‘Snicket’ sinks, ‘Phantom’ vanishes o’seas

'Incredibles' the standout holiday season title internationally

If exhibs in Europe were handing out report cards on the Christmas/New Year trading period, the verdicts would not read well in Hollywood.

Programmers in France weren’t enthused with “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events,” reasoning Jim Carrey isn’t a big draw there and the pic’s “sinister air” may have sent mixed signals about whether it’s suitable for kids.

Exhibs in Italy say “Ocean’s Twelve” suffered from an avalanche of critical pans (nominated by some as the “worst Christmas film”) and the Euro setting wasn’t a plus. “It’s like a postcard of Europe with famous actors,” opined one booker, who found the sequel lacks the fun and spectacle of the original.

The Italo exec was delighted with “Shrek 2,” which led the market in its third frame, but lamented that neither of the local comedies “You know Claudia” and “Christmas in Love” would reach the hoped-for e20 million ($26.5 million) mark.

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In the U.K., exhibs griped that “The Polar Express” and “Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera” hadn’t performed as strongly as they expected, noting the tuner didn’t attract younger auds and it shouldn’t have been released pre-Christmas. Biz in Blighty was up 114% on the prior weekend but 50% down on the same weekend a year ago when “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” was in full flight.

There are no quibbles with “The Incredibles,” the standout holiday season title internationally. The Pixar toon drew $24.1 million on more than 6,800 screens in 59 territories in the Dec. 31-Jan. 2 frame, and its cume through Jan. 4 flew to $293.2 million, heading for north of $360 million. Family pic written and directed by Brad Bird has packed theaters in Australia since its Dec. 26 launch, and it reigned in its seventh stanza in the U.K. and in its sixth in France.

“Ocean’s Twelve” ascended to $113.8 million in 49 countries, driven by its beefy bows in Taiwan (where it trailed the soph session of Sony’s “Kung Fu Hustle”) and South Africa and its chart-topping third outings in Germany, Spain and Holland.

“Alexander” conquered South Korea and Poland and held stoutly in its second campaigns in Germany, Austria and Holland. Its cume topped $46 million in 29 territories, and it looks a cinch to climb above $100 million. “Kung Fu Hustle” has rapidly amassed $35.1 million in six Asian markets, boosted by its acrobatic bow in Japan and its second weekends in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia.

“Meet the Fockers” is tops in Australia, fetching $12.7 million in 10 days, and in six days it rang up a terrif $763,000 in Singapore, including sneaks, and $146,000 in Malaysia. In all three territories, the laffer opened well ahead of predecessor “Meet the Parents” (which was rated PG in Singapore, vs. the sequel’s age 16 tag).

After earning a respectable $6 million in the U.K., “Finding Neverland” bowed solidly in Oz, and BVI/Miramax is hoping it will get a leg-up from Oscar noms. “Phantom of the Opera” is resonating a bit better in its first 10 days Down Under than it has in continental Europe, described by one circuit chief as “good but not brilliant.”

“The Aviator” was impressive in its two-week platform in London, and exhibs were predicting it would earn around $2.4 million when it rolled out nationally over the weekend.

“House of Flying Daggers” is playing well in the U.K., appealing to folks who savored “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Hero,” and its estimated offshore cume hit $64 million.

“Without a Paddle” was no more than mediocre in its U.K. debut and all but ignored in Spain, where it was buried on 75 prints.

“National Treasure” raced along to $82.7 million in 20 markets, tracking strongly enough to reach at least $130 million. Action-adventure was powered by South Korea’s $2.8 million preem (a BVI record, dethroning “King Arthur”), Mexico’s $2.1 million, Sweden’s $1.1 million and Norway’s $326,000. Latter three ranked as the second biggest debuts for producer Jerry Bruckheimer behind “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.” Considering the catastrophic events in Thailand, the Nicolas Cage starrer’s $670,000 opener there was admirable.

In its Euro preem, “Team America: World Police” couldn’t get arrested in Germany, where one exhib said there was little appetite to see a puppet spoof of global tragedies considering the myriad real-life miseries.

An award for weirdest dating decisions of 2004/05 could be presented jointly to UIP for launching “Surviving Christmas” in Belgium Dec. 29 and to Sony for unwrapping “Christmas With the Kranks” in Italy Jan. 7.

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