LONDON — Family orientated Hollywood fare such as “Fred Claus,” “Bee Movie” and “Enchanted” performed well in Europe, while Italos auds favored local flavors.
In Blighty, Christmas came early for Warner Bros. as festive themed “Fred Claus” opened top with $4 million at 445 screens, a result significantly up on booker’ pre-release projections.
Fox’s “Hitman” also hit home and exceeded targets with an opening of $2.6 million at 349 — good enough for second spot. Exhibs attribute the strong showing to the popularity of the vidgame the pic is based on and the strength of the theatrical trailer. Reviews were predictably scathing for the violent vidgame knockoff.
The two openers helped push overall biz up 1% on the previous weekend, despite Brits surging to the shops over the weekend to begin their Christmas shopping.
Upscale opener “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” played well at upmarket sites for WB, banking $373,604 at 61 at a good screen average of $6,123.
Talky Western benefited from very strong reviews from the Brit crix and the buzz created by Brad Pitt’s best actor prize win at the Venice Film Fest.
Bollywood film “Aaja Nachle” snuck into 10th spot with a bullish bow of $349,700 at just 42 for an $8,326 screen average. Pic benefited from the excitement generated by thesp Madhuri Dixit’s (“Devdas”) first feature role since 2002.
“American Gangster” slid 43% in its third frame for $2.1 million at 421 and a running cume of $15.7 million for Universal. “Beowulf” held similarly, dipping 40% for a $12.3 million total after three frames.
Matthew Vaughn’s epic fantasy “Stardust” continues to trundle along nicely for distrib Paramount. Pic dipped a respectable 37% in its seventh frame for an impressive cume of $29.7 million. Also continuing to show good legs is “Ratatouille,” which was down 42% in its eighth sesh for a monster $50.3 million haul.
Kenneth Branagh’s “Sleuth” dipped 67% in its soph sesh. The Jude Law and Michael Caine thriller has not excited Brit auds and mustered only $652,056 in 10 days on release.
In Italy, local pics are still on a roll, with kiddie toon “Winx — The Secret of the Lost Kingdom” leading the pack, having opened in the top slot, one of four homegrown titles in the top five.
“Winx,” the first feature film to stem from worldwide smash TV series “Winx Club,” about five teenage fairies, produced by Italy’s Rainbow studio, bowed at $2.9 million off 532 via 01 Distribuzione, a rare case of an Italo toon performing on a par with Disney and DreamWorks product.
Local holdovers, “Wedding in the Bahamas,” at number two, “Milan-Palermo, The Return,” at number three, and “Lessons in Chocolate,” at number five, all attest to the ongoing allure of local fare.
Meanwhile, Stephen King adaptation “1408,” toplining John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson, slid 34% in its second frame for 1.3 million off 228 via Lucky Red at number three. Paul Haggis-helmed “In the Valley of Elah” bowed so-so at number six with $682,000 from 169 via Mikado.
Other Italo bows include musical fantasy “August Rush,” which pulled a similarly lackluster $600,000 from 189 via Medusa, at number eight. Jamie Foxx political thriller “The Kingdom,” bowed at number 11 with $373,000 off 102, while “The Nanny Diaries” bowed at number 12 with $318,000 from 121 via 01 Distribution.
“Beowulf,” which hasn’t really clicked in Italy, dropped 63% in its third frame for $426,000 from 152 and a $4.5 million running cume for Warner Bros.
Spain has a new buzz horror movie: “Rec.”
The Filmax-produced zombie scarefest, which Screen Gems is prepping to remake, achieved the rare feat for a top 10 pic in Spain of actually climbing in its second frame, edging up 1% to a second-weekend $2.4 million off 289 for a highly promising first 10-day $5.2 million.
“Rec” didn’t take top place, that went to UPI rookie “Bee Movie,” which grossed a par-for-the-course $2.7 million off 416 — in line with similar-territory bows, such as Mexico ($2.4 million off 397) and Russia ($2.7 million from 429).
With Disney’s “Enchanted” and WB’s “Beowulf” dropping 38% and 51% to second weekend cumes of $5.8 million and $5 million respectively, it was the hardier “Rec” — boasting a $8,773 copy average — which had exhibitors’ tongues wagging in glee.
Pic benefited from a cunning campaign. Filmax turned a night-vision camera on spectators during the Sitges Fest preem of “Rec,” recording reactions from whole rows jerking back in shock, including one girl — now a minor celeb — bawling out loud in fear. The 51-second webisode boasts 407,723 plays on YouTube, more than “Rec’s” official teaser trailer (382,267).
“The YouTube move was a masterstroke, probably worth more than all Filmax’s conventional advertising,” said one exhib exec. “And ‘Rec’ is benefiting from flying on the coat-tails of ‘The Orphanage,’ ” he added.
In a weekend where predictions were all over the place, Vicente Aranda’s AZeta-distribbed brothel-set “Lolita’s Club” tanked, taking $248,615 off 121.
“The problem with Spanish films is that too many are repeating the same old formulas,” the exhib exec added.
In Germany, Constantin Film’s romantic comedy “Warum Maenner nicht zuhoeren und Frauen schlecht einparken,” Leander Haussmann’s screwball adaptation of Allan and Barbara Pease’s best-selling therapeutic relationship book “Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps,” topped the charts in Germany, dislodging “American Gangster” from the number one spot.
Doing extremely well among female auds, the Benno Furmann and Jessica Schwarz starrer pulled in $2.2 million from 290.
Despite its chart topping success, it was far from a blockbuster performance. With no major must-see spectacles and the Christmas shopping season officially kicking off over the weekend, Germany’s overall box office fell 12%.
“In the Name of the King — A Dungeon Siege Tale,” starring Jason Statham and Burt Reynolds, enjoyed the best opening ever for an Uwe Boll film, thanks in large part to Statham’s star muscle. The fantasy actioner came in at number three with $1 million from 454 via Fox.
In second, Universal’s “American Gangster” continued to pull in auds in its third frame, raking in $1.2 million toward a $7.4 million cume.
Universal’s “The Heartbreak Kid” was in fourth with $634,000 in its fifth session on its way to a total $10.7 million, while Warner’s “Beowulf” took in an additional $624,000 toward a $5 million cume.
Among local pics, Disney’s “The Three Investigators and the Secret of Skeleton” garnered $532,040, down 41% in its fourth week at number six; in eighth, Constantin’s “Lissi” dropped 58% to $459,619 in its sixth frame; and Christmas comedy “Meine schoene Bescherung” from X Verleih/Warner was in 10th with $317,289, down 58% in its second frame.
In France, romancer “Enchanted” is the hit of the fall season, with a whopping take of $5.6 million on 659 after five days for Disney.
Ben Stiller topliner “The Heartbreak Kid” has also been a winner with auds and crix alike, making Paramount $2.4 million on 319 over the same period.
Boosted by strong reviews from Gallic reviewers, Cannes competish title “We Own the Night” banked $1.9 million on 245 after five days for Wild Bunch.
While still a decent enough perf, “Saw IV” may be another indicator of a dwindling fan base for relentless big-screen gore in Gaul. Down 46% in its second frame, its cume of $3.8 million on 197 for Metropolitan is about 30% less than last year’s “Saw III” managed over the same period.
Additional reporting by Ed Meza (Germany), John Hopewell (Spain), Nick Vivarelli (Italy) and David Hayhurst (France).