‘Phoenix’ stands its ground in Europe

'Potter' cumes $62 mil in U.K.

LONDON — Proving the pasty boy wizard can handle the summer sun, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” dug in its claws in its second frame at the European box office this weekend.

“Phoenix’s” total should sail past the $540 million collected in international markets by “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” the only other Potter pic to open in the summer.

Brit bookers are delighted with the performance of “Phoenix” on home turf. Fending off sizeable “Transformers” Saturday, Sunday previews of $6.4 million and the release of the “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” tome, “Phoenix” slipped a respectable 50% in its soph sesh to $13.7 million at 566 screens for a $61.9 million running cume.

“For ‘Harry Potter’ to have taken $60 million in just 11 days is an astonishing result,” said one London-based booker. “It is on track to have taken over $70 million by the end of this week and that is before the school holidays kick in.” A final “Phoenix” U.K. cume of between $99 million and $103 million is projected by exhibs.

“Deathly Hallows,” the seventh and final book in the series, flew off shelves when it was released Saturday. Publisher Bloomsbury report it sold a record 2.7 million copies in the U.K. in its first 24 hours, exceeding by 700,000 the sales figure for the previous Potter tome.

Although some avid readers did spend the weekend engrossed in “Deathly Hallows,” persistent rain showers, which left areas of England severely flooded, made cinemagoing an attractive option.

Despite this overall U.K. B.O. dipped 46%. Only one opener made a significant impact. Entertainment release “Hairspray” took second spot with an excellent $4.2 million at 348. The screen average of $12,111 was second only to “Phoenix” ($24,169).

Bookers attribute the very good “Hairspray” result to the “massive marketing spend from Entertainment” and the fact that the pic “offers something completely different to typical summer U.S. fare.”

Two Gallic offerings — Edith Piaf biopic “La Vie en rose” and thriller “Tell No One” — continue to prove popular with Brit arthouse auds. The two pics both slipped a very respectable 16% in their fifth and sixth frames for cumes of $2.3 million and $2 million, respectively.

“Phoenix” continues to enchant Teutonic auds. The pic easily held on to the top spot, slipping 46% to $10.4 million from 983 for a total $35.7 million.

Way back in second was Bruce Willis actioner “Live Free or Die Hard,” which garnered $1.5 million from 783 in its fourth session, with a $19.8 million total take.

Senator Film’s strategy to release “Grindhouse” as two separate films in Germany appears to have paid off. Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof” opened at number four with $1.2 million from 357, behind “Shrek the Third,” which, exhibiting strong ogre legs, managed $1.3 million in its sixth frame.

Local auds largely snubbed Sony Pictures’ snuff thriller “Vacancy,” which made an underwhelming $347,268 from 150, coming in at number eight.

In 10th, Neue Visionen’s local ensemble drama “Du bist nicht allein” bowed with $213,190 from 25, enjoying an impressive per location average of $8,528.

“Du bist nicht allein,” which stars Teutonic talent such as Katharina Thalbach (“Haende weg von Mississippi”) and film and TV thesp Axel Prahl (“Grill Point”), benefited from strong reviews from the German critics.

In Italy, “Phoenix” took a 57% dive in its second frame on a scorching weekend in which no other pics managed much traction, causing total Italo grosses to drop 46% compared with the previous frame.

Latest Potter installment pulled $2.7 million on 771 for a $17.7 million running cume.

While this is a healthy figure for an Italo summer outing, some local exhibs are now wondering whether “Phoenix” will manage to match “Goblet of Fire,” which made $28 million at Italian wickets, propelled by a November launch.

“Transformers,” in second place, slid 44% in its fourth frame for a paltry $357,000 on 285, though toy pic has tallied a solid $9.2 million cume to date.

Only Italo outing that avoided a total beating is Sony’s chiller “Vacancy,” starring Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale, which scared up $211,000 on 123, in the third spot.

Nu Image chiller “Wicked Little Things” scored the Italo frame’s highest per-screen average, $3,500, albeit on a mere five screens, for a $7,000 cume.

Only Euro outing was Italo comedy “Solometro,” which tanked, tallying just $9,400 on 17, via Istituto Luce, despite A-list thesp Michele Placido toplining the cast.

In France, “Phoenix” dipped 46% in its second frame to $8.9 million on 950, moving the cume close to $29 million.

“Live Free or Die Hard” kept up its excellent run in France, dipping just 19% in its third frame to bring the cume up to $13.5 million.

And after six frames, “Shrek the Third” has barely paused for breath. The green one has charmed Gaul to the cumulative tune of more than $41 million on 770 for a delighted Paramount.

But it’s been StudioCanal’s summer so far in France. Brit laffer “Hot Fuzz” has ’em rolling in the aisles, coining around $623,000 on 374 in its opening five days. The director’s cut of Robert De Niro’s “The Good Shepherd,” down only 7% in its third frame, has cumed a solid $2.5 million. And local laffer “Conversations with My Gardener” was actually up 6% in its seventh frame to boost the cume over $9 million.

In Spain, “Phoenix” scored $2.9 million at 652 in its soph sesh, pushing the cume up to $17.1 million. The second frame drop-off was 56%.

Besides “Phoenix,” local commercial comedies clicked with auds in Spain this weekend.

The surprise came from Josetxo San Mateo’s homegrown comedy “Atasco en la nacional,” which grossed an impressive $602,838 at 175 for a per-print average of $3,530 via AZ Cinema.

Meanwhile, Alvaro Diaz Lorenzo’s “Cafe solo o con ellas” became the biggest Spanish release this year, surpassing “El Ekipo Ja,” which made $2.2 million in January. “Cafe” has cumed $2.5 million after four frames and still has some left in the tank. Enjoying good word of mouth, the pic slipped just 31% this weekend.

Bookers attribute the success of broad comedies “El Ekipo Ja,” “Atasco en la nacional” and “Cafe solo o con ellas” to Spanish audiences current appetite for unchallenging laffers.

“It’s summer. It’s not a season for Shakespeare,” pointed out one exhibitor.

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

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