$2 mil local pic takes $4.85 mil in eight weeks

ZURICH — BVI Switzerland’s first local release, Army comedy “Achtung, fertig, Charlie!” (Ready, Steady, Charlie), has become the second-most successful local film in the country’s history, behind 1979 emigration pic “The Swissmakers.”

Just eight weeks after its Sept. 18 release, the $2 million “Charlie” has notched up 500,000 admissions and $4.85 million.

Pic unspooled on 55 screens in German-speaking Switzerland, filling one out of six, a record for a local film. BVI is mulling a release in French-speaking Switzerland next year, but has no plans to release it in the Italian-lingo part of the country.

First-time helmer Mike Eschmann’s “Charlie” topped the local box office for three weeks, beating Hollywood blockbusters “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” and “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.” It has become the country’s most successful film of the year so far and BVI expects it to capture the crown for the year as a whole, which would be another first for a local film. But it still has some way to go to catch up with “The Swissmakers,” which pulled in 900,000 admissions.

The Swiss Army initially backed “Charlie” and provided the barracks where the movie was shot as well as uniforms for the cast, guns and tanks.

But the Ministry of Defense later attacked the film, saying the Army was being made to look ridiculous because pic showed soldiers smoking joints and having sex on duty. The scandal helped to attract even more filmgoers.

Producer Lukas Hobi’s Zodiac Pictures made pic with financing from state subsidies, Swiss public TV and — most unusual in a Swiss film — private investors. Lucerne-based Hobi plans a sequel.

German outfit Cinepool is selling “Charlie” at Mifed.

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