‘Fuzz,’ Exams,’ ‘Taxi’ fuel Euro box office

Local films top charts in U.K., Italy, France

LONDON — Homegrown pics “Hot Fuzz,” “Night Before Exams — Today” and “Taxi 4” topped the charts in Britain, Italy and France in a weekend frame where local product punched above it weight across Europe.

Edgar Wright’s homegrown Brit comedy “Hot Fuzz” was able to translate its frenzied pre-release buzz into boffo box office biz.

Kicking off last Wednesday (Valentine’s Day) “Fuzz” banked $11.5 million in its first five days on release — a huge haul considering Wright’s last pic “Shaun of the Dead,” which also stars “Fuzz” comic duo Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, grossed $12.8 million in total in the territory.

The $8.5 million Friday-Sunday “Fuzz” take was well over twice that of the next best weekend performer — Paramount’s half-term kiddie’s treat “Charlotte’s Web,” which did $3.7 million at 495.

Showing no percentage change from its opening frame, “Web” held very firm in its soph sesh and has now ensnared $12 million.

Also benefiting from half term was Momentum release “Arthur and the Invisibles,” which dropped just 9% in its third sesh en route to a $7.2 million cume. The pic got off to a fast start due to Brit exhibs’ decision to pull Fox’s family favorite “Night and the Museum” — a potential competitor.

Hugh Grant-starrer “Music and Lyrics” is also showing good legs; it dipped a respectable 24% in its second frame and has now banked $10.2 million for WB.

Eros Intl. release “Eklavya: The Royal Guard” posted the best screen average of any pic in the top 15 barring “Hot Fuzz.” The Bollywood film landed 14th spot with $319,336 at 40 for a $7,985 screen average.

Of the awards season contenders, Fox’s “The Last King of Scotland” is proving to have some durability. The Forest Whitaker-starrer did $394,908 at 153 in its sixth frame for an $8.7 million running cume. The result was up 8% on the previous frame after Fox boosted the number of screens by 28%.

The bump was assisted by its three BAFTA wins, including the actor prize for Whitaker. “Scotland” also opened promisingly with niche releases in France and Italy.

Local fare once again dominated trade in France where two Gallic pics accounted for the lion’s share of takings.

The whammo five-day take of $12.8 million at 867 for the Luc Besson-scripted, Gerard Krawczyk-helmed thriller “Taxi 4” set the pace. The high-octane franchise does not look to have lost its appeal to Gallic auds despite some sniffy reviews from the French crix.

Edith Piaf biopic “La Vie en rose,” helmed by Olivier Dahan, also hit a homerun on hometurf; pic brought in $9.3 million on 675 Wednesday-Sunday for TFM.

Homegrown sequel fare also topped the charts in Italy, where “Night Before Exams — Today” ruled the roost. The romantic comedy — which opened boffo on Valentine’s Day — netted a $7.6 million five day bow, according to national box office compiler Cinetel.

“Night Before Exams — Today” was the only new release in Italy to pierce the top 10. And the holdovers felt the full force: “Night at the Museum,” “Hannibal Rising” and “Arthur and the Invisibles” all plunged 48% this weekend.

Box office biz was as flat as a pancake in Germany (down 33% on the previous weekend) where “Rocky Balboa” retained top spot despite plummeting 46% in its second frame. The “Rocky” take of $1.5 million bested the opening of “Hannibal Rising,” which managed $1.4 million at 519.

Berlinale screener “The Good Shepherd” landed fourth spot with $758,209 at 136 via UPI . The screen average of $5,569 was twice as good as any other release in the top 10.

German pics “The Wild Soccer Bunch 4” and “Schwere jungs” dipped 54% and 30% in their third and fifth frames respectively.

Nicolas Cage-starrer “Ghost Rider” topped the charts in Spain in its first engagement in a major Euro territory. The superhero pic reaped $2.9 million at 415. The result was north of local booker’s expectations.

Oscar hopefuls “Letters from Iwo Jima” and “The Lives of Others” both fared well from limited releases in Spain. “Iwo Jima” hauled $356,453 at 68 for a $5,484 average. Spanish crix heaped praise on “Others,” which took $267,135 at 76 for a healthy $3,710 screen average.

Italian laffer “Manual of Love 2” failed to excite Spanish auds much. The DeAPlaneta release, which stars Monica Bellucci, grossed $385,245 at 165 for seventh spot.

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

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