'Lions' a lamb in overseas bow

Two films from India dominate weekend int'l boxoffice

A marketing ploy geared to star     power and a wide international opening did not pay off for "Lions for Lambs," the political drama starring Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep and Robert Redford.

Essentially a specialized film, the first release from the Cruise-fronted United Artists pulled in $10.3 million on its opening weekend from 2,675 screens in 45 markets, hardly a performance for a film backed by a tentpole-like marketing campaign.

Though the 20th Century Fox International release was the top overseas draw for a Hollywood entry, it was easily outclassed in the international market over the weekend by two films from India -- "Om Shanti Om," for which distributor Eros International claims a $17 million opening from an unknown number of markets, and "Saawariya," Sony's first co-production with India, which is said to have delivered $15.4 million from 899 screens in 13 markets.

"Lambs'" best outings came from Australia (No. 2 with $857,000 from 248 screens) and Spain (No. 2 with $2.2 million from 298). Facing mostly negative reviews, "Lambs" arrived in the U.K. at No. 6 with $1.4 million from 404 screens; Germany at No. 5 with $999,000 from 300 screens; and Brazil at No. 5 with $429,000 from 102 screens. According to Fox International, which is launching a new overseas releasing deal with MGM-UA, "Lambs" drew $208,000 from 23 screens in Hong Kong for a top listing in the market.

International distribution experts said that despite the big push and the huge stars involved, it came down to a case where "Lambs" did not attract its core audience and failed to cross over to the general public.

The weekend again demonstrated the growing power of local-language films. In addition to its $14.4 million from 754 screens in India, "Saawariya" picked up $335,000 from 60 screens in the U.K., $96,000 from 17 screens in Australia and $284,000 from 26 in the United Arab Emirates. It also opened in Singapore, Malaysia, South Africa and Kenya, countries that also have a substantial Indian population.

"El Orfanato," distributed by Warner Bros. Spain, maintained the No. 1 spot in the market for the fifth weekend in a row, generating $2.4 million from 370 prints for a market cume to date of $29.1 million. In Germany, "Lissi und der wilde Kaiser" picked up $2.4 million in its third weekend for a market cume of $14.6 million. In Italy, "Come Tu Mi Vuoi" opened at No. 1 with $3.2 million from 347 locations. Local films also dominated the market in Korea ("Le Grand Chef") and Japan ("Sky of Love"). Ang Lee's "Lust, Caution" opened at No. 2 in Korea, pulling in about $1.8 million in its first three days.

Even smaller overseas markets are showing off their locally made movies. Recently, three Dutch titles were among the four top-grossing films in the country. Last week, a police drama, "Missing" (Vermist), directed by Jan Verheyen, set a new record for a domestic film in Belgium, and the weekend also marked a high point for other local movies, including "Plop and the Penguin" from Dutch-speaking Flanders.

In the midst of the foreign explosion, "Ratatouille," the top overseas grosser for five weeks in row, came in second to "Lambs" in the English-speaking category, recording $9.1 million from 3,670 screens in 29 markets for a cume of $388.4 million. According to Disney International, the film has taken in $44.9 million in five weeks in the U.K., $42.6 million in six in Germany and $24 million in four in Italy.

Following openings in Argentina, Brazil, Italy and Sweden, "The Heartbreak Kid" reached a cume of $40.6 million after a weekend take of $8.2 million from 1,678 screens in 20 countries.

"Resident Evil: Extinction" added $5.5 million from 1,700 screens in 46 markets to its overseas run, lifting its international gross to an estimated $81 million based on returns from split-rights distributors Sony Pictures Releasing International and Summit Entertainment.

"Stardust" continued to make up for its domestic failure, picking up another $5.5 million from 2,150 screens in 39 markets to raise its cume to $83.1 million.

"The Bourne Ultimatum," the first picture to be released in Japan by Toho Towa under its deal with Universal Pictures International, pulled in $2.9 million from 304 screens in Japan, which led a weekend take of $4.8 million from 971 screens in 24 countries to bring the film's international cume to $195.7 million. UPI expects the Matt Damon starrer to pass the $200 million mark this coming weekend.

More weekend tallies: "Saw IV," $3.8 million (cume: $32.3 million); "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," $3.9 million (cume: $14.2 million); "Bee Movie," $3 million (cume: $8 million); "The Kingdom," $2 million (cume: $28.6 million); and "The Game Plan," $2.7 million (cume: $11.9 million).

"American Gangster," which has taken in $316,623 from 21 screens in three small Eastern European countries, will bow this coming weekend in the U.K., Germany, France and other markets.

Lionsgate's "Good Luck Chuck" opened at No. 1 in the U.K. to $2.7 million from 379 screens. In France, David Cronenberg's "Eastern Promises" was No. 1 with $2.3 million from 256 sites. Australia's No. 1 film was "Death at a Funeral," distributed by Icon to $898,517 from 179 screens.

Leo Cendrowicz in Brussels and Mark Russell in Seoul contributed to this report.