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‘Collateral’ leads in tepid o’seas sesh

Newcomers 'Saw,' 'Cake' jumpstart Brit B.O.

The B.O. in most major territories last week sank lower than the humor in “DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story” as the Fox laffer and other rookies including “Man on Fire,” “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow,” “Hellboy” and “Thunderbirds” failed to excite audiences.

The U.K. was a notable exception as receipts improved by 8% thanks to “Wimbledon’s” buoyant soph session, a surprisingly strong entry by indie horror pic “Saw” and a promising start by Sony’s gangster caper “Layer Cake.”

Ending “The Village’s” five-week reign, “Collateral” was the weekend champ overseas, nailing $8.9 million from more than 1,800 screens, propelling its cume to $38.5 million in 24 territories. But, typifying the general malaise, it was the first time since the dog days of early March that the weekend’s top title earned less than $10 million. Tom Cruise starrer ruled in France, Belgium, Holland and Poland and held reasonably well in its second assignation in Germany. Gallic crix raved about the hit-man saga, one hailing it as a “triumph of the American system when it’s put together by artists: entertainment in its highest form,” and another saluting director Michael Mann’s “new form of melancholic lyricism.”

“Collateral” knocked “Look At Me” off its perch in France but exhibs were satisfied with the perf of the dark comedy from helmer/thesp/co-writer Agnes Jaoui.

Overtaking domestic, “The Village’s” cume levitated to an estimated $116 million and the suspenser reigned again in Spain despite a typically steep decline. “It had a very strong premiere (but) we knew it wasn’t going to hold up; word of mouth isn’t great,” one Madrid exec opined.

U.K. exhibs were impressed by “Saw,” a low-budget pic from Oz directors James Wan and Leigh Whannell, and encouraged by the buzz for “Layer Cake,” which marked the helming debut of “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” producer Matthew Vaughn. “Sky Captain” barely got off the ground in Blighty, dismissed by one booker as a “geeks’ fantasy,” but its action elements resonated more effectively in Taiwan, where it was No. 1.

In Italy, programmers were disappointed with the entry of “King Arthur,” which was neck-and-neck for pole position with “Spider-Man 2’s” third orbit. The knights’ tale “started out decently but I predict a rapid decline,” said one, who griped the market is being overloaded with product every week after the summer hiatus, and “Two Brothers” was among last week’s casualties. “King Arthur” climbed to an estimated $137 million, with China the only remaining significant market.

Given the Germans’ penchant for low-brow comedies, “DodgeBall” didn’t cause much mirth there, dwarfed by the third chapter of Adolf Hitler saga “The Downfall.”

Fox laffer did open at No 1 in Austria and Russia but was mediocre in Sweden; it’s rustled up $38.5 million in 27 territories, scoring most emphatically in the U.K. and Australia.

“Man on Fire” fizzled in Germany, raising its cume to around $19 million in 37 markets. Denzel Washington starrer has earned respectable sums in Oz and Mexico but its kidnapping theme seems to have been a turn-off elsewhere.

“Thunderbirds” crashed in Germany, its final destination, posting one of the worst results — $50,000 on 204 prints — in memory. Working Title adventure is aimed at boys aged 12-13 who “wouldn’t know the British TV series from the Sixties, and those old enough to remember it wouldn’t come,” said one exhib, who noted kids flocked to local pics “Laura’s Stern” and “Bibi Blocksberg 2.” “Thunderbirds” has mustered about $21 million.

“Hellboy” was just so-so in Spain, where exhibs said they had no great expectations as the eponymous comic character isn’t popular. Horror/action pic helmed by Guillermo del Toro limped into Japan, limited to 149 prints, and its cume reached $33.7 million, with a handful of markets ahead.

“Garfield: The Movie” barely meowed in Japan, but that’s the only blemish in a foreign journey that has delivered a lucrative $107.5 million. Fox’s feline cruised through its second lap in Italy and its third Down Under.

“Alien vs. Predator” narrowly won the weekend honors in Australia but hefty weekday biz during the school vacation saw “Shark Tale” in its second voyage emerge as the week’s victor. DreamWorks toon was the big fish in Israel, outpacing the bow of “Finding Nemo,” and in Portugal, opening bigger than the original “Shrek.” Fox’s creature feature has gobbled up $22.6 million in 25 markets after No. 1 bows in Asia (except South Korea) and handy runs in Brazil and Argentina.

“Wimbledon” played well in its debut in Australia and New Zealand and, as in the U.K., can probably expect to maintain momentum in ensuing weeks.

“Resident Evil: Apocalypse” reigned in Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines and in its second round in Mexico. A sizable hit in Japan, zombie pic has devoured $27.8 million in 13 markets.

“Fahrenheit 9/11” is closing in on $100 million, driven chiefly by Japan’s $15 million and Italy’s $10.3 million, and it’s yet to open in a few Asian territories including Hong Kong and Taiwan.

(Sheri Jennings in Rome, Archie Thomas in London, Liza Klaussmann in Paris, Norma Nebot in Madrid and Christian Koehl in Cologne contributed to this report.)