‘Troy’ stampedes to strong o’seas sesh

Despite drop, 'Helsing' carves out monster coin

If any more proof were needed of the rising power of the international marketplace, look at “Troy” and “Van Helsing.”

Both pics delivered significantly better paydays in their opening weekends abroad than domestically, and both look certain to wind up well ahead of their U.S. results.

“Troy’s” launches delighted exhibs overseas, no more so than in Spain where one programmer enthused, “I was hoping for a good start, but this has been incredible.”

The Trojan War saga is less likely to suffer big hits in its soph sessions as, unlike the U.S., it’s facing “Shrek 2” only in Asia. The DreamWorks’ toon is slated to start roll out in other territories in July.

True, many exhibs were deflated by “Van Helsing’s” rapid descent in its second weekend, but the action-adventure had banked $100 million through May 18, the ninth title to reach that peak this year.

Lamenting its 56% plunge in Germany, one booker remarked, “It obviously shows there wasn’t too much appetite for this movie after the first wave of viewers. There were a lot of diehard freaks who were dying to see the next monster movie from the director of ‘The Mummy,’ but it seems many were disappointed.”

“Troy” captured $54.7 million on 6,722 playdates in 47 markets May 14-16, triumphing in all, and by May 18 its cume cruised to $65.5 million. If there’s an Achilles heel it’s Malaysia, the only territory where the Brad Pitt/Eric Bana starrer didn’t outmuscle “Helsing.” That’s probably due to the fact that folks in Malaysia aren’t keen on watching guys in skirts, as “Gladiator” found to its cost.

Warners’ Greek odyssey posted the biggest bows of the year in Germany, Australia and, for a U.S. release, in France. It was the studio’s third highest ever in Spain, excluding sneaks and its fourth best in Mexico.

Gallic exhibs felt rather relieved after generally tepid reviews, typified by one who opined the pic is “too long, sometimes interesting and never completely successful.”

Not surprisingly, the tale inspired by Homer’s epic smashed the industry opening record in Greece, dethroning “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”

Auds in Germany embraced the pic almost as one of their own by virtue of native director Wolfgang Petersen and co-star Diane Kruger.

One Madrid exhib says the Pitt starrer has a broader appeal than the Transylvanian saga, contrasting the “beauty of the scenery, actors and actresses with the ugliness of the vampire hunter.”

“Troy’s” booster was largely offset by “Helsing’s” declines, resulting in an 11% uptick in the Spanish B.O. and a 4% gain in Germany. France was off 3%, due to unconventional opening dates for “Troy,” “Kill Bill Vol. 2” and “Life is a Miracle” tying in with their Cannes fest screenings, and to warm, sunny weather.

Universal’s monster pic plummeted by an average of 55%, collecting $23 million from 4,876 screens in 38 countries handled by UIP plus $1.5 million from Russia, the Philippines and Iceland where it’s released by indies.

It’s a sure bet to reach $150 million in UIP’s markets and its chances of hitting $200 million will hinge on how strongly it resonates in Japan and South Korea. Hugh Jackman/Kate Beckinsale starrer reigned again in Italy and in the U.K. although its decline and hot weather dragged down the nation’s B.O. by 53%. Italo exhibs were hoping for a milder fall but said ticket sales were depressed by sunny weather after months of rain and the closing of city centers to traffic for an “ecological Sunday.”

In France, it was a tight race between Stephen Sommers’ “Van” and Pedro Almodovar’s “Bad Education,” which opened impressively after its Cannes preem.

Winding its foreign tour, “Big Fish” drowned in Japan, where local hit “Crying Out For Love in the Center of the World” retained the lead in its second stanza. Albert Finney/Ewan McGregor starrer has pocketed a reasonable $49 million, highlighted by the U.K.’s $11.5 million, France’s $7.3 million and Italy’s $4.2 million; but it was too quirky for local tastes in Mexico, Germany and the rest of Asia.

“Kill Bill Vol 2” advanced to $56.5 million in 32 markets, aided by South Korea’s lively debut, and will soon overtake domestic’s $60.8 million.

“Dawn of the Dead” topped “Bill” in Korea but was bloodless in Japan. Horror pic’s estimated cume is $27 million in 18 markets, led by the U.K.’s $10.4 million, but it’s had modest contributions from Germany, Italy, Spain and Mexico.

Brit director Nick Love’s “The Football Factory” didn’t score highly in Blighty, despite upbeat reviews and mounting excitement among soccer fans as Millwall prepares to square off against Manchester United in the FA Cup Final.

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