‘Casino Royale’ hits the jackpot

Bond opening is third biggest in U.K. history

LONDON — “Casino Royale” hit the jackpot in its opening frame in Europe but “Borat” still has his feet firmly under the table.

Driven by very strong reviews and positive buzz surrounding the gritty performance of Daniel Craig, Bond had a sensational opening in Blighty, taking $25,355,355 at 505 screens, including Thursday previews of $3,696,398.

The $21,658,957 three-day opening figure was the third biggest opening in U.K. box office history – trailing only “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” in 2006 and “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” in 2005.

The four-day opening easily smashed the record for a Bond opening in the U.K. Pierce Brosnan-starrer “Die Another Day” took $17.2 million (£9.1 million) in its first five days on release in 2002.

“We are delighted the U.K. has had record-breaking results over the weekend … and we are very grateful for the support and goodwill of the British public to the new film and most especially towards Daniel Craig,” said producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli.

“Casino Royale” biz was also buoyant in Russia — where it took $3.8 million at 633 — and in Greece and Poland. The pic opens this weekend in France, Germany, Holland, Sweden and Spain.

In the U.K., “Borat” managed to hold its own admirably against “Casino Royale.” Fox’s Sacha Baron Cohen vehicle slipped a respectable 44% in its third frame en route to a running total of $35,462,552. The strong $10,619 screen average trailed only “Casino Royale.”

Fading Brit pics could not weather the Bond storm. BVI’s “Breaking and Entering” fell off 61% in its soph sesh. Icon’s romantic comedy “Starter for Ten” slid 46% in its second frame despite adding 2% more screens and Working Title comedy “Sixty Six” nosedived 78% in its third frame.

With distribs loathe to take on “Casino Royale,” no other opener cracked the U.K. top 15.

In Germany, “Borat” seized top spot from local laffer “7 Dwarves: The Forest Is Not Enough,” which was in its third frame, thanks to a significant expansion from the cities to the suburbs and rural theaters.

Slipping just 16%, Baron Cohen’s outrageous laffer took $2,306,596 at 410 and has now done $9.4 million in Germany.

“7 Dwarves” slipped 28% in its fourth frame, taking $2,305,554 at 810.

Til Schweiger-starrer “Who Is Fred?” took third spot in its opening frame on home turf, making it a comedy 1-2-3 in Germany. The eagerly-anticipated screwball laffer, about a man who pretends to be handicapped to win love and recognition, scooped $1,847,083 at 516.

Another laffer — the sleeper hit “Wer Fruher stirbt ist langer tot” — dipped just 11% in its 15th frame and has now taken almost $8,354,552 for indie distrib Movienet.

Local pics “Prete-moi ta main” and “Ne le dis a personne” — both in their third frame — continued their reign atop the Gallic box office over the weekend, despite competition from “Borat” and French film “Le Concile de pierre.”

Third-placed “Borat,” managed to beat out the other newcomers in its first five days on French soil. Multiplying the admissions figures by the average ticket price of $6.38, “Borat” scooped an impressive $1,942,710 at 269. The screen average of $7,222 was streets ahead of other pics in the top 10.

Exhibs attribute the strong “Borat” bow to the excellent reviews from the traditional critics and Internet hyping from Gallic bloggers.

But it was not all good news for “Borat,” which fell flat in Spain. As some local bookers predicted, Fox’s ambitious 282-screen launch proved over-optimistic: the pic made just $984,451, half what booker’s cautiously projected. The launch was only good enough for fifth spot, trailing the fourth frame of “The Departed.”

“The actor is unknown in Spain, where we have our own local Borats, like Santiago Segura’s ‘Torrente,’ ” commented one booker.

Top local opener in Spain was Javier Camara’s thriller “El Trastorno,” which limped in with $180,760 at 138.

Italian biz finally picked up a bit after weeks in the doldrums. A 3% uptick in ticket sales was powered by the bow of Sony’s laffer “My Super Ex-Girlfriend,” which took $1.5 million at 253. The small rise did not overly excite Italian exhibs, who are upset that they have to wait until January for the arrival of “Casino Royale” and March for the “Borat” bow.

Local fare continues to struggle to attract big auds in Italy. The top two Italian debuts were Eagle Pictures’ “But Love … Yes, ” a comedy by Tonino Zangardi and Marco Costa about a Calabrese family that comes into money. It brought in $353,000 on 192 screens, good for 10th position.

At number 11 was Rai Cinema’s 01Distribution’s dark tale of love and death called “What Love.” It tallied a lackluster $277,000 on 123 screens.

Additional reporting by Liza Klaussmann (France), Bernhard Warner (Italy), Christian Koehl (Ger-many) and Esther de Prado (Spain).

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