'Christmas,' 'Ole' help B.O. climb 8%
BERLIN — Local pics dominated the box office in Italy and France last weekend as auds turned to holiday comedies and a French animated fantasy.“Christmas in New York” and “Ole” helped boost admissions in Italy by 8% to $12.3 million, maintaining a box office surge for the second straight week. An Italian Christmas tradition, comedies aimed at the entire family hit screens during the holiday season, the time of year when local productions can expect to top the box office. Filmauro’s “Christmas in New York” surpassed all expectations, grossing $4.84 million on 518 screens. Distributors, being wisely cautious after brutal autumn season, predicted the film, starring popular funny man Christian De Sica, would, at best, draw $4 million, matching “Christmas in Miami,” De Sica’s hit 2005 pic, which went on to become Italy’s top-grossing domestic film of the year, earning Euros 20 million ($26.2 million) in 20 days. Similarly, Medusa Film’s “Ole” met exhibitors’ weekend expectations, grossing $1.96 million on 401 screens. In France, Luc Besson’s animated fantasy “Arthur and the Invisibles” and Pierre Salvadori’s romantic comedy “Hors Prix” led the pack in the first five days of the week, trumping “Happy Feet’s” sophomore session and “Casino Royale,” now in its fourth week. Topping the box office, “Arthur and the Invisibles,” released by Besson’s EuropaCorp on 956 screens, pocketed $9 million in its first five days, enjoying the fifth largest bow ever in France. “Hors Prix,” starring French faves Audrey Tautou and Gad Elmaleh, followed with $2.7 million from 443 screens. Outside of Italy, dragon adventure “Eragon” soared to the top of the charts in other major European territories and put an end to “Casino Royale’s” box office domination in Germany. The sword-and-sorcery tale surpassed exhib expectations in Spain, where it took in $3.8 million from 497 prints. In Germany, pic displaced “Casino Royale” with $3.9 million from 781 locations, well ahead of the “Casino’s” $3.1 million. “Eragon” helped boost the Teutonic box office by 15%, but nevertheless surprised local exhibs with its strong showing in view of scathing reviews. However impressive, “Eragon’s” performance lags far behind 2005′s fantasy favorite “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” which opened in Germany with $6.6 million in the same period last year. In the U.K., “Eragon” proved a disappointment, opening to a fourth-place $2.7 million from 429 screens, which was in line with last year’s box office disappointment “Zathura.” Despite a 45% drop, “Happy Feet” held on to the No. 1 spot in the U.K. with $4 million, followed by “The Holiday” in its sophomore session with $3.1 million. U.K. auds exhibited little appetite for Pathe’s holiday slasher “Black Christmas,” which opened at No. 8 with $721,321 from 232 screens, or Warner’s ninth place opener “Unaccompanied Minors,” which made $471,703 from 198 screens. Offering Teutonic viewers an alter-native to dragons, “The Holiday” opened in third place in Germany, boasting a $2.6 million take from 542 locations, while Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto,” released locally by Constantin, appeared to scare off the local populace with its explicit depiction of Mesoamerican brutality as it opened in seventh to apocalyptic numbers: $481,196 from 202 locations. Dropping 37% to fourth place, “The Departed” took in $1.45 million in its sophomore run. Recently dominating the local box office, German pics are on their way out as local hit “Where Is Fred?” dropped 50% in its fifth week, making $287,415 and slipping to eighth place with a running total of $5.86 million. Holding on to the 10th spot was Teutonic laffer “Seven Dwarves — The Wood Is Not Enough,” which dropped 44% to $194,006 on its way to a $25.3 million cume, making it one of the country’s most successful films of the year. “Happy Feet,” ranking second in Spain, dropped 65%, earning $944,129 towards a 10 day cume of $5.7 million. Also opening in Spain was Luc Besson’s animated fantasy “Arthur and the Invisibles,” which pulled in $756,040 from 373 copies and an unremarkable per-print average of $2,027. Spain’s biggest local release was “Mia Sarah” from first-time director Gustavo Ron. Pic, released by Filmax, opened with 87 copies and grossed $97,712, meeting squarely with exhib expectations. In Italy, Buena Vista Intl.’s “Deja Vu” claimed the No. 3 spot with $1.37 million from 251 screens in its opening weekend, beating out another holiday laffer, “Sexy Comedy,” from Rai Cinema’s 01 Distribution, which grossed just $780,000 on 314 screens, far below local expectations. Last week’s top film in Italy, Sony Picture’s “Open Season,” fell 63% to the No. 5 spot in its sophomore session to $620,000. Medusa Film’s “A Good Year,” starring Russell Crowe, opened at No. 6 with $574,000 on 155 screens. Additional reporting by Liza Klaussmann (France), Esther de Prado (Spain) and Bernhard Warner (It-aly).