Comedy laughs at rivals

BERLIN — “Mr. Bean’s Holiday” turned into a conquest of the U.K. and Germany as Rowan Atkinson’s latest outing as the befuddled British klutz stormed to pole position in two of Europe’s major territories while meeting serious resistance from Warner’s “300” in Spain.

In Blighty, “Mr. Bean” succeeded where the Persians failed, pushing back the Spartans single-handedly. Laffer drove “300” off the top of the charts, garnering a boffo £6.4 million ($12.6 million) from 512 screens. Pic boasted a $24,851 screen average, more than double that of nearest rival “300,” which brought in a weekend gross of $4.5 million on its way to a $17.7 million cume.

In Germany, “Bean” was king with a likewise boffo $5.6 million from 845. The Universal release sucked up the lion’s share of ticket sales, validating local predictions that pic would easily take the number one spot in the country, where the character enjoys huge popularity.

Indeed, “Bean” left only scraps for the competition.

The Spartans, meanwhile, continued their conquest of Southern Europe as “300” ignored a slight flesh wound inflicted by “Mr. Bean’s” opening in Spain and easily kept local Italian pics at bay.

Taking just a 45% blow to the chest, “300” battled on supreme in Spain, grabbing a soph weekend $3.5 million. With an $11.9 million first 10-day booty and sturdy legs, it still has a good run at the box office in front of it, exhibbers say.

“Mr. Bean” had Spanish exhibs falling off their seats, and not just from laughter. Pic had been written off as a fading franchise and panned by many Spanish reviews. Even Universal’s 276 print release looks cautious. But “Bean” grossed a large $2.3 million for a great $8,270 per screen average. Doing so, it ate “Meet the Robinsons'” lunch.

If “Mr. Bean” was way above expectations, “Robinsons” was way below: $1.5 million off a far larger print run of 414 for less than half the per copy average: $3,586.

“Families had to choose between ‘Robinsons’ and “Bean” and children voted for ‘Bean,'” said one exhibber.

With no “Bean” to contend with in Italy, “300” held on to the top spot as expected, drawing $2.8 million on 470, a 39% drop in its second frame for a $9.5 million cume.

In Gaul, however, it was the eternally gamine Audrey Tautou who kicked scantily-clad Spartan butt as Claude Berri’s “Hunting and Gathering” topped the charts. The bittersweet drama beat out “300” for the week and has cumed $8.4 million on 468 for a well-pleased Pathe after two frames.

The ancient Spartan-Persian bust-up has cumed better overall, however, taking in $8.9 million for Warners on 485 over the same period.

Proving a similarly feeble challenger for “Bean” in Germany and failing to click with local tykes, “Meet the Robinsons” settled for fifth place, having garnered only $503,252 from 651.

Fox’s “The Hills Have Eyes 2,” meanwhile, surprised German exhibs by opening at number two with $924,865 from 366. Last year’s remake and first installment garnered a total of $4 million at the box office and did strong additional business on DVD, providing a boost for the sequel.

At number three, “Music and Lyrics” continued to attract Teutonic auds, adding $878,902 to its $9.56 million cume via Warner.

Dropping 50% in its third frame, Constantin’s local comedy “Neues vom Wixxer” took in $789,473 on its way to a $5.5 million total. In its second frame, Delphi’s local tyke pic “Haende weg von Mississippi” pulled in $321,762 for a $985,066 cume, while BVI’s local Oscar-winner “The Lives of Others,” at number 10, dipped just 34% to $217,626 on its way to a total domestic gross of $17.3 million.

With Easter weekend approaching, “Bean” is on track in the U.K. to out-perform Universal’s other big performer “Hot Fuzz.” Now in its seventh week of release, “Fuzz” brought in $462,793 to reach a total of $40.4 million.

Momentum’s “Amazing Grace,” about the abolition of slavery in the British empire, continues to perform solidly, grossing $666,743 to bring its total to $2.1 million.

Metrodome’s “Days of Glory,” which benefited from lavish critical praise and an innovative marketing campaign that saw 5,000 Nepalese troops descend on London’s Whitehall to demand equal pension rights to British vets, brought in $127,297 in its opening weekend. Faring slightly better was Fox’s Mira Nair-helmed “The Namesake,” which reached $247,116 off 59 screens.

In Italy, the weekend’s real winner was Palermo-set laffer “Il 7 e l’8,” which stood firm at number two dropping a mere 25% in its third week to take $1.6 million on 306 for a $7 million take to date.

Medusa pic, toplining comic duo Ficarra and Picone, is about two Sicilian thirtysomethings from very different social backgrounds who discover their cribs had been switched in the maternity ward.

Yank kidpic “Bridge to Terabithia” did decent biz opening at number three with $1.4 million on 315 via local distribbery Moviemax.

Eddie Murphy starrer “Norbit” dropped 48% in its second frame to gross $950,000 for a flat $3.2 million cume in the fourth spot via Universal.

Hollywood teen horror pic “Stay Alive” scared up a solid $702,000 on 162 via Medusa, opening at number five.

Italy’s box office is up a boffo 20% for the first 2007 trimester, driven by local pics, which account for a whopping 40% market share.

Accordingly, auteur Ermanno Olmi’s spiritual drama “One Hundred Nails” nailed a boffo $550,000 on 92 via Mikado. By contrast Maradona biopic “The Hand of God” failed to score in this soccer-crazed nation, making a mere $303,000 on 115 via 01 Distribuzione.

“Notes on a Scandal” opened respectably in Spain with $878,239 off 192.

Also handled by Aurum, “The Messengers” performed above par: $1.45 million from 268 for a $5,416 average.

In France, “Bridge to Terabithia” took in $2.4 million on 568 for SND, while local shocker-comedy “Hellphone” made StudioCanal $1.1 million on 429. Laffer “La Tete de maman,” helmed by Carine Tardieu, brought UGC the same on 236.

Additional reporting by David Hayhurst (France), John Hopewell (Spain), Ali Jaafar (U.K.) and Nick Vivarelli (Italy).

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