Exhibs expect boffo opening figures for laffer

LONDON — “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” is on course to translate massive buzz into boffo box office on its opening weekend in Blighty, say U.K. theatrical bookers.

Promising Thursday Nov. 2 preview figures of $1,730,021 at 391 with a screen average of $4,424 have buoyed the expectations of exhibs.

“The buzz on the film began smoldering at Cannes and is now absolutely on fire,” said one excited booker. “This is the real deal — ‘hilarious’ and ‘outrageous’ are two often over-used words to describe films, but ‘Borat’ is genuinely hilarious and outrageous.”

Exhibs predict that U.K. auds not usually drawn to Sacha Baron Cohen’s bold brand of comedy will flock to “Borat” “to avoid being the Johnnie-no-mates in the office or pub who hasn’t seen the movie.”

That opinion is shared by most critics: “While I’m prepared to think that some won’t like it, I can’t imagine too many will fail to appreciate a comedian at the top of his form,” wrote Derek Malcolm in the Evening Stan-dard.

The seemingly endless “Borat” articles in the U.K. tabloids and broadsheets are partly generated by the Kazakh government’s frequent objections to the pic. Brit comic Baron Cohen has also done his bit to fan the flames. His energetic appearance at the London Film Festival screening went down a treat with festgoers.

Industryites are predicting a “Borat” opening frame close to $7 million, including the hefty Thursday preview figures.

The constant “Borat” chatter has overshadowed this weekend’s other U.K. releases. Working Title’s comedy “Sixty Six,” about a Jewish boy growing up in 1960s London whose bar mitzvah is upstaged by England’s unlikely advancement to the 1966 World Cup soccer final isn’t setting pulses racing: “What’s the appeal? The concept for the movie is not appealing,” complained one.

Bookers’ lukewarm response to the pic does not chime with the ecstatic audience reception the pic got at its Oct. 23 London world premiere.

“Borat” also bows in Germany but Teuton exhibs have more modest expectations. One exhib suggested that despite considerable press coverage the humor may get lost in translation. “A German dub doesn’t really work for a comedy of this sort since the character and his own voice and dialogue are the most important elements of the movie,” said the exhib.

“Borat” faces stiff competish from local laffer “7 Dwarves: The Wood Is Not Enough,” which opened last weekend.

“Borat” also is released in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Holland, Sweden and Switzerland.

German bookers are fairly upbeat about “Marie Antoinette,” which they feel has genuine appeal to arthouse moviegoers. “People know Sofia Coppola and Kirsten Dunst, and the modern take on European history could pique the curiosity of many viewers.”

The highest-profile release this weekend in Spain is Miguel Courtois’ local pic “GAL,” a political action-thriller based on real events. Pic narrates the investigations of two journalists into the creation, acts and impact of the Spanish government-backed hit squad Grupos Antiterroristas de Liberacion (GAL), which killed 27 people and wounded another 50 in France from 1983 to 1987 in a “dirty war” against Basque separatist org ETA.

The pic is released by Aurum on 350 prints and local bookers are projecting a $2 million opening.

The Gallic box office is set for a fresh injection of local product this week. Vying for the top spot among the Gallic newcomers are Guillaume Canet’s thriller “Ne le dis a personne” and Eric Lartigau’s romantic comedy “Prete-moi ta main.”

Opening on 408 screens, “Ne le dis a personne” received tepid reviews but generated a substantial amount of buzz ahead of its opening. Pic, distributed by EuropaCorp, has hit a nerve with young, hip followers of the 33-year-old helmer -thesp.

The pic boasts a star-studded cast including Alain Chabat and Charlotte Gainsbourg. Pic, distribbed by Mars on 455 screens, received strong reviews and bookers are hoping for a big bow.

Also being watched by bookers is the Franco-English production “Lady Chatterley,” which has received out-standing reviews across the board, but whose literary subject may limit auds.

Pic has a very small opening on 71 prints.

Italian bookers are hoping that the chilly weather should drive Italians back to the theaters, but feel the lineup of releases lacks the necessary star power and buzz to boost the moribund Italian cinema market.

UIP’s “Over the Hedge,” Medusa Film’s “The Departed” and Fox’s “The Devil Wears Prada” are expected to hold onto the top three slots this weekend.

A trio of Italian films debuting — Buena Vista Italia’s “Salvatore,” Me-dusa’s “Secret Voyage” and 01 Distri-bution’s “In Our Home” — should crack the top 10, but are not expected to boost the overall market, which is stuck in a slump.

Distributors expect children’s pic “Salvatore,” and dramas “Secret Voyage,” helmed by Roberto Ando, and Francesca Comencini’s “In Our Home” to bring in between $250,000 and $350,000 each. Each film un-spooled at the RomeFilmFest to mixed reviews.

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

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