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“Alexander” may not be conquering the world, but Oliver Stone’s epic is providing a modicum of health to the international box office in a generally mild post-holiday season along with respectable performances from awards-season hopefuls “Closer” and “The Aviator.”

French business fell 9% compared with the prior week, and Italo takings were off 8% while U.K. takings inched up 3%.

Though a major disappointment Stateside with $34 million, “Alexander” has copped the offshore title in consecutive sessions and had cumed $90 million offshore as of Jan. 18 from 51 territories.

Performance has been solid rather than spectacular, and with openings still coming in Australia, the U.K. and Japan, final foreign could hit $150 million — a respectable total but far short of the $270 million offshore for “Gladiator” or the $364 million for “Troy.”

Additionally, this January clearly lacks the one-two punch of a year ago when “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” and “The Last Samurai” dominated business on their way to respective totals of $742 million and $345 million.

During the first few weeks of 2005, top performers along with “Alexander” have been “The Incredibles,” with $335.9 million as of Jan. 19, “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason” with more than $190 million and “Ocean’s Twelve” with a $155 million cume.

“Alexander” opened first in Italy, Brazil, Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and half a dozen South American territories and was narrowly beaten in Hong Kong by “National Treasure.”

The sword-and-sandal epic managed its most impressive numbers in Italy with $4.4 million in its first five days. Italian exhibs said the opening — which topped “Gladiator” by 38% — was well above expectations. Stone promoted his pic in Rome with a news conference and premiere.

One Milan exhib said “Alexander” underscored the strength of the European market in supporting a film that hadn’t done well in the United States. Another Italian booker noted that European audiences tend to be more curious about pics with historical themes.

In Spain, the soph sesh was down 45% following its impressive launch, while French takings were down 46%. Spanish exhibs were more upbeat than their French counterparts, saying the final gross could reach nearly double the current $10.7 million cume.

Performance in Blighty, however, has been unimpressive. “Alexander” plummeted 56% in its second frame due to what exhibs dubbed “terrible word of mouth.”

By contrast, “Closer,” which was originally a British play and shot in London, opened solidly in the U.K. with $2.93 million at 275 playdates, well above internal forecasts. Bookers pointed to what they perceived as an excellent poster, trailer and TV spots along with Julia Roberts’ enduring box office appeal.

With Clive Owen and Natalie Portman winning Golden Globes on Sunday, exhibs are hoping “Closer” can hold up in its soph session with a decline of less than 30%.

“Closer,” which has cumed $32 million domestically, also easily won in Germany, taking in nearly the combined gross of the next two contenders — the fifth frame of “Ocean’s Twelve” and the opening of “Without a Paddle.” It also led in German-speaking Switzerland and Austria.

“The Aviator” showed decent legs in the U.K. with a 15% hold (excluding previews). Bookers were particularly enthused by the Jan. 17 announcement that Scorcese’s epic nabbed 14 BAFTA noms and is bound to benefit from heightening awards season buzz.

Though the Spanish launch for “The Aviator” was topped by the soph sesh of “Alexander,” bookers remained optimistic due to its three Golden Globes and Oscar nom prospects.

“The main thing here are obviously the Oscars,” one Iberian exhib said. “The Golden Globes help movies a little, especially as they are so close to the Oscars.”

Other awards-season candidates were dipping their toes in international waters. “Million Dollar Baby” had a muted debut in the U.K. with $1.54 million at 285 sites; “Sideways” grossed a solid $137,000 at 15 Grecian playdates; “Finding Neverland” took in a solid $1.33 million at 190 Japanese sites in its opening and has cumed $3.43 million in two weeks in Australia; and “Ray” has cumed $1.86 million at 130 German sites in two weeks.

With no star power to speak of, “Sideways” is probably the biggest question mark in overseas markets. One Spanish booker noted that “About Schmidt,” the last collaboration between Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, performed well in that market with $5.3 million.

” ‘Sideways’ is clearly not a blockbuster but they’ve given it a good Spanish title,” one Spanish booker noted. “And if they do a good marketing campaign for it, and the help it will probably get from the Oscar nominations, I think it will do well.”

Domestic smash “Meet the Fockers” showed solid legs everywhere. It lost only 34% in its fourth weekend in Oz and had cumed $20.37 million as of Jan. 19 in that market along with $4.76 million in Mexico after 12 days, $3.23 million in Russia in 11 days and $1.19 million in Singapore in 20 days.

In its first foray away from Japan, Hayao Miyazaki’s “Howl’s Moving Castle” scored well to win in France over local entry “One Stays, the Other Leaves.” Bookers noted the animated pic benefited from the popularity of his “Spirited Away” and the long-standing Gallic affection for Japanese animation.

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