B.O. holds well despite post-Easter blahs

'Passion' about to cross over $200 mil marker

Biz in most markets held commendably after the Easter break with the exceptions of Spain and depressed Germany, cushioned more by resilient holdovers than by the mostly mediocre debutantes.

Receipts in Germany plunged by 33% and Spain lost 28% while Italy and the U.K. eased by 14% and France slipped by 5%. In Australia, where kids are still on vacation, the B.O. improved by 11%.

King for the fifth consecutive frame, “The Passion of the Christ” commanded an estimated $25 million in 53 markets April 16-18, and its cume through April 20 levitated to $193 million. It’s headed for around $250 million, depending partly on how it plays in May in Japan, its final major market.

Italy is now the religious drama’s top territory, harvesting a socko $21 million in just two weeks.

“The response to this film is a reflection of our customs and our religious mentality,” opines one Italo exhib. Crucifixion saga generally fell sharply after Easter but is still pocketing tidy sums in Mexico, Brazil, the U.K., Spain, France and South Korea.

Ticket sales in France were sustained by the soph sesh of “Two Brothers,” helmer Jean-Jacques Annaud’s tale of two tiger cubs separated at birth (a promising sign for domestic distrib Universal) and the fifth of Gallic heartwarmer “Les Choristes.” “Spy Kids 3D: Game Over” drew a fair number of tykes in France, its last major market, considering the franchise hadn’t worked there; it’s amassed $77.6 million.

“Monster” clocked strong per-screen averages on debut in France and Germany. Serial killer pic’s screening at the Berlin fest and the actress Oscar trophy for Charlize Theron helped pique interest in Germany, where one booker says, “It’s not a very pleasant story, and there were never any expectations that the film would do much business among mainstream audiences.”

Gritty drama has captured about $15 million in 25 markets, including the U.K.’s $2.2 million through its third stanza, Spain’s $1.7 million and Australia’s $1.6 million.

Beginning its offshore campaign, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” opened impressively in Oz, garnering warm reviews and much media ink, and did relatively well on limited prints in Taiwan.

“Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed” scampered to $68.5 million in 41 territories, and with Japan and South Korea ahead will overtake domestic’s $72.3 million. Family pic bowed passably in Italy considering the original didn’t bite there, and held stoutly in its second in France and in its third in the U.K. (where it’s still No. 1) and Mexico.

The canine caper is mauling “The Cat in the Hat,” which has scraped up a meager $28.2 million, with Italy and Japan the only remaining major markets. Kids in the U.K. and Australia have responded to the Mike Myers starrer, but it’s tanked just about everywhere else.

“Starsky & Hutch” advanced to $42.2 million in 18 territories, boosted by top-ranked debuts in Singapore, Sweden, Norway and OK entries in Spain and Mexico, where auds aren’t familiar with the TV series.

Owen Wilson/Ben Stiller starrer retained pole position in its second turn in Australia and after six weeks in the U.K. ranks as Miramax’s second-biggest earner there behind “Chicago.”

“50 First Dates” has wooed $27.4 million in 17 markets, spurring cume to $27.4 million. Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore combo took the top spot in New Zealand, fared respectably for the genre in South Korea and cruised through its second frame in the U.K.

Johnny Depp’s star power after “Pirates of the Caribbean” ensured sturdy liftoffs for “Secret Window” in Italy (bigger than “Panic Room”), France, Spain, Belgium and Holland. Thriller benefited from an avalanche of publicity in France, where Depp’s profile is enhanced by having a Gallic girlfriend, thesp Vanessa Paradis.

“Dawn of the Dead” was No. 1 in Germany — “by default,” says one gloomy booker — and Austria, and it bowed strongly in Russia but tepidly in Hong Kong. Zombie pic has had a pleasing run in the U.K. and Mexico.

In Blighty some execs questioned the wisdom of launching “The Butterfly Effect” against the second weekend of horror spoof “Shaun of the Dead,” as the latter did much better.

Winding its foreign journey, “Peter Pan” bombed in Japan, and Sony’s hopes that it will rally during the Golden Week holidays that begin April 29 now seem forlorn.

P.J. Hogan-helmed fantasy has grossed an uninspiring $65.7 million, although better than domestic’s $48.4 million.

The luckless “Hidalgo” got lost in Blighty and was only slightly less embarrassing in Japan. Oater has corralled $27.2 million in 33 markets, distinguished only by Spain’s $6.9 million, and word of mouth crushed its second outings in Germany and Italy.

With only Mexico ahead, its cume won’t catch domestic’s $64 million.

After No. 1 bows in Singapore and Taiwan, “Hellboy” went 3-for-3 in Malaysia, notching the territory’s second-biggest debut this year after the Michelle Yeoh starrer “Silver Hawk.”

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

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