Europe goes over to dark side

Genre fare added to B.O. mix

LONDON — Euro auds get a heavy dose of scare fare at the box office this weekend, which also sees expansions of “Superbad” in France, “Knocked Up” in Spain and “The Bourne Ultimatum” in Italy.

In the U.K., historical drama “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” Shekhar Kapur’s follow-up to 1998’s “Elizabeth,” makes its Euro debut. It is the biggest opener in Blighty this weekend, going out on a very bullish 452 prints.

The Universal release, which toplines Cate Blanchett, has received a lukewarm response from the Brit crix. Lead review headlines include “Elizabeth the second best is a royal wreck” (Daily Mail), “Faerie Queene falls to Earth” (Independent) and “Queen Elizabeth loses her luster” (Daily Telegraph). But Blanchett has been given the thumbs up for her turn as Queen Elizabeth I.

Bookers are relatively upbeat about pic’s commercial prospects, predicting an opening between $3.5 million and $4 million. Optimistic projections are partly based on appeal of the cast, which includes Brits Clive Owen, Rhys Ifans and Samantha Morton.

Exhibs suggest that the fact that it has been trailering “Atonement” for weeks should also help. “They both appeal to the same audience profile and the ‘Elizabeth’ trailer is excellent,” said one.

Bloodthirsty Brits looking for a post-Halloween fright get David Slade’s zombie pic “30 Days of Night” via Icon. Pic took a solid $810,000 on 364 on Wednesday and Thursday.

Sienna Miller and Steve Buscemi two-hander “Interview” goes out on just 16 via The Works, looking to make the most of the exposure it got from its London Film Festival gala screening.

B.O. will be dented this weekend by fireworks fiestas to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night, which take place on Saturday and Sunday across the territory.

In Italy, U’s “The Bourne Ultimatum” is finishing off its European run, opening Thursday with a so-so $1.1 million one-day take from 323 prints.

Pic goes up against Dario Argento slasher “Mother of Tears,” the other big Italo opener over the four-day weekend, which kicked off with Thursday’s All Saints holiday.

“Mother,” opened by Medusa on Halloween night, has done $827,000 on 273 since Wednesday, which is a decent two-day take for an Argento pic, considering the horrormeister is no longer in his heyday.

This latest Argento offering, toplining his daughter Asia Argento and marking his return to the blood and guts genre, could rep a comeback.

Four titles debut on Italo screens on Friday, biggest of which is Anthony Hopkins starrer “Fracture,” out on 200 via Eagle Pictures, amid moderate expectations.

Smaller Italo outings are Terry Gilliam’s “Tideland,” on 20 via Officine Ubu, local drama “L’uomo Privato,” on 30 via Istituto Luce following its Rome fest bow, and Cuba Gooding Jr. starrer “Daddy Day Camp,” via Sony on 10.

Some two dozen new films, half of them docs, opened in Germany this week but Constantin’s animated laffer “Lissi” and Disney’s “Ratatouille” look set to retain the top spots at the box office.

Among the week’s new entries is Delphi’s local screwball comedy “Bis zum Ellenbogen,” actor Justus von Dohnanyi’s low-budget directorial debut, which he also wrote and produced, about two losers who travel across Germany with the corpse of a recently deceased pal in order to steal a hidden stash of cash. Pic may benefit from outrageous humor and generate strong word of mouth: reminiscent of “Weekend at Bernie’s.”

Another local laffer, Kinowelt’s “Weisst was geil waer?,” may appeal to the youth demo with its story of two clueless friends who set out to make a movie.

For Universal’s “The Heartbreak Kid,” Teuton prospects look dim after tanking in the U.S. and not impressing local critics.

Fox’s “Waitress” from late writer-director Adrienne Shelly may attract female viewers looking for an alternative to typical mainstream fare.

Also hitting theaters is Sony’s Australian drama “Jindabyne” and “The Wild Blue Yonder,” Werner Herzog’s faux docu about an alien trying to find a new home on Earth, going out via B.Film.

Spain’s five-day holiday weekend saw more than 10 openers launched on Wednesday, adding to the eight movies that bowed the previous weekend.

“We’ve had to work miracles to fit in so many movies in such a short period,” complained an exhibitor. “We’re under unreasonable pressure. We have to remove pics that are still giving good profits, and were showing good legs,” another exhibber added.

This weekend, industryites expect local chiller “The Orphanage” to retain top position, fuelled by the Halloween mood, which favors genre cinema. Pic has pulled $23.2 million up so far.

Russell Mulcahy’s “Resident Evil: Extinction” looks the best bet to give “Orphanage” a run for its money. Sequel goes out on 350 copies via Sony.

Also bowing wide is latecomer “Knocked Up,” out on 252 via UPI.

Frame also sees a duo of local pics enter the mix. Romantic comedy “Oviedo Express,” from vet writer-director Gonzalo Suarez goes out on 100 via UPI; and Ibon Cormenzana’s “The Totenwackers” is out on 120 via BVI.

Other debuts include Michael Davis’ “Shoot ‘ Em Up,” bowing on 200 via Tripictures; Andrew Lau’s “The Flock,” which goes out on 225 via DeAPlaneta, and Andrew Dominik’s “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” out on 68 via Warner.

In Gaul, facts and figures for opening day, Wednesday, were hard to come by, with several major distribbers taking a four-day All Saints weekend.

Significant openers “The Kingdom” opened on 300 for Paramount and EuropaCorp’s gangster pic “Le Dernier gang” opened on 411. Both had quite middling returns for their first afternoon screenings in the Paris region.

Those distribbers that reported for duty had reasons to be cheerful. Raunchy Yank laffer “Superbad” bowed strongly at $304,095 on 280 for Sony. Local crix consider the recent slew of outrageous laffers something of a guilty pleasure: “It’s impossible to say with certainty why outrageously vulgar dialog in American regressive comedies makes us cry with laughter,” blushed Telerama.

“L’heure zero,” helmer Pascal Thomas’s crime thriller toplining Francois Morel, bowed well for StudioCanal, taking $264,850 on 242. Reviews were generally very positive.

Once again proving that Woody Allen remains a star in Gaul, “Cassandra’s Dream” received a warmer response than it did at the Venice and Toronto fests in September. “Astonishing, elegant and superbly interpreted,” praised Le Parisien. It bowed for TFM at $225,445 on 190.

“Le Premier cri,” a French-produced docu about giving birth in different parts of the world, bowed on $232,800 on 247 for Disney.

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

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