Overseas exhibs hope for brighter fall biz

Some circuits estimate ticket sales off by 10%-15%

Many exhibs in Europe aren’t sorry to see the end of summer after the season’s B.O. was dragged down by a combo of under-performing Hollywood films, a sustained heatwave, lack of local hits and the economic slowdown in Germany and Spain.

Some circuits in France and Spain estimate ticket sales are off by 10%-15% compared with last summer.

Biz has been lousy all year in Germany where one booker opined, “This has been a summer of sequels and many viewers may feel that cinema is no longer offering anything new and refreshing, in which case they may just opt to rent a DVD.”

One programmer in Madrid noted films like “Terminator 3” and “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” drew young auds but offered little for folks aged over 25, resulting in steep falls in their second weekends.

In Italy, the B.O. dipped by 13% in June and by 16% in July as exhibs accused distribs of still being reluctant to release major films during the hot weather despite hefty investment in new cinemas and air-conditioning older theaters.

However the mood’s quite bright in the U.K., where execs said most Hollywood films had delivered the goods, supplemented by impressive results for arthouse releases “Secretary,” “Whale Rider,” “Buffalo Soldiers” and “Goodbye Lenin!” (which ranks as the most successful German pic ever in Blighty).

Admissions in July were down 23% on the same month last year when “Minority Report” and “Austin Powers in Goldmember” were rampant, but rallied in August, with one circuit up 9%.

The last two weeks have been bolstered by “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” which minted $20.5 million from 3,156 screens in 25 countries Aug. 22-24. Its cume through Aug. 26 flew to $113 million, with 40% of international markets ahead.

Swashbuckler nailed $2.6 million on 171 in Russia, the industry’s third-highest opening weekend behind “T-3” and “The Matrix Reloaded” and had buoyant soph sessions in France, Spain, Holland and Belgium. Johnny Depp starrer sailed through its third voyage in the U.K. and its fourth in Japan and Mexico.

Teutonic auds aren’t allergic to all sequels as “American Wedding” posted Universal’s ninth-biggest preem in Germany, slightly bigger than the first edition although 40% below the second. Laffer started smartly in Spain and Austria and held well in its second in the U.K.

“T-3” grabbed $1.1 million in five days in Greece, the market’s fourth-highest preem, and its estimated cume raced to $241 million in 52 territories; with Italy ahead, it’s destined for north of $260 million.

“Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life” is on a roller coaster overseas, opening fairly strongly in France, where the franchise and videogames are popular, and in Denmark. The Angelina Jolie vehicle fared OK in Belgium but weakly in the U.K, and plummeted in its second lap in Germany. Actioner has rustled up an estimated $40 million in 28 markets.

“The Italian Job” remake top scored in Australia and Mexico and was handy in the Philippines. Mark Wahlberg/Charlize Theron starrer misfired in Japan in June (released by an indie) and has taken a mediocre $2.4 million in slumbering Italy.

Local cop caper “Bayside Shakedown 2” was unshakeable in its sixth turn in Japan, becoming the third Nippon film to cross the $100 million milestone after toons “Spirited Away” and “Princes Mononoke.”

“2 Fast 2 Furious” barely got out of first gear in Japan — no surprise as the original grossed a skimpy $3.7 million there. With $93.6 million in the till, it will likely reach $100 million after launching in South Korea, Hong Kong and sundry small markets.

Continuing its conquest of Asia, “Bad Boys II” seized $1.1 million in five days in Thailand, eclipsing the predecessor’s $735,000 lifetime total. Buddy cop saga has arrested $13.1 million in seven markets, highlighted by South Korea’s $7.1 million.

A Fox pick-up in Latin America, “Lisbela and the Prisoner,” based on a popular play about a gal who’s looking for true love, just as in the movies she sees every week, wooed $786,000 in five days in its home market Brazil. That was the second-highest debut for a local pic behind Hector Babenco’s prison drama “Carandiru.”

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