‘Helsing’ wins Gallic B.O. as ‘Troy’ looms

'Honey,' 'Godsend' take top spots in Italy, Spain

Expectations among exhibs just before “Val Helsing” rolled out in 40 territories over the weekend were pretty lofty if not sky high, although many believe it’ll take a big hit next weekend as “Troy” sets sail in 49 countries.

U.K. bookers were anticipating an opening tally of at least $7 million for the monster tale and an ultimate gross of around $21.5 million. In Italy, programmers were forecasting the Hugh Jackman starrer to benefit from having zero competition until “Troy” launches May 21 (a week later than most places) and they’re hoping it will wind up earning $10 million-$12 million. Gallic exhibs were encouraged by “Helsing’s” strong debut May 5, which they rated as the fourth biggest opening day this year in Paris.

Biz idled in most markets in advance of the Universal pic’s invasion, as “Honey” and the unheralded “Godsend” took advantage of a quiet weekend to seize the top spots in Italy and Spain, respectively.

“Kill Bill Vol. 2” was the top earner abroad, capturing $10.2 million on 2,562 screens in 27 markets, and its cume through May 4 advanced to $39.2 million. However, it’s tracking below the first edition, which amassed $109.7 million. Sequel bowed at No. 1 in Greece, New Zealand, Portugal and Taiwan but it wasn’t potent in Hong Kong, where the original didn’t click. Uma Thurman/David Carradine pic generally fell sharply in its soph sessions in Europe, Japan and Australia but hung on well enough to retain pole position in the U.K., Scandinavia and the Czech Republic. “Although it’s gotten a lot of good press, it’s not the big action movie many were hoping for and it’s too talky,” opined one German exhib.

In Japan, the vengeance tale was spooked by “The Haunted Mansion,” which got a leg-up from the Golden Week vacation, mustering a socko $18.5 million in 11 days. Disney family pic has pocketed $92.7 million after lucrative perfs in Europe and Latin America but minor contributions from the rest of Asia.

“The Passion of the Christ” commanded $2.5 million in its first three days in Japan, its final major market — at the lower end of industry expectations — and its cume levitated to $213 million. “Cold Mountain” gained 13% after a low-key preem in Japan, drumming up $3.4 million in nine days; its cume hit $73.4 million.

“Starsky & Hutch” boogied along to $61 million in 33 territories, propelled by top-ranked bows in Belgium (a career best for Ben Stiller, beating “Meet the Parents”) and Holland, and its second turn in France.

“Godsend’s” victory in Spain didn’t surprise local exhibs, despite its lowly domestic debut, playing to auds’ fondness for thrillers and for co-star Robert DeNiro. In hindsight, it wasn’t a smart time to release “The Butterfly Effect,” which had its wings clipped by “Godsend.”

“Honey” was in the money in Italy, adroitly marketed to teenagers by Eagle Pictures. Romance toplining Jessica Alba has whistled up $25 million in 18 markets, led by Germany’s $8 million, the U.K.’s $6 million and Oz’s $3.6 million; it flopped in Mexico, South Korea and Southeast Asia.

Winding its foreign tour, “Gothika” ruled Down Under, sending its cume to $75.8 million, outpacing domestic’s $59.6 million. Halle Berry starrer’s only misfire was Japan.

“50 First Dates” was tops in Brazil, marking the biggest opening yet for Adam Sandler, and Turkey; No. 1 again in its second engagement in Germany; and perky in Spain. “Dates” has wooed $47.5 million in 29 territories, a commendable result considering Sandler isn’t a marquee name outside Oz and the U.K.

“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” launched impressively in the U.K. and Russia (notching $418,000 on 84 screens) and saw a pleasing third sojourn in Australia. Exhibs in Blighty lauded the campaign by Momentum which sold the Jim Carrey/Kate Winslet as a romantic comedy that managed to reach mainstream auds who were not familiar with the idiosyncratic work of helmer Michel Gondry and writer Charlie Kaufman. But they fear a steep decline as word spreads that the pic is really “quite baffling and challenging.”

“Monster” posted a healthy per-screen average in Italy and its cume reached $19 million in 29 markets. Serial killer saga has nabbed a sturdy $2.9 million in the U.K., $1.8 million in Oz, $1.7 million in Spain and $1.5 million apiece in Germany and France.

Johnny Depp isn’t winning many fans for “Secret Window,” which had mediocre preems in the U.K. and Germany; thriller has generated a nondescript $25.1 million in 40 markets.

“Taking Lives” had passable debuts in France and Italy after handy runs in Spain and Australia and tanking in the U.K. and Germany. Angelina Jolie starrer has collared $24.6 million in 50 territories with only Japan and a few small fry ahead — no surprise given domestic’s paltry $32 million and change.

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