Italo biz looks to ‘Prada,’ ‘WTC’ for salvation

Yank pix have proved themselves elsewhere in Europe

LONDON — Italian bookers are hoping “The Devil Wears Prada” and “World Trade Center,” Yank pics that have already proven their worth at the European box office, can revitalize flagging biz, while in France and Belgium local product holds the key to success at the weekend.

Italo exhibs have their fingers crossed that “Prada” and “WTC” can sweep the B.O. out of the trough it has been in since the start of the summer, apart from a short-lived rally driven by the late release of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.”

Both pics launched at the Venice Film Fest in September. Critical reception for “Prada” has been mostly positive, while “WTC” has been blasted by many Italo crix either for being too steeped in Yank patriotism, or for being too sappy.

Fox’s “Prada” is expected to win the weekend, pulling in between $2.1 million and $3 million, while projected opening frame for UIP’s “WTC” is from $1.75 million to $2.1 million.

” ‘Prada’ should play well with the female audience. It’s fashion, a big Italian brand name; all this makes it a hot title,” said one upbeat Italo exhib.

Also opening at Italian wickets is Sony Pictures’ “Monster House,” for which expectations are moderate given its lackluster perf in Spain, and Italo helmer Paolo Virzi’s Napoleon biopic “N,” which Medusa is hoping will pull in $1.25 million. “N” stars Daniel Auteuil and Monica Bellucci and preems as a gala at the RomeFilmFest on Saturday (Oct. 14).

Manuel Pradal’s thriller “A Crime,” starring Emmanuelle Beart and Harvey Keitel, opened in Gaul yesterday (Oct. 11) on 159. The pic goes head to head in its opening frame with French-Italian co-production “L’Homme de sa vie” (The Man of My Life) about a happily married heterosexual man who falls for a gay man, which bowed on 213 yesterday. No big U.S. event movies are bowing in Gaul this week.

In Belgium, two eagerly awaited local productions open this weekend. Kinepolis Film Distribution opened Hans Herbots’ Dutch-lingo “Gale Force 10” on 43 copies in 32 theaters on Wednesday, immediately garnering 10,000 spectators. The Belgian-Dutch co-production is a big screen adaptation of a popular Flemish TV series about a search and rescue helicopter crew.

Belga Film will release Pierre-Paul Renders’ French-lingo “Like Every-body,” a romantic comedy revolving around the world of marketing, on seven screens. It is Renders’ first pic since his sci-fi fantasy “Thomas in Love,” which did well on the fest circuit in 2001.

Brit bookers do not expect any of this weekend’s openers to dislodge “Prada” and “The Departed” from the top two spots. Following boffo bows last weekend, both have held up very well through the week thanks to strong word of mouth and are set for solid soph seshes, according to U.K. exhibs.

Fox has given Nicholas Hytner’s big screen adaptation of hit stage show “The History Boys” a big push on home turf but exhibs are skeptical the pic will do much biz beyond London, Yorkshire (where pic is set) and key cities as they feel it is “too stagey for mainstream multiplex audiences.” An opening frame of around $1.5 million is projected for the pic, which debuts on 296. Bookers stress that an opening weekend figure over $1.3 million would be acceptable “given it is more of a slow-burning Monday to Thursday film.”

Early reviews are favorable. “It’s not the most cinematic of adaptations, but that barely matters when the per-formances and the writing — with quotable lines aplenty — are both so smart,” says Dave Calhoun in Time Out.

Entertainment’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning” goes out on 300 screens and bookers hope it will match the opening numbers achieved by the original remake (2003), which did $2.5 million in its first weekend. But bookers suggest “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning” will be hard pushed to match the original remake’s final cume of $7.4 million because it faces stiff competish from UIP’s “The Grudge 2” (Oct. 20) and Lionsgate U.K.’s “Saw 3” (Oct. 27) in coming weeks.

After average previews of $824,954 at 422 last weekend, Sony’s CGI pic “Open Season” opens on 450. Bookers predict a solid enough opening but suggest audiences might be “reaching saturation point with talking animal CGI pics.” Reviews are mixed: “It’s a breezily good-natured picture with a few mildly amusing moments, but mainly it relies a little too heavily on its own inoffensive cuteness,” wrote Wendy Ide in the Times.

BVI’s “The Guardian” opens at three London West End theaters and previews nationwide. Bookers have very modest expectations. “The film is a very eighties concept and will have limited appeal outside Kevin Costner’s loyal fanbase.”

“The Guardian” also opens in Spain where local exhibs’ expectations are a little more bullish due to the promotional work undertaken by Costner and co-star Ashton Kutcher. The pic goes out on 400 copies and anything less than a $2.3 million opening would be considered a disappointment.

Spanish bookers have high hopes for Mexican helmer Guillermo del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth,” which has been boosted by its high-profile Oct. 6 premiere as opening film of the Sitges International Film Festival and strong reviews. It debuts on 300. Yank comedy “You, Me and Dupree” and actioner “Crank” get large opening frame releases. Films opened yesterday (Oct. 11) in Spain to make the most of today’s national holiday.

Additional reporting by Nick Vivarelli (Italy), Melanie Goodfellow (Belgium) and Esther de Prado (Spain).

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