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Europe embraces ‘Borat’

Baron Cohen pic makes glorious $12 million in Blighty

LONDON — Sacha Baron Cohen vehicle “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” did boffo biz across Europe in its opening weekend, justifying the massive pre-release buzz.

The comedy did gangbuster biz in Blighty where Baron Cohen originated the Borat character on TV. The pic blew all competitors out of the water with $11,867,325 at 428 screens, including Thursday previews of $1,729,944. The whammo screen average of $27,727 was some $20,000 better than its nearest rival, Lionsgate U.K.’s “Saw III.”

The monster U.K. bow was fuelled by massive media coverage. Reviews were strong. “Rude, appalling, outrageous, irresistible,” promised Nigel Andrews in the Financial Times. “A film so funny, so breathtakingly offensive, so suicidally discourteous, that strictly speaking it shouldn’t be legal at all,” raved Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian.

Brit exhibs are delighted with the debut. “Word of mouth is truly exceptional even amongst over-35 auds who were not expected to flock to the film in such high numbers,” according to one theatrical booker. Final cume projections have been pushed up from a pre-release $28 million to $38 million.

Despite Teuton bookers’ fears that the pic might be somewhat lost in translation, “Borat” did very nice biz in Germany, taking second spot with $2,668,696 at 234.

The German haul was particularly impressive because “Borat” faced stiff competish from the soph frame of homegrown comedy “Seven Dwarfs: The Forest Is Not Enough,” which dipped 31% but held top spot with $4,848,127 at 799.

“It was surprising because ‘Borat’ did not have much of a following here at all,” said one German exhib. “Fox has really been pushing the film. It has got tons of publicity and now a lot of people know who Borat is, as well as Ali G. and Sacha Baron Cohen.”

Elsewhere in Europe, “Borat” took top spot in its opening frames in Sweden, Holland, German-speaking Switzerland, Denmark and Finland. In Belgium it trailed only Fox’s “The Devil Wears Prada.”

A pair of local pics topped the charts in Gaul, where “Borat” doesn’t open until Wednesday Nov. 15.

Multiplying the admissions figures by the average ticket price of $6.38, EuropaCorp release “Ne le dis a personne” took top spot with $6,004,096 at 471 in its first five days. Bookers attribute the success to the popularity of Gallic actor/helmer Guillaume Canet.

Eric Martigau’s romantic comedy “Prete-moi ta main” took second spot with $4,763,639 at 434. The strong result was powered by the popularity of French thesps Charlotte Gainsbourg and Alain Chabat.

Michel Ocelot’s toon “Azur et Asmar” followed up on its good bow with $2,053,964, a rise of 7%, in its soph sesh from the same number of screens, 551, and landed in fourth place.

In Spain, Miguel Courtois’s political action-thriller “GAL” opened disappointingly on home turf. The pic, about the Spanish government’s struggles with Basque separatist org ETA, took an estimated $980,922 from 350, which was 50% down on booker’s pre-release expectations and only good enough for fourth spot. Moderate reviews did not help the local pic’s cause.

The continued strong Spanish perf of Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed,” which held top spot in its soph sesh, also hurt “GAL.”

In Germany, patriotic soccer doc “Deutschland: Ein Sommermarchen” seems to be succumbing to gravity at long last: It dipped 40% in its fifth frame and has grossed $28 million.

“Perfume: Story of a Murderer” slipped 32% in its eighth frame and has reached $46,750,336.

Sleeper hit “Wer Fruher stirbt ist langer tot” leapt up 10% in its 13th frame and has taken almost $7.5 million for indie distrib Movienet.

A trio of local pics opening in Italy failed to beef up flagging box office biz, which fell 1% on last weekend, marking the third straight weekend that takings have gone south.

Of the Italo openers, only 01 Distribution’s “In Our Home” cracked the top 10, grossing $343,000 on 140 and slipping into ninth place in the charts.

Medusa’s “Secret Voyage” and Buena Vista Italia’s “Salvatore” ranked 11th and 14th, grossing $200,000 at 102 screens and $105,000 at 54 respectively.

Distribs thought each film had a reasonable chance of grossing between $250,000 and $350,000, as each had unspooled at the RomeFilmFest to generally positive reviews.

The Brit opening for Working Title comedy “Sixty Six” was steamrollered by “Borat.” The pic took $555,682 at 250, which was only good enough for eighth spot.

Local pic “The History Boys” fell 58% in its fourth frame and is hemorrhaging screens.

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

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