‘Gangster’ rules in Europe

'Beowulf' bites into B.O.

LONDON — “American Gangster” pistol-whipped “Beowulf” into submission at the European box office this weekend.

A big impact by both openers forced “Lions for Lambs” to fade away fast in its soph sesh.

The best perf from a European pic opening over the frame was Italo laffer “Wedding at the Bahamas,” which landed top spot on home turf.

In Spain, smash “The Orphanage” retained pole position for the sixth weekend in succession.

Universal’s “American Gangster” took top spot in the U.K. with a muscular $5.3 million at 410 screens. The Ridley Scott gangster pic also posted the best screen average — $12,913 — of any movie in the top 15.

Performance-capture epic “Beowulf” also hit the ground running in Blighty, taking second spot with $4.5 million (including $392,315 in previews) at 454 via WB.

The appearance of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt at the Nov. 11 European premiere in London helped build buzz for the bloodthirsty rendition of an Old English tale. Well-liked thesps Ray Winstone and Anthony Hopkins also walked the red carpet.

The punchy openings by “Gangster” and “Beowulf” helped push overall biz up 12% on the same weekend.

Most holdovers were hit hard by the high-profile openers apart from third-placed “Ratatouille” and fourth-placed “Stardust,” which both had decent innings.

Animated fave “Ratatouille” dipped 25% in its sixth session for a bountiful $47.6 million total.

Matthew Vaughn’s fantasy epic “Stardust” dropped just 29% in its fifth frame, moving its running cume to $26.2 million for Paramount.

“Lions for Lambs” is sinking quickly. The talky antiwar drama nosedived 63% in its soph sesh for a $2.6 million take. Screen average of $1,320 was worse than any other pic in the top 10.

In Germany, “Beowulf” was no match for Harlem’s top pusherman. U’s “American Gangster” shot its way to number one, pulling in $2.9 million from 367 and garnering an outstanding per-location average of $7,766.

Coming in second, Warner’s “Beowulf” disappointed with $2.1 million from 698.

“It’s not a style of animation that appeals to everyone,” noted one local exhib. “While movies like ‘Ice Age’ and ‘Shrek’ offer laughs and gags, for a lot of people, ‘Beowulf’ just comes across like a fancy computer game.”

Largely negative reviews didn’t help: “Even the movements don’t look natural. From a technical aspect, ‘Beowulf’ lags behind the pioneering work of ‘Final Fantasy’ and ‘Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow,’ ” wrote newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau, while Die Welt wrote, “Instead of people, you have animated dolls with the facial expressions of death masks. Even the flashy 3-D effects — things are constantly flying at the camera — can’t detract from that.”

Indeed, most moviegoers and critics preferred the gritty 1970s realism of Ridley Scott’s crime drama.

National newspaper Die Welt said “American Gangster“ was in the style of Hollywood classics like the “Godfather” films and “The French Connection,” while Munich paper Abendzeitung wrote, “The portraits of these two characters from two great actors are in themselves worth the admission price and make ‘American Gangster’ a surefire Oscar contender.”

At number three was Constantin’s less threatening local CGI laffer “Lissi,” which continued to pull in auds in its fourth frame, raking in $1,625,098 million on its way to a $17.2 million cume, followed by Universal’s “The Heartbreak Kid,” which was close behind with $1,620,350 in its third session towards a running total of $8.5 million.

Rounding out the top five was “Ratatouille” with a $1.26 million take and a $45.7 million cume.

Disney’s local English-language tyke caper “The Three Investigators” continues to do well. It pulled $1.2 million in its second frame toward a $3.3 million total.

In Italy, local pics dominated the strong weekend with lusty laffer “Wedding at the Bahamas” opening big at the top with $4.5 million, more than double the “Beowulf” Italo bow.

Tamely trashy “Wedding,” toplining funnyman Massimo Boldi, marks a new marketing ploy for Italy: outing traditionally Christmas-type fare a month early. Getting a jump on the competish worked: Medusa release scored a boffo $10,400 per screen average on 431.

Warner Bros.’ “Beowulf” didn’t soar but still did decently with $2.1 million off 368, a solid $5,700 per-screen average.

The robust frame, up 11% compared with the previous weekend to a total $16 million, saw five Italo titles in the top 10.

Teen romancer “Come tu mi vuoi” slid just 27% in its second frame, pulling $2.4 million on 367 via Medusa, and dropped a slot into number two for a $6.7 million running cume.

Pupi Avati helmed horror pic “The Hiding Place,” toplining Laura Morante, bowed in line with expectations at number six with $760,000 off 209 via 01 Distribuzione.

In Spain, the big question over Nov.16-18 wasn’t, as in most of the rest of the world, why “Lions for Lambs” had done so badly, but why, in relative terms, on its first holdover weekend, it has done relatively well.

Put out on 297 prints by Fox, “Lambs” fell 40% to a second weekend $1.3 million, a hefty but not disastrous drop, for a first 10-day cume of $4 million.

“The star system still functions in Spain,” said one cinema owner.

Also, unlike much of the world, Spain didn’t see bows from international B.O. leaders “Beowulf,” which opens next week, and “American Gangster,” a December bow.

With a magnificent 38-day $31.7 million cume, local chiller “The Orphanage” retained number one spot for the sixth week running.

It’s now poised to overtake local blockbusters “Torrente 3” and “Mortadelo & Filemon” to become the biggest Spanish-language hit in Spain ever.

The star-factor also worked for “Michael Clayton.”

One of the major B.O. bets of indie distributor DeAPlaneta, “Michael Clayton” was opened on 261 prints — a middling copy run for Spain — playing major multiplexes for a first weekend $1.2 million.

Buoyed by good word-of-mouth, Spanish coming-of-ager “Suso’s Tower” saw one of the best holdovers of the frame, dipping just 28% for an 11-day $1.3 million cume.

Spanish thriller “Fermat’s Room” also took a good average — $3,766 — for a first three day haul of $274,884.

In Gaul, the transport strikes bit a huge chunk out of B.O. takings. Distribs reckon auds for all releases are down somewhere between 15% and 25% due to severe public transit stoppages nationwide. However, most seem pleased not to be taking a total pummeling, especially in the traffic congested bigger burghs.

“American Gangster” had a roaring first five days, making Paramount $3.6 million on 379. “It’s very difficult to say what we would have made without the strikes, but we’re still very pleased,” said Paramount Pictures France general manager Camille Trumer.

Family laffer “Faut que ca danse!” also met UGC’s expectations in the circumstances. The well-reviewed comedy made $877,500 on 186 in its opening five days.

In its fourth frame, “Le Cœur des Hommes 2” was up 2% on the week to the delight of BAC. The laffer has now cumed $13.2 million on 518.

“Surf’s Up” possibly received a boost from kids not being able to get to class. Dropping off 24% in its fourth frame, it has cumed $11.6 million on 616 for Sony.

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

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