Euro auds warm to Sony’s sexy ‘Closer’

'Ray' fails to hit high notes in U.K., Italy

“Closer” is resonating much better in Europe than in the U.S., typified by its lusty weekend openings in France and Spain plus U.K. holdover biz, while Japanese auds embraced “Ocean’s Twelve” and “The Aviator” had a midlevel launch in Germany.

Meanwhile, biopic “Ray” didn’t hit any high notes as it unspooled in the U.K. and Italy.

“Closer” minted $12.3 million from 2,070 screens in 21 territories, upping cume to $29.2 million, according to Sony’s Sunday estimates. It’s tracking to surpass the domestic haul of around $32.8 million later this week and should eventually double its U.S total, said Mark Zucker, Sony Pictures Intl. senior exec VP.

“The frank sexuality is more acceptable outside the U.S. It’s an honest film that pulls no punches, and European audiences are appreciating its intelligence,” Zucker opined.

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Buoyed by kudos

Mike Nichols’ helmed drama fetched an estimated $2.7 million on its debut in France, $2 million in Spain, $750,000 in Brazil and $350,000 in Belgium — No. 1 in all. Golden Globe gongs for Clive Owen and Natalie Portman buoyed the pic as it reigned again in its soph session in the U.K., nabbing $3 million (up 10%, boosted by its Ireland preem), to lift the market total to $7.7 million. To the surprise of some execs, in Spain “Closer” easily beat fellow frosh “The Grudge,” which mustered approximately $1.7 million.

Sony’s pic scored $1.6 million in its second turn in Germany, slipping by 29%, tallying $4.7 million.

“Ocean’s Twelve” surged to a projected $170.5 million after banking around $14.5 million from 4,628 prints in 58 countries. Warner/Village Roadshow caper stole an estimated $6.9 million on 510 screens in Japan, including sneaks, an impressive figure although 19% below the bow of “Ocean’s Eleven.”

“The Aviator” rang up $2 million in Germany, bigger than helmer Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York” and slightly below “A Beautiful Mind.” It came in second behind rookie “Blade: Trinity,” which collared an estimated $3.7 million.

Howard Hughes biopic eased by a mild 28% in Spain, earning $1.6 million, spurring the market total to a handy $4.5 million.

Oz likes ‘Alexander,’ ‘Fockers’

“Alexander” commanded a respectable $1.2 million in Australia, trailing “Meet the Fockers,” which drummed up $1.35 million in its fifth frame, boosting its haul to a stellar $22.2 million.

“Ray” serenaded an estimated $975,000 on 225 screens in Blighty and $530,000 on 173 in Italy. However, Universal/UIP was heartened by the positive reviews and aud reaction in both territories. And the Ray Charles saga has demonstrated good playability in Germany, pocketing $535,000 in its third stanza on 120 (down 14%), cuming $2.5 million.

“Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason” peaked at $200 million, helped by Italy’s $1.6 million in its third outing, which pushed the market total to $11 million. Slated to open in Japan in March, the sequel is a cinch to surpass the predecessor’s $210 million.

“The Incredibles” climbed to $343 million after earning $5.2 million, making the Pixar/Disney toon the 25th title to cross $600 million globally.

“National Treasure” dug up $6.1 million to push its cume to $128.5 million; by midweek it will overtake the offshore cumes of producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s “Gone in 60 Seconds” and “Enemy of the State.” Nicolas Cage starrer grabbed $290,000 in Malaysia (on a par with “Con Air”) and $249,000 in Argentina (level with “Pearl Harbor”).

“Elektra” is far from electrifying auds abroad, drawing an estimated $1.5 million in the U.K. (ranked fifth), $893,000 in Mexico (placed second), $715,000 in South Korea, $426,000 in Singapore and $332,000 in Brazil. Jennifer Garner vehicle plunged by 52% in Oz, coining $2.5 million in 11 days.