Craig starrer beats Brosnan box office record

LONDON — “Casino Royale” raced past “Die Another Day” to become the highest-grossing Bond pic in the history of the franchise in the U.K., slipping just 38% in its third frame.

The Daniel Craig-starrer is benefiting from very strong word of mouth and notched $10,503,404 at 506 screens this weekend en route to a cume of $73,387,440. “Die Another Day” finished up on $69.6 million in the U.K.

“Royale” comfortably held top spot in Germany in its soph sesh, also dipping just 38%. The take of $8,171,149 at 854 was streets ahead of second-placed opener “Happy Feet” ($1,548,992 at 662) and pushed the cume to $24,572,249.

“It’s getting great word of mouth and it’s appealing to a much broader base than previous Bond films,” enthused one Teuton exhib.

The Bond pic slipped 51% and 42% in its second frame in Spain and France, respectively, and has now taken $196.5 million internationally, constituting 63% of its $312.4 million worldwide haul.

In Italy, Medusa Films’ homegrown comedy “Anplagghed at the Cinema” held top spot in its soph sesh, beating out a lineup of newcomers including Warner Brother’s “Happy Feet” and Eagle Pictures’ “The Nativity Story.”

“Anplagghed,” written by the popular comic troupe Aldo, Giacomo and Giovanni, drew $1.87 million at 467. In its first 10 days, the film has generated $5.7 million.

Seasonal religious pic “The Nativity Story” managed $709,000 at 437, which was a disappointing result considering the pre-release buzz in Italy. The pic world preemed at the Vatican on Nov. 26 before 7,000 high-ranking church and government officials, a cinema first. But it was not enough to perk the interest of the moviegoing public. It generated just $1,624 per screen.

Italo bookers attribute the lackluster response to the number of religious themed fare on Italo screens. “The Nativity Story” follows hot on the heels of lengthy TV miniseries about the Pope and various saints. Reviews were lukewarm and bookers report the pic failed to attract all-important young auds.

In Blighty, Fox’s outrageous laffer “Borat” seems finally to be bowing to gravity — the fifth-placed pic slid 47% in its fifth frame. The Sacha Baron Cohen vehicle has now scored almost $45 million in the U.K., which ac-counts for 47% of its $96.8 million international take.

Spanish-Mexican co-production “Pan’s Labyrinth” continues to do robust biz at upmarket U.K. sites for Optimum Releasing. The magical realist drama from writer-director Guillermo del Toro dipped just 11% in its soph sesh and has taken $1,512,708 in just 10 days. The pic received rave reviews and a decent marketing push from Optimum and is proving excellent counterprogramming fare to the holiday season releases.

German biz was controlled by 007 but local laffer “Where Is Fred?” continues to do decent business on hometurf. The Til Schweiger-starrer, about a man who pretends to be handicapped to win love and recognition, fell 32% in its third frame and has now grossed $4,745,164 for distrib Senator. Another local comedy — “7 Dwarves: the Forest Is Not Enough” – snared fifth spot but is fading fast. The pic dropped 56% in its sixth frame en route to a cume of $24,903,732.

Local openers were thin on the ground in France where biz was dominated by the bows of Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed” and “Flushed Away” and the soph sesh of “Casino Royale.” Paul Verhoeven’s WWII pic “Black Book” bowed as counterprogramming to some success.

Multiplying the admissions figures by the average ticket price of $6.38, the pic scored $306,061 at 105 in its first five days in Gaul for a respectable screen average of $2,914. Reviews were supportive.

” ‘Black Book’ is a film of remarkable intelligence and audacity,” wrote one critic for daily Le Monde. “One of the best — if not the best – works by the sulphurous Batavian.”

In Spain, Antonio Banderas’ second film as a director, “Summer Rain,” was unable to attract big auds despite a hefty promotional push from distrib Fox. Banderas’ ’70s coming-of-age tale set in his hometown of Malaga scored just $697,903 from 290 prints for an underwhelming screen average of £2,575. Previous Banderas pic “Crazy in Alabama” (1999) cumed $4.8 million in Spain.

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

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