Europeans flock to Hollywood pics

'Shrek,' 'Die Hard,' 'Transformers' drive B.O.

LONDON — European auds’ seemingly insatiable appetite for summer tentpoles continued this weekend as “Shrek the Third,” “Live Free or Die Hard” and “Transformers” all hit paydirt in their respective openings in the U.K., Germany and Italy.

But it was not only tentpoles cashing in at European wickets. Animated French pic “Persepolis,” which was very well received at Cannes, opened impressively on home turf.

The local sensation of the Gallic summer so far raced to $1.8 million at 199 and a chart topping screen average of $9,152. The bitter sweet tale of an Iranian family’s struggles during and after the revolution earned helmers Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud the Jury Prize at Cannes.

Distrib Diaphana is planning to boost print numbers to 370 next weekend.

Also performing well on home turf is Claude Lelouch’s thriller “Roman de gare,” which did strong opening biz for distrib Les Films 13. Toplining Dominique Pinon and Fanny Ardant, it earned nearly $960,000 on 276 in its first five days, with market share building over the weekend.

“Shrek the Third” continues to command the top spot in Gaul. The animated family fave dipped 27% in its third frame to take $5.3 million at 850, moving the cume to almost $30 million. Down 44% in its second frame, “Ocean’s Thirteen” took $2.4 million at 765. The crime caper has met expectations for WB in cuming $9.4 million.

A wave of terror alerts in Blighty did not dampen box office trade. “Shrek the Third” took a whammo $33.6 million at 536, the biggest ever opening frame by an animated pic in the territory. It edged past “Shrek 2” (2004), which opened to $32.7 million en route to an $88 million final cume. The result makes “Shrek the Third” the third biggest opening pic of all time in the U.K. behind “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and followup “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.”

The huge “Shrek the Third” three-day bow figure includes previews of $12.8 million taken June 23, 24 and 28. “Shrek 2” previewed for one day fewer.

Heavy rain showers throughout the weekend helped drive up box office biz.

Indie distrib Icon successfully expanded upscale Gallic offering “La Vie en Rose.” The Edith Piaf biopic dropped just 12% in its soph sesh for a $1.1 million running cume.

Local opener “The Flying Scotsman,” released by Verve Pictures, failed to make any impression in its first flight. The fact-based pic about a maverick Scottish pro cyclist took just $122,492 at 71.

Bruce Willis kicked green butt in Germany where testosterone-fuelled actioner “Live Free or Die Hard” unseated “Shrek the Third” from the top spot.

Proving that Willis can still pull in major crowds, the latest installment in the continuing adventures of John McClane enjoyed the best start ever for a “Die Hard” film in Germany. The Fox actioner grossed $7.7 million from 720 and helped boost the overall box office by 16% on previous frame.

Universal’s “Shrek” dropped 38% in its face off with “Die Hard,” managing a respectable $4.9 million from 857 in its second session for a $14.8 million running cume.

Holding on to number three, “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” took in an additional $1.38 million for a total of $55.5 million. Close behind, “Ocean’s Thirteen” garnered $1.37 million for a running cume of $13 million.

Rounding out the top five, British comedy-drama “Irina Palm” is proving a lively alternative to the dominant Hollywood fare. Slipping only 17% from the previous weekend, the pic pulled in $301,111 from 83 for a $1.5 million cume via X Verleih/Warner Bros.

In Italy, “Transformers” easily took the top spot scoring $2.9 million on 600 in an otherwise flat frame.

The Michael Bay actioner almost single-handedly caused a 31% rise in Italo grosses compared with the previous weekend, which had sagged severely, lacking the pull of a Hollywood tentpole.

But besides “Transformers” all other Italo debuts were left scrounging for crumbs.

Pang brothers helmed horror pic “The Messengers” proved a losing counterprogramming proposition. The haunted farmhouse pic scared up a mere $180,000 on 154 via 01 Distribuzione.

Fox’s WWI drama “Flyboys” hardly got off the ground, pulling a paltry $61,000 on 60 for barely over $1,000 as its per screen average.

Kenneth Branagh adaptation of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” copped a $3,400 per screen average, but played on just four screens, totaling a $13,600 take via 01.

Among holdovers, “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” dropped 54% in its third frame to $658,000 on 398 for a $7.4 million cume. “Ocean’s Thirteen” slid 39% in its fourth frame at $342,000 on 230 for a $6.4 million take to date. Sony’s gritty horror pic “Hostel: Part II” took a 54% dive in its second frame at $195,000 on 233 for a $900,000 cume.

In a rare upbeat note for Spain, terror and comedy outperformed B.O. expectations this weekend.

Helmed by Spaniard Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, horror sequel “28 Weeks Later” took $1.4 million, achieving a pleasing copy-average of $4,421. Youth auds and critics for once concurring in favor of a pic.

The Fox Atomic/DNA production has further Spanish elements in producer Enrique Lopez Lavigne and co-producer Sogecine.

Spanish laffer “Cafe solo o con ellas” grossed $654,727, though for a much lower copy average: $2,234. Exhibs’ reactions were mixed.

” ‘Cafe’ went worse than expected. It’s a hilarious laffer. I haven’t seen audiences laughing and clapping so much for a long time, but the average is very low,” said one.

Another begged to differ. “With so much Spanish cinema performing badly of late, the average per copy for ‘Cafe’ is a good one, the second best this weekend after the $7,353 for ‘Shrek the Third.’ But maybe 311 copies were too many. The film could drop fast,” he explained.

“I think that going out with three hundred copies was a huge mistake. It’s better to launch around 150 and platform if successful,” said a third exhibitor.

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

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