New year kicks off without pic party

Tight race abroad between 'Ocean's' and 'Incredibles'

However folks overseas celebrated the start of the New Year, going to the cinema didn’t figure high up on their menu of choices over the weekend.

The notable exception was Australia, where the Dec. 26-Jan. 1 frame rated as the industry’s 11th biggest week ever, driven by newbies “Meet the Fockers” and “The Incredibles.”

“The box office in the past two weekends was depressed,” United Intl. Pictures prexy Andrew Cripps said Sunday. “There’s no breakout film generating a huge amount of business, unlike past years with a ‘Harry Potter’ or ‘Lord of the Rings,’ and the way the holidays fell has conspired against cinemagoing,” he added, noting the impact of New Year’s Eve parties on Friday night.

It was a tight race for weekend honors abroad between “Ocean’s Twelve” and “Incredibles.” Warner/Village Roadshow’s crime caper stole an estimated $21 million, boosting cume to $107 million. But even with the U.K., Japan and Russia ahead, the sequel won’t catch up to the first edition’s $267.8 million haul.

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“Ocean’s” impressive tallies include France’s $19 million, Germany’s $15 million, Italy’s $10.9 million and Spain’s $10.2 million (all through pic’s third stanzas), Australia’s $10 million and Mexico’s $4.9 million.

More animated than ‘Monsters’

“Incredibles” captured a projected $20.3 million, hoisting cume to $273.8 million. Global total has now hit $525 million, making pic the fourth biggest animated grosser worldwide, surpassing “Monsters, Inc.” Superheroes saga drew an estimated $9.2 million in eight days in Oz, shaded by the $10.6 million that met the “Fockers”; the latter’s seven-day tally of $9.3 million in local currency was 67% ahead of the preem of predecessor “Meet the Parents.”

Pixar/Disney pic has collared $52.4 million in the U.K. (where it fetched a top-ranked $2 million in its seventh weekend, double the prior frame), $37.9 million in France, $32.8 million in Japan, $22 million in Spain, $16.3 million in Germany and $11.9 million in Mexico.

Sony’s Chinese-lingo “Kung Fu Hustle” rang up $10.1 million from 1,095 screens in six Asian markets, pocketing a terrif $31.1 million after just two weekends.

Action-comedy grabbed an estimated $3.2 million on 368 screens in Japan, a solid No. 2 behind local toon phenom “Howl’s Moving Castle.” In China, “Hustle” seized $3.7 million in its soph session, and with its $14.2 million bounty it already ranks as the fifth-highest earner in the territory, bigger than all editions of “Rings” and “Potter.” Pic also retained the lead in its second turns in Hong Kong (minting $6 million to date), Taiwan ($3.6 million), Singapore ($2.2 million) and Malaysia ($1.85 million).

“National Treasure” unearthed $11.2 million, highlighted by South Korea’s estimated $2.6 million (a record bow locally for BVI, dethroning “King Arthur”) and Sweden’s $1.2 million (slightly below the opening of “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”). Cume for the Nicolas Cage starrer zoomed to $67.8 million, including the U.K.’s $5.8 million in eight days, France’s $6.6 million in 12 days (off 25%) and Spain’s $14 million.

‘Polar’ thinks it can

“The Polar Express” chugged along to $101.2 million, fueled by an $8 million weekend. Warner kidpic is a steady earner without reaching any great heights. Top territory is the U.K. ($15.8 million), followed by France ($10.9 million), Japan ($9.8 million), Germany ($9 million), Spain ($6.8 million) and Italy (a ho-hum $5.5 million).

“Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” banked $6.3 million in 10 territories, spurring cume to $31 million. Vacationing kids flocked to the fantasy in the U.K., boosting its third-weekend take by 62% to $2 million and the market total to a nifty $16.9 million. After unremarkable openings, Jim Carrey starrer dropped slightly in France, taking $3.3 million in 12 days, and eased by 15% in Spain, generating $2.1 million.

Steven Spielberg’s and Tom Hanks’ armies of admirers in Japan rewarded “The Terminal” with a swell $3 million in its third flight (off just 10%), raising territory total to $20 million and estimated cume to $115.3 million.