‘Borgia’ challenges ‘Devil’ in Spain

Local pic hopes to match success of 'Alatriste'

LONDON — Spanish bookers are waiting to see whether local pic “Los Borgia” can bring home the bacon in its opening weekend as impressively as homegrown hit “Alatriste” managed a month ago.

The other key homegrown opener at the European box office this weekend is drama “Le Grand meaulnes” in Gaul.

With a budget of close to $13 million, Antonio Hernandez’s “Los Borgia” reps a significant release for the Spanish film industry and a big deal for co-producers Antena3, rival broadcaster to Telecinco, which struck gold with 17th century swashbuckler “Alatriste.”

“Los Borgia” is a portrait of Pope Alexander VI and his family and stars Roberto Alvarez and Eloy Azorin. The release is supported by a strong marketing push and a large release of 324 prints. Exhibs hope for a $2.5 million opening.

“Los Borgia” faces competish from the openers “The Devil Wears Prada” and “Snakes on a Plane.” The latter is not expected to do much biz despite starring Spanish thesp Elsa Pataky.

Boosted by good openings from “Days of Glory” and “The Devil Wears Prada,” which drove box office biz up 40% last week on the previous week, French bookers are waiting excitedly to see how local pic “Le Grand meaulnes” and German box office smash “Perfume: Story of a Murderer” will open.

Based on a French literary classic “Le Grand meaulnes” features a cast of hot young French thesps including Jean-Baptiste Maunier (“Les Choristes”) and goes out on an ambitious 400 screens.

Box office watchers will pay close attention to the Gallic “Perfume” bow as it reps the pic’s first outing in a major Euro territory outside German.

So far, so sweet for “Perfume” in Gaul. The eponymous novel is widely read in the territory and distrib Metro-politan FilmExport has done a good job of pumping the pic with its sumptuous images popping up on news programs and weekly TV magazines around the country.

But French reviewers remain unconvinced by the pic. “The cinematography, somber and elegant, serves a smooth historical reconstruction. But in a desire to stick to a linear and dense story line, Tom Tykwer is lacking a bit of objectivity,” wrote a critic for weekly Le Journal du Dumanche.

This weekend’s high-profile bows for “The Devil Wears Prada” and “The Departed” look set to further revitalize U.K. cinema biz, which awoke from a month-long slump last weekend thanks to muscular openings from “World Trade Center” and “Click.”

“Prada” previewed very promisingly in the U.K. last Saturday and Sunday, taking $1,395,364 at 401 for a $3,483 screen average. Bookers expect an opening frame excluding previews of at least £2 million ($3.7 million). Reviews have been mixed so far, although Meryl Streep has come in for lavish praise for her bitchy perf in the lead role.

Hopes are equally high for Martin Scorsese’s star-studded thriller “The Departed.” Bookers are hoping for an opening close to $4 million for the pic which, according to one exhib, has everything: “a fantastic cast, a superb director, excellent music and a screenplay that will undoubtedly be Oscar nominated.”

Brit reviewers concur: “This is Martin Scorsese’s best film since ‘Goodfellas’,” wrote Nigel Andrews in the Financial Times.

“The Departed” is getting a big push from distrib Entertainment.

The general mood among U.K. bookers could barely be more upbeat: “We are really back in business. It is raining, it is cold, it is getting darker earlier and we have two proper, quality movies with genuine broad appeal opening.”

Critically acclaimed low-budget Brit indies “Brothers of the Head” (released by Tartan Films) and “The Plague” (Wysiwyg Films) also bow and should do solid biz in the right locations.

Actioner “Miami Vice” and Woody Allen’s “Scoop” open in Italy this weekend with the cinema biz badly needing a kick-start after the failure of “Black Dahlia” or local laffer “Kiss Me Little One” to set the pulses racing last weekend.

Local exhibs expect “Miami Vice” and “Scoop” to score in the region of $1.5 million.

The fairly cautious “Miami Vice” projection is based on the pic’s mid grade perf in other Euro territories and the fact that Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx are not household names in Italy.

Italian auds appreciate good comedies and hopes are high that “Scoop” can do solid biz although not all exhibs are brimming with confidence: “The fact that Woody Allen appears in this film is not an added value for us. His traditional comedies have never performed well in Italian multiplexes” observed one booker.

Regardless of how Italo biz performs this weekend, things should definitely look up the following week-end when “The Devil Wears Prada,” “World Trade Center” and “Monster House” all debut.

Cinema biz across Europe are likely to be dampened on Saturday afternoon and evening by European championship soccer matches. But the absence of club matches in the top leagues will cancel the downside.

Additional reporting by Sheri Jennings (Italy), Esther de Prado (Spain) and Liza Klaussmann (France).

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