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Global auds find ‘Incredibles’ indelible

Biz in German drops 26%; Spain off by 10%

Exhibs in the U.K. and Australia had millions of reasons — measured at the cash tills — to be cheerful last week as “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason” drew vast crowds, while “The Incredibles” saw heroic preems in seven markets and Italians embraced “Exorcist: The Beginning.”

Biz in Germany dropped by 26% after the prior weekend’s peak, although Teutonic bookers weren’t complaining, while Spain was off by 10% despite a winning bow by “Say I Do,” Sony’s first local-language production in that territory.

The weekend’s champ by a sizable margin, “Edge of Reason” wooed $26.6 million from 1,016 playdates in six markets, and its cume through Nov. 16 raced to $32.4 million. Romantic comedy starring Renee Zellweger, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth posted record entries for Universal in the U.K. (where receipts shot up by 147%), Poland, and Hungary. Singleton saga notched the studios’ third highest debut in Holland and its fourth best in local currency in Australia; all were career highs for producer Working Title and substantially ahead of the “Bridget Jones’s Diary” openings.

One U.K. booker predicts the sequel could wind up grossing £35 million ($68 million), although shy of the original’s £42 million, opining, “It is too similar to the first movie to generate the necessary repeat visits.” Word of mouth kicked in for “Bad Santa” after its ho-hum debut in Blighty and ensured a modest decline for “The Grudge.”

“The Incredibles” set new toon highs as it invaded Taiwan and the Philippines, beating “Finding Nemo,” and while the superhero saga bowed 25% bigger than the fish tale in Denmark it was below the debut of “Shrek 2.” Pixar/Disney pic came in slightly below “Nemo” in Sweden, Norway and Finland, and on par in its platform at the Grand Rex theater in Paris.

In Germany, bookers were thrilled with the third outing of “Seven Dwarfs” and some believe the spoof will break through the six million viewer mark, which would mean more than $44 million B.O.

Takings in Italy improved by 14% as horror-loving auds flocked to the “Exorcist” prequel. Curiously, the demon tale helmed by Renny Harlin has resonated more strongly in predominantly Catholic countries like Spain and Mexico than in more secular states such as the U.K., Germany and Australia. It’s collared an estimated $24 million.

A consistent fave among females, “Shall We Dance” fox-trotted along to $36 million in 17 markets, driven by its top-ranked bows in Mexico and Argentina, OK preems in South Korea and Russia, buoyant soph sessions in Germany, Spain and Hong Kong, and its third in Italy.

One booker in Hong Kong attributed its success to the cast headed by Richard Gere (who has a “very faithful following” there), Jennifer Lopez and Susan Sarandon, and a terrific campaign by distrib Intercontinental. It’s a rare hit for a remake in the territory after the demise of “The Grudge,” which was perceived as an inferior rip-off of the original, although from the same helmer.

The Gallic B.O. rose by 18% on the back of the lucrative third sojourn of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s “A Very Long Engagement” and two local debutantes: “Banlieue 13,” a futuristic film about a battle between gangs and peacekeepers, written and produced by Luc Besson, whose release was accompanied by a video game; and “Just Trust” a satire which skewers the French class system via the tale of two small-time crooks who pose as live-in help to fleece their employers, starring Vincent Lindon and Cecile de France.

After insipid runs in Asia and Australia, “The Manchurian Candidate” showed more appeal in Italy and Spain but was coolly received in Germany. Remake helmed by Jonathan Demme attracted young Spaniards who so dislike the Bush administration they don’t find anything shocking about the U.S. political shenanigans depicted.

In Germany, one exhib praised the perfs by Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep but asked, “What is this saying to viewers? Powerful defense contractors already control the U.S. government. That’s nothing new.” “Candidate” has pocketed a desultory $13.2 million in 23 territories.

“The Forgotten” registered medium-level entries in Germany, Belgium, Austria and Singapore and was number one again in Brazil, despite falling by 43%. Julianne Moore starrer was overshadowed by the muscular second turn of “Alien vs. Predator” in Germany, where one programmer noted, “Fans of sci-fi horror prefer alien monsters over mysterious goings-on; they want to cut to the chase, or in this case, the big monster fight.”

After a profitable tour of Latin America and Asia, “Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid” looks a dubious prospect in Europe as it opened weakly in France, the U.K. and Holland. Snake tale has trapped $26 million in 26 markets and could overtake domestic’s $31.5 million.

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

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