German box office biz on a roll

'Flags of Our Fathers' makes Euro bow in Gaul

LONDON — This weekend’s home turf bow of German spoof fairytale “7 Zwerge — Der Wald ist Nicht Genug” (7 Dwarfs: The Forest Is Not Enough) looks set to keep German box office biz bubbling hot.

“7 Dwarfs: The Forest Is Not Enough” is the follow-up to Sven Unterwaldt’s 2004 hit “7 Dwarves,” which grossed $48 million in Germany. The pic is likely to dislodge soccer doc “Deutschland: Ein Sommermarchen” from the top of the charts and go on to become one of the year’s biggest earners.

Another Teuton pic, “Ein Freund von Mir” (A Friend of Mine), which stars local thesps Daniel Bruehl (“Good Bye, Lenin!”) and Juergen Vogel (“The Free Will”), looks set to do solid biz. Awareness for the pic has been boosted by the sterling promotional efforts of Bruehl and Vogel, who entered the record books on Oct. 22 for attending the most premieres in a day. The duo rushed around six preems in 12 hours.

Clint Eastwood’s “Flags of Our Fathers” makes its European bow in France, going out on 403 screens. Bookers are hoping French auds longstanding fondness for Eastwood will drive biz.

Reviews have been very strong: ” ‘Flags of Our Fathers’ joins the ranks of great Hollywood fiction that questions the principles of America’s founders and the definition of democracy,” wrote one reviewer in daily Le Monde.

“To put it simply: Mr. Eastwood has given us another masterpiece,” wrote another in the oft-snarky weekly Les Inrockuptibles.

“Flags” is expected to do particularly well in the big cities and university towns.

French bookers are predicting a big opening frame from Michel Ocelot’s homegrown animated pic “Azur and Asmar.” High hopes are based on the success of Ocelot’s “Kirikou and the Sorceress” in 1998.

Buzz on “Azur and Asmar” has been growing since it played in the Directors Fortnight sidebar in Cannes. Two hundred tots showed up to watch the film and partake in a tea party following the show hosted by Ocelot.

Indie distrib Diaphana has gone fairly wide with the pic, which opens on 543 screens.

Other local pics of note bowing this week in Gaul are “Poltergay” and “La Californie.”

“Poltergay” is a horror-spoof that tells the tale of a young couple who buy a home haunted by the ghosts of gay nightclubbers.

While the film, distribbed by TFM, got tepid reviews, it headlines popular French comic actors Clovis Cornillac and Julie Depardieu.

“La Californie” is a whodunnit that revolves around a rich party-goer, her daughter and the couple they’ve recently employed at their villa on the Cotes d’Azur. Pic bowed in Un Certain Regard in Cannes.

Spanish bookers are looking for a bow of $2.5 million from Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed,” which has already performed excellently in the U.K., racing to over $15 million in 16 days. The pic debuts on 364.

Local laffer “Nobody is Perfect” goes out on 200 prints and exhibs are hoping for around $600,000. Joaquin Oristrell’s pic is aimed at teens. It stars popular thesps Fernando Tejero and Santi Milan.

Spanish exhibs do not have particularly high hopes for CGI pic “Barnyard,” which goes out on 238. An opening frame over $1 million would be considered a success given bookers feel it has not had much of a promotional push.

“Scoop” also bows in Spain, traditionally a territory receptive to Woody Allen pics. But buzz is more muted than it was for “Match Point,” which scored a $964,421 opening last year. Bookers will be satisfied if “Scoop” scoops half that figure in its bow.

As in Spain, “The Departed” is generating good buzz in Italy prior to its opening, where bookers are projecting a bow between $3 million and $3.3 million. The pic’s high-profile screening at the RomeFilmFest was attended by topliner Leonardo DiCaprio and Scorsese.

Festival circuit fave “Babel” bows in Italy with exhibs divided on its prospects. Reviews have also been mixed.

Brit bookers expect Lionsgate U.K.’s release “Saw 3″ to open stoutly. The horror title should put the frighteners on Entertainment’s ” Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning,” which dipped 59% in its soph frame last weekend and UIP’s “The Grudge 2,” which bowed moderately last weekend.

Andrea Arnold’s directorial debut “Red Road” should perform well on its limited release bow in the U.K. Reviews have been very strong for the Verve Pictures release, which nabbed the jury prize at Cannes.

The gritty urban drama should play especially well in Scottish sites — it was shot in Glasgow and world premiered in the Scottish city.

Beyond this weekend’s openers, all the talk in the U.K. is focused on whether “Borat” can deliver on its massive media hype when it opens Thursday Nov. 2. Its Oct. 25 screening at the London Film Festival was the hottest ticket in the fest.

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

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