Easter bunny brings golden eggs to ‘Passion’

Territorial ticket sales soar, led by Italy's 87% jump

The Easter vacation was a bountiful B.O. harvest in most territories with the notable exceptions of the U.K. and ailing Germany. The biggest beneficiaries were “The Passion of the Christ,” “Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed,” “Brother Bear,” “Scary Movie 3,” “Starsky & Hutch” and Jean-Jacques Annaud’s tiger tale “Two Brothers.”

The frame had its share of casualties as “The Cat in the Hat” was ignored in Spain and Germany, “Alamo” struggled in Mexico (although faring a little better than domestically) and “Intolerable Cruelty” was cold-shouldered in Japan. Ticket sales in Italy rocketed by 87%, Australia surged 50%, France gained 42% and Spain improved by 22%.

Receipts in Germany went up by 18%, but exhibs were disappointed by the turnouts for rookies “Hidalgo,” “Taking Lives” and “Big Fish” and they weren’t surprised by “Cat’s” flatlining as one opined, “Not only does no one in Germany know Dr. Seuss, but these live-action, men-in-costume films just don’t attract kids who prefer animation or at least popular adaptations with which they are familiar.”

The B.O. champ for the fourth consecutive weekend abroad, “Passion” whipped up an estimated $50 million in 44 markets, and Icon reported its cume through April 13 at $162.5 million, seemingly headed for $250 million. Mel Gibson’s epic transfixed Italy, mustering $14.6 million in seven days since its April 7 bow. That far exceeded even the most optimistic expectations of Italo exhibs, who noted the pic is drawing a lot of folks who rarely, if ever, visit cinemas. One booker now predicts it could end up earning as much as $36 million. Strong holdover biz saw the religious drama reigning in almost all of Latin America including Mexico and Brazil, South Korea, the Philippines and Hong Kong.

The “Scooby” sequel advanced to $49.5 million in 55 territories, propelled by a sturdy bow in France and buoyant soph sessions in the U.K., Mexico, Spain, Australia and Brazil. But the Mystery Inc. gang bombed in Germany two weeks ago and hasn’t resonated strongly in Southeast Asia.

“Scary Movie 3” gave Miramax its best-ever debut in Spain, outgunning “Kill Bill Vol. 1,” and its cume vaulted to $103.6 million, with Japan ahead.

“Starsky & Hutch” was tops in Oz, marking a Miramax record previously held by “Scary 3,” but not so good in Argentina. Owen Wilson/Ben Stiller starrer has collared $34 million in just nine markets, a standout in the U.K. The B.O. in Blighty fell by 16%, although it was 34% up on the prior Easter, despite impressive entries by “50 First Dates” (which drew fans of “The Wedding Singer”) and local zombie spoof “Shaun of the Dead.”

The latter benefited from being trailered with “Dawn of the Dead,” which bowed two weeks earlier, and from a hefty push by UIP. Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore headliner opened fairly well in Mexico and had a jolly third outing in Oz.

Despite glowing reviews, “Capturing The Friedmans” piqued little interest on 25 locations in the U.K. Exhibs said the docu’s disturbing subject is a turnoff and questioned the release date, as one mused, “Who wants to see a movie about a wildly disturbed and dysfunctional family when they have their own dysfunctional family to contend with over the four-day weekend?”

France surged thanks to the world preem of “Two Brothers” in a market where Annaud is revered and auds were curious to see his return to the animal kingdom after “The Bear,” as well as by a nifty preem by Thai action-adventure “Ong-Bak.” With a reported budget of about $70 million, the pressure was on Pathe to open “Brothers” strongly; it will be released domestically this summer by Universal.

A consistent crowd-pleaser, “Brother Bear” climbed to $150.6 million, still No. 1 in its fourth week in Germany (where it has surpassed “Toy Story 2”) and Austria, and a steady earner in Spain and Japan.

“Intolerable Cruelty’s” demise in Japan, its last market, was no surprise as the culture isn’t receptive to comic tales of divorce and marital spats; still, that’s a rare blemish for the George Clooney/Catherine Zeta Jones starrer which has banked $83.6 million abroad, eclipsing domestic’s $35.2 million. Beginning its offshore adventures, “Hellboy” seized pole position in Singapore (bigger than “X-Men” and “Daredevil”) and Taiwan.

After biting the dust in France and Oz and clicking in Spain, the erratic “Hidalgo” launched respectably in Germany, Italy (although one exhib complained there was low awareness), Brazil, Belgium and Holland. Oater has corraled $20.4 million in 21 markets.

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

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