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Germans flock to ‘Dwarves,’ ‘Diaries’

'Shark' victorious o'seas for 4th consecutive framewith $15.5 mil

Teutonic spoof “Seven Dwarfs” made exhibs in German-speaking markets deliriously happy last week, while bookers in France were predicting a reasonably long engagement for “A Very Long Engagement” after a socko bow by the World War I romance.

Receipts in Japan rallied after a long slump, driven by “Collateral” and local weepie “Be With You,” and Italy jumped 39% thanks to potent entries by “The Village” and “Shall We Dance.”

However, “The Grudge” opened meekly in Taiwan (where it was trumped by “Taxi”), Hong Kong and Thailand after a mediocre debut in Singapore, all markets that are usually have an appetite for horror fare.

The weekend victor overseas for the fourth consecutive frame, “Shark Tale” hauled in $15.5 million from 4,300 locations in 27 markets, and its cume through Nov. 2 flew to $116.3 million. DreamWorks’ toon minted $1.5 million in four days in Russia, 116% bigger than “Finding Nemo,” and cruised through its third voyages in the U.K. and France.

The German B.O. jumped by 87% as auds flocked to “Seven Dwarfs,” starring vet comedian Otto Waalkes. Waalkes’ 1985 smash “Otto — Der Film” was Germany’s highest grosser until 2001, when it was usurped by comic oater “Manitu’s Shoe.” “The Motorcycle Diaries” proved effective counterprogramming in Germany, engaging folks who admire Che Guevara as well as thesp Gael Garcia Bernal’s growing army of fans.

Grosses in France soared by 75% as Warners’ “A Very Long Engagement” posted the biggest bow for a Gallic production this year and WB’s seventh best ever locally. Pic, which reunites “Amelie” helmer Jean-Pierre Jeunet and thesp Audrey Tatou, drew auds across the age spectrum and was equally strong in small towns and big cities; reviews were mostly glowing except for one persnickety crit in Le Monde who carped about its “deficit of emotion.”

In Italy, “The Village” opened even bigger than exhibs had expected, buoyed by the Monday public holiday. Winding its tour, helmer M. Night Shyamalan’s suspenser levitated to $136.4 million.

“Shall We Dance” played strongly to Italos’ fondness for romantic comedies, and took the lead again in its second turn in Australia. In Oz, “Somersault” expanded from 20 to 41 prints and showed a healthy bounce after winning a record 13 Australian Film Institute awards. But exhibs noted writer-director Cate Shortland’s drama, starring Abbie Cornish as a girl who confuses sex with love, is appealing to mature arthouse auds, not the younger crowd.

“Collateral’s” cume climbed to $88 million, heading for $100 million, spurred by solid but not startling debuts in Japan (its final major market), Greece and Denmark. In the latter it trailed the soph session of local click “Inkasso.” Thriller has underperfomed in Germany, skewing heavily male.

Biz in Spain rose by 12%, fueled by “Exorcist: The Beginning” and resilient holds by “The Forgotten” and local laffer “Ferpect Crime.” The “Exorcist” prequel spun into the top spots in Mexico and Brazil but was blah in the U.K., where exhibs said it was killed by negative buzz, and Australia, where the genre isn’t big; it met a similar fate in Japan last month.

In their world preems, “Melinda and Melinda” registered the strongest debut for a Woody Allen film for some years in Spain after being warmly received at the San Sebastian fest; and Marc Forster‘s “Finding Neverland” got mixed reviews in the U.K. but looks set to benefit from word of mouth.

“Alien vs. Predator” grabbed plenty of Halloween fans in France and Holland, but plunged sharply in the U.K., hammered by “The Grudge” sneaks. Creature feature’s cume ascended to $42.8 million and, although it’s yet to play in the rest of Europe, it won’t catch domestic’s $79 million.

“The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement” was the No. 1 U.S. release in South Korea behind local debutante “Scarlet Letter.” Anne Hathaway/Julia Andrews starrer has pocketed $19.6 million in 19 markets: It’s been a dud in France, mediocre in Germany and a handy earner in the U.K. and Oz.

Director Wong Kar Wai’s “2046” notched a healthy per-screen average in Italy despite going up against a surfeit of quality fare including French import “Comme un Image.”

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

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