European exhibs bet on Bond

Boffo B.O. awaits 007 in France, Spain, Germany, say bookers

LONDON — Emboldened by the boffo “Casino Royale” bow in Blighty, 007 embarks on his next European mission this weekend: to rally auds in Germany, France and Spain.

Brit bookers expect “Casino Royale” and “Borat” to continue to dominate biz this weekend despite the arrival of a clutch of promising openers, including BVI’s “Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause,” UIP’s “Jackass Number Two,” Entertainment’s “Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny” and Opti-mum’s “Pan’s Labyrinth.”

“Casino Royale” did gangbuster biz in its opening frame last weekend and exhibs do not expect it to stop reeling in the auds any time soon.

“Word of mouth is as good as the reviews and plenty of Bond fans will be going this weekend because they could not get in last weekend due to widespread sellouts,” enthused one booker.

Exhibs expect the Bond pic to play well throughout December as Brit auds traditionally view a trip to the latest Bond as a “seasonal treat in the run up to Christmas,” explained one exhib.

U.K. bookers will be happy with a “Casino Royale” soph sesh drop-off of 40% but surreptitiously have their fingers crossed for an even better result. “I’m not going to say I expect it but I wouldn’t be totally shocked to come into work on Monday to find Bond has dropped off by a ridiculously low figure like 20%,” said one booker.

Spanish-Mexican co-production “Pan’s Labyrinth” is expected to do strong biz at upmarket U.K. sites. The magical realist drama from writer-director Guillermo del Toro has received rave reviews from the critics and bookers expect an opening of between $380,000 and $480,000 from its 75 print launch. Optimum Releasing has given the pic a decent push in Blighty.

German bookers expect opener “Casino Royale” to follow up on its powerful Brit launch with a boffo Teuton bow. “In view of its strong international performance and excellent reviews, it’s safe to say ‘Casino Royale’ will become one of the year’s biggest blockbusters in Germany,” said one local exhib, predicting that the pic would rake in up to or more than $12.9 million, putting it on par with “The Da Vinci Code.”

“It’s the film everybody’s talking about. Unlike past Bond films, this one seems to be really appealing to female viewers thanks to Daniel Craig, and that’s a big plus. There’s a lot of excitement around it,” commented one German exhib.

Pic enjoyed a massive publicity push with a glitzy premiere in Berlin on Nov. 21.

While the pic’s German launch faces no real competition, some local exhibs are counter-programming with a number of small arthouse releases such as Tobis’ “Goya’s Ghosts” from Milos Foreman; X Verleih’s local drama “Winter Journey,” about an aging businessman who finds new life while on a trip to Africa; Pandora’s “Eden,” a romantic drama from Michael Hofmann set in a small-town restaurant; and UIP’s Prohibition-era musical “Idlewild” from Bryan Barber. But, as one exhib stressed, “This weekend really belongs to Bond.”

As in Germany, Spanish bookers expect opener “Casino Royale” to dominate the charts. “Sony’s release on 500 prints — the largest bow since ‘Pirates of the Caribbean 2’ opened in August — guarantees that it’s going to be hard to find a cinema not showing Bond,” said one Spanish booker, who predicts an opening of $3 million-$3.5 million.

The fear of piracy makes bookers reluctant to predict bigger figures. Apart from piracy, the other doubt is whether Daniel Craig, who is not well known in Spain, will charm Spanish auds. Pierce Brosnan’s “Die Another Day” made $3.4 million in its opening frame in 2002, en route to a final gross of $12.4 million.

Going head-to-head with Bond in Spain is German box office hit “Per-fume: Story of a Murderer,” which Filmax send out on 309. Local exhibs predict a decent opening of around $1.2 million. Optimistic projections are based on the fact that Patrick Suskind’s book, which the pic is based on, has been read widely in Spain.

Local laffer “Por que se frotan las patitas?,” about a fortysomething man who is suddenly abandoned by his wife, ill mother and awkward adolescent daughter, bows on 245 prints. Exhibs feel the feature debut from Spanish rock guitarist Alvaro Begines will work well with its target demo of youngsters but will struggle to crossover due to the subject matter. A $500,000 opening is expected.

French exhibs project a $9.5 million opening seven-day figure for “Casino Royale” but it faces some competition from another opener, local pic “Coeurs.” The dramatic comedy from French favorite Alain Resnais stars Sabine Azema, Lambert Wilson and Andre Dussollier and goes out on 300 screens from Mars Distribution.

With no Bond or Borat to pack the plexes, Italo exhibs are still down in the dumps, despite colder weather.

Strongest Italo bow is local laffer “Anplagged” — an intentional misspelling of the word “unplugged” — which is not even a bona-fide feature film, but rather a montage of footage of an eponymous smash-hit legit show featuring comic trio Aldo, Giovanni and Giacomo.

Though Medusa is opening “Anplagged” on a massive 600 screens, it is expected to take between $1.3 million and $1.9 million; a modest figure considering pic will play roughly one-fifth of the country’s playdates.

The notable non-Italo bows are Guillermo Del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth,” Buena Vista’s “The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause,” Aussie drug drama “Candy,” starring Heath Ledger, and Cameron Mitchell’s sexually graphic “Shortbus,” which has caused some brouhaha.

Additional reporting by Ed Meza (Germany), Nick Vivarelli (Italy), Esther de Prado (Spain) and Liza Klaussmann (France).

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