Brit pics fear Borat and Bond at B.O.

Openers may be squashed by movie giants

LONDON — Homegrown openers in the U.K. face an uphill struggle to compete with the second frame of box office phenomenon “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” which, fuelled by exceptionally strong word of mouth, looks set to hold resolutely.

Brit exhibs are predicting a small soph sesh drop-off for “Borat.” Its boffo bow was hindered slightly by tradi-tional fireworks festivities celebrating Guy Fawkes Night, which took place throughout last weekend. Exhibs also predict a flurry of repeat viewers, even so early in its run, “as punters return to share the outrageous film with ‘Borat’ virgins or go again to catch the jokes they missed the first time or just brush up on their Borat impersonations.”

Anthony Minghella’s London-set drama “Breaking and Entering” opens on home turf in Blighty. The pic, which stars Jude Law and Juliette Binoche, was well-received at its Oct. 27 gala screening at the London Film Festival, and exhibs expect it to play well in the capital, especially in London’s West End.

But bookers feel the “challenging” Minghella pic, “which plays a bit tough to be an ideal Friday night movie,” may fail to find receptive auds outside London and the key cities. Reviews have been lukewarm. “Minghella’s ambitions are laudable, but ‘Breaking and Entering’ delivers less than it promises,” wrote David Gritten in the Daily Telegraph. BVI releases the pic in the U.K. on 229 this weekend. It bows in Ireland on Dec. 1.

Competing for a similar audience profile is James McAvoy-starrer “Starter for Ten,” which Icon saddle up on a cautious 84 prints. Exhibs envisage the romantic comedy about a working-class student (McAvoy) who falls for a middle-class girl should perform well in university towns.

Reviews have been very strong. “This is expertly crafted entertainment that follows all the beats of a traditional romantic comedy, but it’s done with such sincerity that it’s difficult to begrudge the odd descent into cliche,” said Chris Tilly in TimeOut.

Icon execs are hoping word of mouth will prove as favorable as the reviews and plan a significant second frame expansion.

Encouraged by strong early re-views, U.K. bizzers are waiting expectantly for the Nov. 16 debut of “Casino Royale,” which world premieres Nov. 14 in London. Some bookers predict this weekend’s openers will struggle as auds save their cinema coin for the new James Bond pic.

German bookers have modest expectations for local pic “The Last Train,” about a group of Berlin Jews traveling to Auschwitz, which is distributed by Concorde. But Teuton exhibs are not complaining about the box office clout of homegrown product after the recent boffo success of “Perfume: Story of a Murderer” and “Ger-many: A Summer’s Fairytale.”

Local laffer “7 Dwarves: The Forest Is Not Enough” and “Borat” are expected to hold on to the top two spots in Germany despite the opening of “Children of Men,” The Grudge 2,” “Open Season” and “A Good Year.”

Teuton bookers were concerned that “Borat” would be lost in translation but, thanks to a hefty promotional push from Fox, it opened strongly last weekend.

Francisco Goya biopic “Goya’s Ghost,” bows in Spain where the painter is a national icon. The pic stars Javier Bardem and Natalie Portman and is the first collaboration between director Milos Forman and producer Saul Zaentz since the Oscar-winning “Amadeus” in 1984.

Spanish bookers are looking for a bow of “at least $1 million, hopefully $1.5 million” for “Goya’s Ghost” but are concerned that Spanish auds have been deluged with local historical dramas, including “Alatriste” and “The Borgias” of late and might be nearing their elastic limit.

Stephen Frears’ critically-acclaimed portrait of the British Royal Family in the aftermath of the death of Princess Diana, “The Queen,” goes out on 185 in its debut frame in Spain, where local bookers are hoping for at least $600,000.

In Italy, Paolo Sorrentino-helmed local pic “The Family Friend,” about a misanthropic loan shark (Giacomo Rizzo), is expected to crack the top 10. One distributor estimates the Medusa pic could earn between $500,000 and $750,000. The reasonably high expectations are based on the high regard for Sorrentino’s “The Consequences of Love” in 2004. Sorrentino is well-liked by Italian arthouse auds.

Due primarily to unseasonably warm weather, autumn box office biz has been very flat in Italy but local bizzers are hoping UIP’s Owen Wilson comedy “You, Me and Dupree” and Clint Eastwood’s “Flags of our Fathers” can help kick start flagging business. Bookers predict an opening of between $2 million and $2.5 million for “Dupree” and between $1.25 million and $1.5 million for “Flags.”

Additional reporting by Ed Meza (Germany), Esther de Prado (Spain) and Bernhard Warner (Italy).

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