Sequels stronger in overseas heatwave

'T3', 'Angels' outperform domestic B.O.

Zapped by a prolonged heat wave in Europe, the generally soft summer season overseas delivered a few hits which clicked better than in the U.S., as well as some disappointments.

It’s clear auds abroad weren’t as jaded by sequels as those at home — partly because some pics were held over for the fall.

Arnold Schwarzenegger proved his non-political star still shines brightly around the globe as “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” eclipsed its domestic results.

And Jim Carrey, whose films typically generate only about 50% of their U.S. B.O. internationally, established himself as a worldwide draw card with “Bruce Almighty.” The laffer’s cume is fast approaching $200 million, with co-star Jennifer Aniston helping to draw more femmes than usually go to Carrey’s movies, and there’s plenty of upside with Japan and France ahead.

With $148 million in the till, “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” has significantly over-performed its U.S. tally, benefiting from being released well away from “T-3” in all major markets.

However folks overseas clearly prefer original works, typified by the smash successes of “Bruce,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and “Finding Nemo,” which is yet to open in Japan and Europe.

BVI exec VP Anthony Marcoly says this summer was a record for his banner, powered by “Pirates,” “Nemo” in Latin America, Asia and Oz, and “Bruce” (which Spyglass is handling in some territories). Elated by the swashbuckler’s potent openings and holding power, BVI execs believe it’s capable of reaching $300 million.

Perhaps the season’s biggest disappointment was “The Hulk.” The Ang Lee-helmed pic finally crossed $100 million outside North America last weekend after a buoyant bow in Italy, its last major market.

But the big green guy was mortally wounded in a head-to-head clash with “Pirates” in Japan, and it was pint-sized in Germany, where its launch was affected by a dispute over terms between UIP and indie exhibs. Also, Teutonic bookers say the Marvel comicbook character wasn’t anywhere near as popular as “Spider-Man” and that Lee’s film was too cerebral for the popcorn-munching crowd. One U.K. programmer believes “Hulk” didn’t pack enough action for the core audience or a sufficiently plausible plot for non-action fans.

Some Euro exhibs say “Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life” performed well below their expectations. Yet Paramount says the sequel is tracking just 29% behind the first movie in local currency and only 21% below in dollars. “This is not too shabby for a sequel like this; certainly the international numbers appear headed well beyond the domestic,” says UIP prez Andrew Cripps.

Nonetheless, Cripps opines: “It was a soft summer overall, with July being very soft and August picking up somewhat. We all have high hopes for a box office turnaround this fall.”

Except for “Bayside Shakedown 2’s” $100 million-plus haul in Japan, the season was largely bereft of local hits.

While some U.S. execs say that enabled their films to grab a larger market share, others see that as a drawback, since popular national films can lift the overall B.O., helping other titles.

A strong euro vs. the greenback has boosted the Hollywood studios’ film revenues by 15%-18% this year, according to Marcoly.

Those gains have been offset to an extent because the majors outlay hefty amounts of euros in marketing costs to generate those revs.

The bottom line may not be proportionately better as Cripps notes that with diminishing margins from releasing films theatrically, exchange rates are “less and less beneficial.”

— Archie Thomas in London, Liza Klaussmann in Paris and Ed Meza in Berlin contributed to this report.