic is pre-programmed to do most of its biz in the opening stanza, and any drop of less than 50% is acceptable. It plunged by 52% in Italy where one exhib declared, “‘Angels’ is over. The expectations were much higher but we realize the target is all wrong in Italy: the film is teenager- and kid-oriented, but the people who grew up with ‘Charlie’s Angels’ are not drawn to these antics.”

“The Hulk” jumped to $57.8 million in 32 markets; its ultimate potential won’t be clear until after it debuts in the U.K. and Japan. Universal’s sci-fier bowed solidly in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Portugal and brilliantly in Indonesia, but was subpar in Holland. The big green guy wilted in his second weekends in Germany (after a poor start), Spain and France.

“Bruce Almighty” delivered BVI’s third-highest opener behind “Pearl Harbor” and “Finding Nemo” in South Korea (No. 2 behind local rookie, “Singles,” saga of four friends/lovers all aged 29) and a record for the distrib in Belgium, beating “Signs.” Spyglass comedy soared to $117.4 million in just 25 territories.

“Finding Nemo” cruised to $29.7 million in 16 countries, mostly in Asia and Latin America, buoyed by Venezuela’s bow (a BVI record in local currency), and strong second laps in Mexico and Brazil.

After capsizing domestically, “Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas” showed more zip as it launched in France and South Korea and it drew vacationing kids in its second voyage Down Under. DreamWorks toon was OK in Taiwan but not great in Brazil or Belgium. “Sinbad” had a leg up in France as UIP heavily promoted local faves Patrick Bruel and Monica Bellucci, who voiced the lead characters. And it got rave reviews, typified by one who hailed “90 minutes of adventure for this remarkable film for all audiences.” Still, Gallic exhibs said the June B.O. was 9% down on the same month last year due to a lack of appetizing French fare and auds’ nonchalant attitudes to Hollywood’s offerings.

“Daddy Day Care” opened meekly in the U.K. despite a hefty marketing push, although Sony expects it to rally during school vacation; remarkably, the Eddie Murphy starrer made more money in its third outing Down Under. Kidpic has collected $15.5 million in six territories, including Mexico’s handy $4 million.

In its world preem, “Veronica Guerin,” Joel Schumacher’s tale featuring Cate Blanchett as a crusading Irish journalist whose investigations into the drug trade led to her murder, resonated strongly in Ireland ahead of its Aug. 1 U.K. bow.

(John Hopewell in Madrid, Sheri Jennings in Rome, Liza Klaussmann in Paris, Archie Thomas in London and Christian Kohl in Cologne contributed to this report.)

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