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‘Ratatouille’ joins Europe’s B.O. party

'Transformers' enters Germany

LONDON — Europeans will again feast on Hollywood fare this weekend as “Ratatouille” expands into France and Spain, “Transformers” arrives in Germany and “Evan Almighty” opens in the U.K., its debut appearance in a major Euro market.

To date, “Ratatouille” has bitten off $62 million in 18 foreign markets and it looks set to add lots more cheddar this weekend.

“Ratatouille” appeals greatly to Gallic tastes. The Pixar tale of a plucky French rodent with a passion for cooking scored a massive first day take of $3.5 million on 721. Pic benefited from an ecstatic reaction from the French critics: “It’s been a long time since any film celebrated, with so much kitschy energy, France: its cuisine, its finest features, and Paris, capital of taste,” trumpeted Telerama.

Biz for Hollywood franchise pics in France has been upbeat this summer with recent releases “Simpsons,” “Transformers,” “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” and “Live Free or Die Hard” all clicking with auds.

Spaniards are also showing great appetite for “Ratatouille,” which BVI sends out on 523 this weekend.

“I think ‘Ratatouille’ could perform well at Spain’s box office. Cooking is something deeply rooted in the soul of Spaniards and Europeans in general,” said a Spanish booker.

Local critics are backing “Ratatouille” as a “five star movie,” an “haute cuisine” sample of cinema, “a proof that animation should not be considered as a minor art,” said La Razon.

In the Spanish version, Catalan chef Ferran Adria, head chef of El Bulli and widely considered as one of the best chefs in the world, voices a snobbish restaurant guest.

Also bowing this weekend in Spain is Robert Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror,” which bows on 321 via Aurum. Reviews have been positive for Rodriguez’s contribution to the “Grindhouse” project. “A declaration of love to B movies, in which emotions are fired at audiences without a silencer,” praised El Pais. Tarantino’s “Death Proof” follows on August 31 and local bookers suggest that its success will depend to a great extent on “Planet” performing at the plexes.

“Evan Almighty” gets its first outing in a major European market this weekend when it bows in Blighty.

Reviews from the Brit critics have been pretty savage. “The basic trouble with the movie is that neither Steve Carell nor the film is funny enough to sustain even 90 minutes, a short timescale for Hollywood these days,” sniped Derek Malcolm in the Evening Standard.

The pic will do very well to match the original “Bruce Almighty,” which starred Jim Carrey and was a big hit in Blighty, scoring $97.4 million (£47.9 million) in 2003.

Lionsgate U.K. releases animated toon “Happily N’Ever After” on a bullish 217 screens. The U.S.-German co-production will be looking to lure in school holiday nippers who have already seen “Simpsons” and “Shrek the Third.”

“Transformers” and “Simpsons” launched last weekend so the buoyant market is loaded with event movies. However, forecasts for this weekend promise sunshine — after a series of wet weekends — and this threatens to put a dampener on trade.

In Germany, opener “Transformers” looks to dislodge “Simpsons” from top spot.

Early signs for Michael Bay’s testosterone-charged toy-based actioner are promising — it took $1.2 million on its first day at German wickets Wednesday.

This weekend, Teuton exhibs are expecting a knockdown, drag-out fight with “Transformers” likely having the upper hand over Homer and Bart.

“It’s a very exciting and action-packed summer movie, just the kind of popcorn film that young moviegoers love,” enthused one local booker.

Local distribs are again taking advantage of two largely youth-oriented Hollywood tentpoles vying for the top spot to release a slew of local comedies, docs and foreign arthouse movies.

Oliver Rihs’ outrageous black comedy “Schwarze Schafe” (Black Sheep) is going out on limited release via the director’s new Berlin-based distrib BBQ. A festival favorite in Edinburgh and Hof, the crude and vulgar black and white Swiss-German co-production enjoyed a raucous premiere in Berlin this week that had audience members rolling with laughter one minute and recoiling with disgust the next.

An episodic ode to Berlin, the film follows a group of underachievers as they seek to improve their lot in life. Pic looks likely to gain cult status, at least in the German capital.

Warner Bros. is hoping “Because I Said So,” starring Diane Keaton and Mandy Moore, will attract female auds looking for an alternative to giant robots.

Central offers Todd Phillips’ comedy “School for Scoundrels”; Joachim Trier’s Norwegian drama “Reprise,” about young scribes trying to break out in Oslo’s literary scene, goes out via MFA (24 Bilder), and Salzgeber releases Robert I. Douglas’ gay themed Icelandic soccer comedy-drama “Eleven Men Out” (Strakarnir okkar), which could generate interest in specialized urban theaters.

Neue Visionen’s documentary and Berlinale screener “The Red Elvis” from Leopold Gruen examines the life of socialist American singer and actor Dean Reed, who became a sensation in East Germany after moving there in the 1970s.

The Italo box office goes into its summertime hibernation this weekend. August remains the time when many movie theaters are deserted, despite the country’s overall progress in summer attendance.

Potter will therefore continue to dominate unchallenged by a handful of markedly minor new outings, most notably teen comedy “Material Girls,” via DMC, and family laffer “Are We Done Yet?,” via Sony.

Also making their Italo debut are Fox Sci-fi comedy “Idiocracy,” toplining Luke Wilson, and kiddie pics “Firehouse Dog,” also from Fox, and “Keeping Up With the Steins,” via Buena Vista.

No Euro or Italo titles are taking any chances. The only new pic coming out via an Italo distributor is Thai kickboxing actioner “The Protector” via Eagle Pictures.

“This is when distributors take the opportunity to clean out their shelves of stuff that needs a pro-forma release en route to other lives in homevid and TV,” said one exhibitor.

It’s going to be this way through the third week in August, when many Italians will be returning from their holidays.

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

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