‘Shark Tale’ plays swimmingly overseas

Local pix benefit from lack of serious H'wood competish

The fall biz kicked up a notch last week as “Shark Tale” reigned in 13 markets and local titles enjoyed an unusually strong frame, dominating in around 10 territories including the U.K., France, Germany, South Korea, Sweden, Denmark, Malaysia and Thailand.

The local pics are benefiting from the lack of serious competition from Hollywood. Adding more exotic spice, Chinese actioner “Hero” was the victor in Italy, where Pedro Almodovar’s “Bad Education” also had an impressive entry.

Even so, the U.S. majors collectively are having a banner year: The international arms of Sony and Fox both reported they surpassed $1 billion. Warners reached that milestone in June and BVI did so in August. It’s just the third time four studios have cracked $1 billion in the same year overseas.

The weekend’s champ, “Shark Tale” caught $10.4 million from nearly 1,800 locations in 16 markets, and its cume raced to $21.6 million. DreamWorks toon opened much bigger than the original “Shrek” in Spain, Mexico, Holland, Taiwan, Thailand and the Philippines, but below the green ogre in Brazil and Argentina. Toon retained the lead in its third voyage in Australia, despite sinking heavily as the school vacation ended.

Bollywood musical/romance “Bride and Prejudice” was tops in the U.K. (excluding “Shark Tale’s” hefty sneaks), but some exhibs doubt it will have anything like the legs of director Gurinder Chadha’s “Bend It Like Beckham.” Reviews were patchy for the pic, inspired by Jane Austen’s novel, and bookers said it lacks appeal for males and isn’t drawing strongly in Ireland or in cities like Newcastle and Norwich.

“Resident Evil: Apocalypse” climbed to $40 million in 23 markets, driven by beefy bows in France, Brazil and Hong Kong (where it was No. 1). But the zombie pic was easily outrun by the potent soph session of horror pic “Saw” in the U.K. and it was anemic in Sweden. The male-skewing competish in Blighty, including a lively second outing for Sony’s gangster caper “Layer Cake,” torpedoed the chances of “Man on Fire.” One London booker criticized Fox’s timing, opining, “Although it was never going to be a slam-dunk, the sizable lag from the U.S. release meant it felt old when it opened.” However the Denzel Washington starrer showed more spunk in Spain, where the thesp is popular. Revenge saga helmed by Tony Scott has collared a weak $26.2 million, with only a handful of markets remaining.

“The Terminal” drew a sizable number of Tom Hanks’ admirers in Sweden, Austria and Germany, in the last trailing the superb fourth stanza of Adolf Hitler saga “The Downfall.” One Teutonic booker said the film’s premise of a guy trapped in an airport may not have grabbed some viewers initially, but added, “It has gone down extremely well; it’s just not a typical Spielberg extravaganza.”

A dud in Oz and Mexico but a solid earner elsewhere, the Hanks/Catherine Zeta-Jones starrer has banked $75.6 million and, with Japan and Russia ahead, will fly far past domestic’s $77 million.

Ticket sales in France spiked up by 44%, sparked chiefly by “L’Enquete Corse,” a laffer about a detective who tries to deliver an inheritance to the chief of the Corsican independence movement. Pic toplining Christian Clavier (“Asterix and Obelix”) and Jean Reno (“Crimson Rivers”) wasn’t huge in Paris and university towns, but did well in the rest of the country, so distrib Gaumont’s was pretty pleased.

“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” shone in France, garnering hefty media coverage and glowing reviews: One said, “The story is as beautiful as the title, as moving as the lost gaze of Jim Carrey and as fatally fantasist as its two creators.” Romance penned by Charlie Kaufman and helmed by Michel Gondry has earned $25 million overseas, beating the previous high for a Kaufman-scripted opus, “Being John Malkovich”; it has yet to play in Italy, Japan and Korea.

Italo exhibs were heartened by the debuts of “Hero” and “Bad Education,” which lifted the weekend B.O. by 10% over the prior frame. The Jet Li starrer has amassed an estimated $111 million, with Oz, Mexico and Brazil ahead. Auds responded well to Almodovar’s film set in a boarding school, despite one critic in daily La Repubblica who accused the helmer of exaggerating and said it isn’t an honest depiction of priests in the Salesian order.

“Hellboy” tanked in Italy, prudently restricted to 106 prints after meeting a similar fate in Japan, and it experienced a typically steep plunge in its second frame in Spain. Horror/action pic has mustered $36.8 million.

“White Chicks” fared OK in Germany, hastening the demise of “DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story,” which suffered from lack of familiarity with the sport and Ben Stiller’s relatively low profile in the market. “Viewers see the film for exactly what it is: a silly, slapstick comedy better suited for home viewing,” sniffed one programmer. “DodgeBall” bounced along to $43.1 million in 33 markets, a hoot in the U.K., Oz and Spain but fairly mirthless elsewhere.

Among other local standouts, “My Brother” grabbed $3.4 million on debut in South Korea and Swedish romance “As in Heaven” triumphed again in its sixth weekend, wooing a terrif $5.4 million so far.

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