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‘Bourne’ takes Europe by storm

Pic opens strongly in U.K., Spain

LONDON — Jason Bourne flexed his muscles at the European box office this weekend as Matt Damon vehicle “The Bourne Ultimatum” punched its way to muscular openings in the U.K. and Spain.

Euro auds can’t seem to get enough of fast-paced Hollywood actioners as “Rush Hour 3” bossed B.O. biz in Germany.

In Blighty, “Ultimatum” delivered on the pumped up pre-release hype by easily taking top spot in its opening weekend with a boffo $13 million (including previews of $2.5 million) at 458 screens.

The “Ultimatum” opening result was in line with bookers’ most optimistic expectations and puts it on track to comfortably best the previous two pics in the action franchise, which did $15.9 million and $23.4 million, respectively. The three-quel is expected to top $40 million.

Brit critics were lavish in their praise for local helmer Paul Greengrass’ kinetic actioner and the starry Aug. 15 U.K. premiere helped raised awareness.

Weekend U.K. B.O. was given a boost by rainy weather, which saw total grosses up 47% on last weekend and up 90% on the same weekend last year.

Indie distrib Momentum achieved an excellent opening result with “Bratz: The Movie.” Shrugging off poor reviews and weak preview figures, the toy-based pic danced its way to $2.5 million at 386 — good enough for fourth spot. The U.K. result represents more than 50% of the U.S. opening figure.

The unexpectedly strong showing delighted exhibs, who credit Momentum with an excellent campaign. The film was supported by an aggressive marketing campaign and a “pester power mall tour” across the country in the week of release, during which fans got to meet their live action Bratz.

“OMG — what a result!,” declared Sam Nichols, Momentum’s senior vice president of theatrical distribution. “By focusing our campaign on the core audience, young girls, we just needed to think pink and target them directly.”

Last week’s box office champ “Rush Hour 3” dipped 44% for a $12.5 million running cume. Drop-off was very respectable given the big bow and the fact that it faced stiff competish from action rival “Ultimatum” this weekend. Bookers report the Chris Tucker starrer is playing very well at sites in areas with large Afro-Caribbean communities.

“The Simpsons Movie” is showing good legs. The animated family pic dipped just 29% in its fourth frame to move the cume to $67.1 million. Total international take stands at $270 million or 62% of the $435 worldwide haul.

“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” is still conjuring up big numbers: it slipped just 12% in its sixth frame for a whammo $91.7 million total, its best result overseas.

“Surf’s Up” missed its big opening weekend wave Aug. 10-12 but it is managing to stay afloat. The surfing penguin toon dropped only 1% in its impressive soph sesh for a $5.1 million cume. Pic is benefiting from good word of mouth, according to bizzers.

In Spain, “Ultimatum” also delivered decent numbers, taking $5 million in its first six days (release date was moved forward to Tuesday to take in the Wednesday national holiday in the territory). Result was a boost to local B.O. as the Bourne franchise is not historically a big earner in Spain.

“It’s gone well, without making a killing,” said one local exhib. “Audiences like it. It will have legs. There really aren’t that many films for the over 25-year-old audience, and this is one,” said another.

“Surf’s Up” cumed a first six-day take of $2.5 million off 437, which was above local bookers’ modest pre-release expectations.

The excellent critical reviews and buzz on BVI-distribbed “Ratatouille” finally registered at the box office with the rat-chef comedy falling just 34% in its third weekend for a creditable $12.2 million cume. Pic is playing on a still wide copy spread of 515. “It’s still got gas in the oven,” promised an exhib.

In Germany, opener “Rush Hour 3” took top spot with a punchy $4 million. Second placed “Simpsons” fell 50% to $1.5 million and a $32.3 million cume.

Teuton B.O. hit of the week was Gallic Audrey Tautou starrer “Hunting and Gathering,” which took $972,446 at only 130 for a chart-topping average of $7,480. Bookers attribute the success to the recent lack of quality fare for female auds.

Despite its earlier start on Tuesday, “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” collected a so-so $1.7 million via Constantin.

“We actually thought the two would be closer, that ‘Fantastic Four’ would do better, and ‘Rush Hour’ slightly less trade,” said one booker.

Another exhib noted that the first “Fantastic Four” pic proved somewhat of a disappointment at the Teuton B.O.: “The first installment seemed to be made more for kids than for example the ‘X-Men’ pics and I guess that many fans lost interest in this sequel.”

In France, Paris-set Pixar pic “Ratatouille” stayed top for the third weekend in a row, dropping just 12% for $34.5 million booty to date. As in Blighty, lousy weather contributed to healthy biz.

Summer tentpoles continue to make monster moolah in Gaul. “Simpsons” dropped just 19% for a $22 million cume. “Phoenix” also dropped just 19% for $46.5 million and counting. “Silver Surfer,” down 43% in its second frame, has met Fox’s expectations. Current cume stands at $8.3 million.

Local helmer Claude Chabrol’s latest thriller, fifth-placed “La Fille coupee en deux,” took top spot for a local production with a soph sesh $3.3 million at 292 for Wild Bunch.

In Italy, Universal’s chiller “Disturbia” debuted in the top slot, scaring up a respectable $517,000 on 209. The country is still in deep summer movie-theater desertion mode.

The Shia LaBeouf starring “Rear Window” remake ended Harry Potter’s long dominance, which had seen “Phoenix” camped out at number one for six weeks in the absence of any subsequent significant outings. “Phoenix,” now at number two, has pulled $24 million on Italo screens to date.

Another chiller, “Open Water 2: Adrift,” by Teutonic helmer Hans Horn, debuted at number three despite pulling a relatively paltry $187,000 on 179, via local distribbery Eagle Pictures.

There were no other new releases in the top 10.

Eagle Pictures has been quite successful during this sun-drenched August interim — in which many Italians hit the beach and high-profile releases go on hiatus — with low-end titles such as Thai kickboxing pic “The Protector,” which has pulled a tidy $800,000 in three weeks.

Additional reporting by Christian Koehl (Germany), John Hopewell (Spain), Nick Vivarelli (Italy) and David Hayhurst (France).

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