‘Potter’ propels European grosses

Records broken in U.K., Germany

LONDON — “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” had European auds firmly under its spell this weekend as it conjured up box office magic across the continent.

Pic set the U.K. B.O. alight with the best four-day opening by any pic in the territory ever — a whammo $33.4 million from 567 screens.

The massive take propelled overall grosses up 80% on the previous weekend frame, which was topped by the soph sesh of “Shrek the Third.”

Summer tentpoles already on release felt the full force of “Phoenix.” “Live Free or Die Hard,” “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer,” “Ocean’s Thirteen” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” slipped 60%, 63%, 67% and 73% in their second, fifth, sixth and eighth frames, respectively.

French costumer “Moliere” opened so so. The lavish Romain Duris starrer took $155,585 at 49 for Pathe for a reasonable screen average of $3,174.

Another arthouse offering — thriller “Tell No One” — held better than the rest. It dipped just 22% in its fifth frame and has now taken $1.8 million for indie Revolver.

Bouts of rain showers over the weekend encouraged Brits to take a trip to the local cinema. Also in “Phoenix’s” favor was the fact there was no distractions from major televised sporting events over the weekend.

In Italy, “Phoenix” took $11 million in its first five days (July 11-15). The pic took $6 million Friday-Sunday. This accounted for over one-third of the boffo frame’s $32.5 million total, which was up 129% from the previous weekend, according to national box office compiler Cinetel.

Italo exhibitors are enthusing about the gamble Warner Bros. took releasing Potter day-and-date in Italy in summer, when historically Italians desert movie theaters as they hit the beaches. That is changing. Still, the Italo frame was entirely about Potter, with just one new entry making the top 10, “Samoan Wedding,” which copped $50,000 on eight screens via Medusa, in the 10th spot.

Buena Vista’s bank heist pic “The Lookout” opened at number 17 with a paltry $15,000 on 50 screens.

On the Euro arthouse front Gallic Balzac adaptation “Don’t Touch the Ax” did a bit better, debuting at number 12 with $25,000 on 17 via Mikado.

Among notable holdovers, “Transformers” dropped 56% in its third frame with $600,000 on 455 in the number two position, for an $8.3 million running cume.

In Germany, not even the hottest weekend of the year could slow the Hogwarts Express. “Phoenix” banked a boffo $19.4 million over the weekend, enjoying the best start of the year.

Pic, which opened on 1,338 screens in 982 theaters, packed the plexes despite scorching summer weather that resulted in record temperatures throughout much of the country.

“Phoenix” beat the previous best start of the year, “At World’s End,” which bowed in May with a weekend take of $19 million.

The latest installment in the chronicles of the boy wizard also bested the June 3 start of 2004’s “Prisoner of Azkaban,” the only other “Potter” film to open in summer; that pic made $17.2 million in its first four days.

Hollywood tentpoles made up the top five pics, with “Live Free or Die Hard” in second with a respectable $1.8 million from 732 locations in its third week for a total $17.6 million, dropping 55% in the wake of the “Potter” storm.

Following in third was “Shrek the Third,” with $1.3 million in its fourth frame toward a $22.2 million pot, ahead of “Ocean’s Thirteen,” which managed $444,840 on its way to $15.6 million cume in its sixth session.

Rounding out the top five was “At World’s End,” which collected $359,995 in its eighth week for a running cume of $58.4 million.

Local pics were thin on the ground, although Swedish laffer “Heartbreak Hotel” and British comedy “Irina Palm” continued to do modest crossover biz. The former dropped a hefty 65% in its sophomore session for a $812,634 cume, while the latter fell 48% in its fifth frame, crossing the $2 million mark ($2.1 million).

“Phoenix” also delighted French auds where the pic took $16.4 million at 950 in its first five days.

Even with the Hollywood blockbuster season hitting full stride, Gallic auds have not abandoned brain-mandatory fare. The surprise smash of the summer season so far has been “Persepolis.” The Cannes Jury Prize winner dipped a very respectable 43% in its third frame en route to a $5.1 million running cume for Diaphana.

In Spain, “Phoenix” opened to $10.7 million in its first five days (July 11-15).

“A bit lower than expected,” according to an exhibitor, and substantially below “At World’s End,” which looted a record-breaking first-weekend $11.9 million, eight weeks ago.

“Transformers” plummeted 61% in its soph sesh to just $1.4 million. The big plunge has industryites concluding that the Michael Bay actioner will turn out to be the worst-performing of the potential summer blockbusters in Spain to date.

But there were some upbeat notes in Spain.

The biggest was sounded by “Shrek the Third,” which banked another $1.6 million this weekend to boost its 24-day cume to $25.7 million.

And Spain will soon have a new national 2007 champion. Spaniard Alvaro Diaz Lorenzo’s “Cafe solo o con ellas” grossed $359,194 in its third weekend, moving its cume to $2 million to date. The gross out comedy is poised to become the biggest Spanish performer this year, coming up on “El Ekipo Ja,” which made $2.2 million in January.

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

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