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‘Ocean’s’ tops tepid list of overseas pix

O'seas business hits a slump

For many exhibs overseas, January was a downer compared with the same month last year — and the short-term outlook is mixed, at best.

Biz in Australia and Spain was about 15% below January 2004. Oz exhibs say “The Incredibles” is falling about $3.7 million short of what they’d hoped for, and they’re disappointed “Ocean’s Twelve” won’t match the predecessor’s final tally.

One glum Aussie exec noted, “The next few months will be a struggle.”

But receipts in France were up a fraction, no small feat considering last year turned out to be the market’s best in 20 years.

One Gallic programmer is anticipating a strong February, banking on “The Aviator,” “Danny the Dog,” “Ray” and local laffer “Espace Detente.”

There were no complaints from bookers in Britain as “Closer,” “Aviator” and “Million Dollar Baby” all held stoutly and “Elektra” started brightly, although industry grosses were off 10% on the prior weekend and 18% below the corresponding frame a year ago.

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The weekend’s champ, “Ocean’s Twelve,” minted $14.4 million from around 4,600 prints in 58 countries, and its cume through Jan. 25 flew to $173.4 million, with the U.K. still to come.

In Japan, the Steven Soderbergh-helmed heist caper ended the nine week reign of animated phenom “Howl’s Moving Castle,” although it opened 20% below “Ocean’s Eleven.”

“Castle,” which bows Stateside via Disney in June, had a strong soph session in France, drawing a broad aud.

Spurred by dandy debuts in 13 territories and holdovers in eight, playing on 2,066 screens, “Closer” raced to $32.5 million and looks capable of doubling its $32.8 million domestic cume. Mike Nichols-helmed drama triumphed in France, Spain, Brazil and Belgium. Gallic crix were mixed, with some calling it “elegant” and others accusing Nichols of a “lack of verve.”

“Alexander’s” estimated cume hit $105 million in 54 territories. Oliver Stone’s epic was no better than ordinary in Oz (beaten by “Meet the Fockers'” fifth frame) as one unimpressed booker sniffed, “It could have been worse.”

Macedonian hero was the victor again in its second turn in Italy but is losing steam in its third stanzas in Spain and France; it’ s been a lost cause in the U.K., while French exhibs said the pic is dogged by bad word of mouth and savage reviews.

“Blade: Trinity” advanced to around $45 million, boosted by No. 1 bows in Germany and Austria and handy contributions from Switzerland, Holland and South Africa. One Teutonic booker was expecting a fast fade for “Blade,” noting its appeal is waning after the third installment and the general reaction has been lukewarm.

“The Aviator” saw snappy launches in Germany and Austria and held well in its second flight in Spain and in its third wide in the U.K.

“The Grudge” launched pretty well in Spain, drawing the younger crowd that wasn’t attracted to “Closer.” The Sarah Michelle Gellar starrer has scared up around $44 million in 25 markets, a reasonable sum considering the remake of a Japanese horror pic bombed in Asia (it hasn’t opened in Japan yet) and the genre isn’t as potent internationally as in the U.S.

“Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” was tops in Taiwan, raising its cume to $51 million in 13 territories. Jim Carrey starrer has whistled up a juicy $24.4 million in the U.K., a mediocre $6.9 million in Australia, and a blah $4.7 million in France and $4.2 million in Spain.

“It’ s been a disappointment, a very unfortunate event,” said one Madrid exhib. “The reviews were good, but the books aren’t popular in Spain, and neither is Jim Carrey. Add to all of this the horrendous title (a literal translation from the English): a very long title never helps, and it’s even worse if the title means nothing to the audiences.”

“The Incredibles” climbed to $346.8 million, marking the fourth Disney blockbuster to cross $600 million globally, joining “Finding Nemo,” “The Lion King” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”

“National Treasure” reached $130.4 million in 48 markets, driven by its nifty preem in Malaysia (a record locally for a Disney-branded live-action pic) and its top-ranked second turns in Greece and Holland.

Continuing its European tour, “House of Flying Daggers” looked fairly sharp in Italy, registering the highest per-screen average in the top 10, although one exhib felt the actioner wasn’t as satisfying for those who loved “Hero.” Zhang Yimou-helmed pic has earned $72 million.

In the U.K., Gallic import “A Very Long Engagement” looks destined for a rather short run after a low-key preem on 121 screens. Critics praised helmer Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s flourishes but weren’t enamored of the war scenes.

“Ladder 49” crashed and burned in Blighty, another fizzler in a foreign journey that’s generated a puny $16.2 million for the John Travolta starrer, with Germany, Sweden and South Korea ahead.

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