Euro B.O. scores Homer run

U.K. gross reaches new high

LONDON — A whammo bow for “The Simpsons Movie” at the European box office this weekend kept up Hollywood franchise pics impressive summer run on the continent.

Trashing concerns that the well-loved TV show might not translate to the bigscreen, “Simpsons” comfortably took top spot in the U.K., Germany, France and Spain. Pic does not hit Italian theaters until the fall.

In Blighty, boffo bows from “Simpsons” and Michael Bay’s “Transformers” combined with some strong holdovers to deliver the biggest three-day weekend on record at the U.K. box office.

The total three-day take of $40.8 million (£20.1 million) eclipsed the previous three-day best of $39.6 million (£19.5 million) posted in November 2005.

Homer and co. led the charge as the “Simpsons” collected a colossal $27.6 million (including July 26 and 27 previews of $9 million) at 499 screens. The $18.7 million Friday-Sunday take result was north of booker’s projections and reps the third biggest opening for an animated pic in the territory.

“Transformers” did not disappoint. Despite very poor reviews, the CGI-laden actioner raced to $17.7 million at 456, including $7.7 million in July 21, 22 and 26 previews.

It wasn’t just the hyped tentpoles appealing to Brit auds. Feelgood Broadway tuner adaptation “Hairspray” held impressively, dipping just 32% in its soph sesh for an $11.2 million running cume. The Entertainment release opened boldly and is benefiting from good word of mouth.

“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” felt the force of the two juggernauts. Slipping 57%, it was nudged into third place in its third weekend. But few exhibs are complaining about the running take of $76.7 million.

On the arthouse circuit, eighth-placed Maggie Gyllenhaal starrer “Sherrybaby” proved a nice little earner for indie distrib Metrodome. Buoyed by upbeat reviews from the Brit critics, Laurie Collyer’s drama took $72,984 at just 13 for a healthy $5,614 screen average.

Upscale Gallic pics continue to enthrall Brit arthouse auds. Guillaume Canet’s tense thriller “Tell No One” slipped just 38% in its seventh outing, moving its cume to $2.1 million for Revolver. Edith Piaf biopic “La Vie en rose” slipped 56% in its sixth frame for an impressive cume of $2.5 million.

“Simpsons” conquered Germany with a boffo bow of $14.3 million from 754 locations.

Pic easily booted “Phoenix” off the top of the charts, posting the best result for a traditionally animated film in Germany and the third best start of the year following “Phoenix” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.”

Pic also ranked third best start for a toon feature overall behind CGI-animated hits “Ice Age: The Meltdown” and “Finding Nemo.”

“We were expecting the film to do very well, but this was well beyond our expectations,” noted one surprised exhib, adding that the success of the pic “shows that there is still a huge interest and love for traditional animation.” The pic benefited from the huge following for the long-running TV series in Germany.

The “Simpsons” bow helped push overall German biz up 51% on the previous frame, putting overall trade for 2007 up 3% on the same period in 2006.

“Order of the Phoenix” dropped 40% in its third frame, settling in second place with $6.3 million from 983 for a total of $46.5 million.

Hollywood blockbusters dominated the top four spots, while Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof” rounded out the top five.

Third-placed “Live Free or Die Hard” took in $1.1 million in its fifth session toward a $21.4 million cume. Next best was “Shrek the Third,” which bagged $1 million on its way to a $25.6 million total after six frames. “Death Proof” managed $784,795 in its soph sesh for a $2.4 cume.

The only other opener to make it into the top 10 was Constantin Film’s “Beste Zeit,” the latest Bavarian comedy by Marcus H. Rosenmueller, director of last year’s sleeper hit “Grave Decisions.” The coming-of-age pic opened at number eight with $240,886 from 52 locations. The “Beste Zeit” (Best of Times) result met exhib’s expectations, which were upbeat thanks to glowing reviews.

In France, “Simpsons” took top spot with $9.1 million on 716 in its first five days for Fox. Second-placed “Transformers” bowed at a solid $6.4 million on 872 for Par.

Down 43% on the weekend, “Phoenix” has cumed a touch over $37 million after three frames for Warners. Falling off 46%, “Live Free or Die Hard” has had a terrific run for Fox, cuming $15.5 million after four frames. Gallic box office hit “Shrek the Third” has made over $43 million after seven frames for Par.

Spain is also in the grip of Springfields fever. “Simpsons” took $8.9 million on its opening weekend, surpassing the recent debut of “Phoenix,” which made $6.6 million on its first weekend.

The “Simpsons” result outperformed all but the most optimistic of exhibitors’ expectations.

“Such a great reaction in Spain is surprising,” said one local booker. “It’s amazing. I was expecting $4 million or $5 million, but not this.” Exhibs report that the pic is displaying strong word of mouth and playing well with auds young and old.

“There’s a lot of people who are addicted to the ‘Simpsons’ series, just like ‘Stars Wars’ has a large fan base. Simpson has the virtue of attracting family audiences as well as adults. It’s working pretty well at nights,” added another exhibitor.

The other Spanish openers failed to make a significant impact.

Curtis Hanson’s “Lucky You” went out on 50 via Warner and took only $79,636. Brazil-set horror “Turistas” bowed on 177 via Filmax and took $398,913.

In Italy, “Phoenix” easily stayed top, taking $1.3 million on 740 on a sunny weekend, which saw a massive exodus of Italians heading toward beaches.

Latest Potter pic, which slid 50% in its third frame, now has a $21 million Italo running cume, said national box office compiler Cinetel. This makes Warner Bros. a winner with its Italo summer outing gamble on this title.

That said, with no other strong new pics in sight until September, the Italo B.O. is plummeting toward its customary July and August lows, suffering a 38% drop this weekend.

Only one debut pic penetrated the top 10. The single counterprogramming attempt that made that cut was Teutonic chiller spoof “Night of the Living Dorks,” which drummed up a paltry $57,000 on 62 via Mediafilm — good enough for 10th place.

“Transformers” is showing staying power at number two after five weeks, pulling $250,000 on 213, for a $10 million cume.

Additional reporting by Ed Meza (Germany), Emilio Mayorga (Spain), Nick Vivarelli (Italy) and David Hayhurst (France).

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