‘Matrix’ does brisk biz in 13 territories

Wachowski actioner sets sights on Japan and India next

Release of “The Matrix Reloaded” resulted in brisk biz in Australia, France and 11 smaller territories this past week while elsewhere there was calm before the storm.

By May 21 the Wachowski brothers’ philosophical epic had uploaded $37.5 million. Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow will roll out the f/x-laden actioner in all remaining international territories this weekend, except for Japan and India, which go later.

Down Under, the box office rebounded a whopping 119% off the previous weekend’s flat frame — due exclusively to Roadshow’s 480 screen rollout of “Reloaded”; there were no other new releases, except for the company’s re-release of “The Matrix” on 92 screens, four years after its debut. From just a handful of appetite-whetting Thursday night sessions, “The Matrix” was Australia’s eighth highest-grossing pic last weekend. “Reloaded” rolled Friday, a day later than usual.

In six other markets, the reported weekend was shorter by a day or two because of the hype-generating embargo that saw “Reloaded” held until after its red-carpet preem at the Cannes Film Festival Thursday night.

The shortened time frame meant “Reloaded” did not smash opening weekend B.O. records, still held in many territories by “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” and “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones.” But this weekend’s full frame preems should display the full magic of the Keanu Reeves starrer.

The French B.O. spiked 76% over the previous week and 32% over the same week last year, with “Reloaded” the primary beneficiary. With 56% market share, it eclipsed the Cannes opener “Fanfan la tulipe” and “X-Men 2,” now in week three. International cume for “X2” is now $153 million.

Gallic pic “Fanfan la tulipe,” starring Penelope Cruz and Vincent Perez, survived scathing reviews to preem at No. 2 with $2.7 million. The local appeal of this film, in story as well as stars, insulated it from total failure, but it remains to be seen if “Fanfan” can find its legs. And TFM’s “Frida” reappeared in the top 10, a surprise beneficiary of the “Reloaded”-“Fanfan” onslaught. The biopic of painter Frida Kahlo has now taken $26 million in 41 territories.

Despite the activity in France, across the border Germany remains in pre-“Reloaded” times. Weekend B.O. reached it lowest ebb this year, with only “Anger Management” and “X2” holding relatively steady in the top two spots.

“With no new films, it’s no wonder the box office was so abysmal,” says one booker who was nevertheless pleased to see tyke favorite “Jungle Book 2” take advantage of the open field, experiencing an impressive 63% boost.

The British box office was a dumping ground ahead of the “Reloaded” preem this weekend. Despite preems for 10 new pics, the weekend B.O. dropped 12% and “X2” convincingly held top spot in lap three. Preems of “Antwone Fisher,” “Extreme Ops” and “The Truth About Charlie” tanked while Warners’ Aussie tyke comedy “Kangaroo Jack” shone through despite savage reviews.

Metro Tartan had its best ever preem with S&M office romancer “Secretary.” The black comedy starring James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal drew rave reviews and eclipsed the screen averages of other pics, generating $270,000 from only 30 screens. Michael Caine starrer “The Actors,” which limped into 10th spot despite a wide release, and “Johnny English” continued to defy expectations. Latter fell only 17% in week six and has now taken a staggering $29 million; international cume is $103 million.

In Italy the flat B.O. run continued, with overall results down 22% on the same “Attack of the Clones”-powered week last year.

Market leader “X2” fell 41%, but exhibs were not surprised. “Twentieth Century Fox used a tactic of one copy per cinema. I am not sure it worked for them,” notes one exhib. Homegrown fare received particular support from exhibs — “These films will be given special space during the summer months in our cinemas,” said one.

In Japan “The Hours” enjoyed a modest preem while Miramax stablemate “Chicago” is still dancing up a storm atop the B.O. after five weeks. “Chicago’s” international cume is now $124 million — $280 worldwide, the highest ever for distrib Miramax.

Ed Meza in Germany, Liza Klaussmann in France, Archie Thomas in the U.K. and Sheri Jennings in Italy contributed to this report.

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