'Casino Royale' scores best ever Bond opening figures

LONDON — “Casino Royale” smashed B.O. records in the U.K. Thursday, claiming $3.2 million (£1.7 million) on its first day, the best opening ever for a Bond pic in the territory. It buried “Die Another Day,” which took $2 million (£1.1 million) in 2002.

Opening on 496 screens, the pic accounted for 67% of biz in the U.K. on Thursday, buoyed by very strong reviews and the massive publicity generated by the glitzy world premiere in London on Tuesday.

“Casino Royale” is set to dominate the weekend in Blighty as it faces little competish from the other openers, all arthouse fare. These include German serial killer thriller “Antibodies,” German psychological drama “Requiem,” French costumer “Gabrielle” and Brit doc “37 Uses for a Dead Sheep.”

“Casino Royale” also went out Thursday in Russia and midsize markets Greece, Poland and the Czech Republic. It bows next week in France (Nov. 22), Germany (Nov. 23.) and Spain (Nov. 24.)

Outlandish faux Kazakh reporter Borat is readying himself for more “sexy time” at the box office.

“Borat” has already banked $47 million overseas and, driven by this weekend’s openings in France and Spain, looks set for another strong Euro weekend frame.

Buzz for “Borat” has been strong in Gaul where Fox released the pic on 257 screens on Nov. 15. Hype is due to the extensive worldwide media coverage and word spreading of its strong box office performance in the U.S., Germany and the U.K.

Gallic bookers report that Brit funnyman Sacha Baron Cohen was largely unknown in France just a few weeks ago, but is on the verge of becoming a household name due to the brouhaha surrounded the politically incorrect humor in the film.

French critics fell for “Borat’s” charms. “A satire that is at once furious and precise, imbued with a humor of universal incorrectness,” wrote one critic in daily Le Monde.

“The most hilarious, the craziest, the most irresistibly audacious film of the fall,” wrote another in weekly Telerama.

Anti-American feeling in France may help drive biz.

Spanish exhibs are less upbeat about “Borat” and are concerned that Fox’s 285 screen launch might prove too bold. “Maybe this release is too ambitious as ‘Borat’ hasn’t caught as much buzz in Spain as in other countries. If word of mouth works, it should make around $2 million,” predicted one Spanish booker.

German bookers are upbeat about the prospects of screwball comedy “Where is Fred?” The leftfield laffer stars popular local thesp Til Schweiger as a man who pretends to be handicapped in order to win love and recognition. Reviews have been strong and prospects are boosted by the fact that comedies including “7 Dwarves: The Forest Is Not enough” and “Borat” have been working well of late in Germany.

Two local pics — Wim Wenders exec-produced war drama “The House Is Burning” and Matthias Luthardt-helmed family drama “Pingpong” — vie for the attention of German ar-thouse auds.

Gallic bookers have high hopes for Monica Bellucci and Catherine Deneuve-starrer “Le Concile de pierre” (The Stone Council), which UGC opened on 360 screens on Nov. 15. The supernatural thriller faces competish from Christopher Nolan’s period mystery “The Prestige,” which bowed on 271 screens, and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s firm fest fave “Babel,” which opened on 241 screens.

In Spain, the biggest local bow is Javier Camara’s thriller “Trastorno,” about a woman who wants to steal her sister’s baby. DeaPlaneta release the pic on 138 prints and exhibs predict a modest opening frame of no more than $200,000.

Italian bizzers are growing increasingly desperate for a box office revival. Due to a dearth of quality product (with the notable exception of strong performer “The Departed”) and warm weather, biz has been flat for weeks. ”

We could use a Bond or Borat right now,” one exhibitor grumbled. The former bows in January, the latter in March. This weekend’s hopes of a recovery are pinned on Fox’s “My Super Ex Girlfriend,” which it is hoped will draw close to $2 million. Rai Cinema’s 01Distribution arm is expected to have the top Italian pic by default (the local selection is meager) this session with “What Love,” a dark tale of love and murder helmed by Maurizio Sciarra.

The pic should crack the top 10, one booker predicted, bringing in between $250,000-$350,000.

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

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