Rivals test ‘Pirates’ in Europe

'World's End' attracts competition

ROME — Anyone out there not afraid of Captain Jack?

While across Europe “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” will easily retain the weekend crown in its second frame, a motley assortment of bold bottom feeders will be nibbling at the pirates’ ankles.

In Italy, where “At World’s End” has so far fetched $13 million — in line with expectations — the third “Pirates” installment is still riding the crest of the wave, boding well for Buena Vista to benefit from forecasted stormy weather.

But that hasn’t held Italo distribbers back from bowing seven titles against the Johnny Depp juggernaut.

Leading the Italo counterprogramming charge is Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof,” out on 348 via Medusa, followed by romancer “Cardiofitness,” about a 27-year-old femme, played by hot star Nicoletta Romanoff, entangled with a 15-year-old boy whom she met at the gym. Teen pic is out on 150 via 01 Distribuzione.

Eagle Pictures is also looking to lure the youth demographic with Yank chiller “Turistas,” while smaller local distribbery Moviemax is outing cerebral laffer “The Darwin Awards,” toplining Joseph Fiennes and Winona Rider, on 55.

On the Italo arthouse front, Fox is seeking a cushy niche for Mira Nair’s “The Namesake,” on 50.

In Blighty, where BVI reports the top European running cume for “At World’s End” — $43.6 million — Pathe is opening Jason Biggs-laffer “Wedding Daze” on 350, while Universal is releasing remake “The Hitcher” on 256, and Verve is outing WWI-set “Flyboys.”

Meanwhile Brit indie distribs are cautiously unleashing a clutch of arty fare.

Soda Pictures is bowing Chilean helmer Raoul Ruiz’s “Klimt,” with John Malkovich in the title role of fin de siecle painter Gustav Klimt.

Metrodome is releasing Deepa Mehta’s “Water,” while The Works will open Rolf de Heer’s aboriginal drama “Ten Canoes.”

But though critics have lavished praise on the three pics, with The Guardian’s Andrew Pulver describing “Klimt” as “beautifully designed,” Salman Rushdie labeling “Water” as a “magnificent film” and The Times’ Wendy Ide calling “Ten Canoes” a “hypnotically slow-burning, magical piece of filmmaking,” box office prospects are limited.

“Klimt” opens on a solitary screen, “Ten Canoes” on 10 and “Water” bows on 13.

In Spain, after a record-breaking opening, exhibitors are expecting “At World’s End” to start taking in water rapidly.

Spanish eight-day figure for “Pirates 3” is $14.9 million, 29% down on “Dead Man’s Chest,” despite playing one more day at local wickets.

And a few hardy Spanish distributors are venturing into the “Pirates” wake.

Best bet for niche biz from a local pic is Jaime Rosales’ femme drama “Solitary Fragments,” fresh from Cannes Un Certain Regard, out on 30 via Alta.

El Pais called it “courageous, important and flawless.”

In a bold move, Filmax is outing U.S.-German werewolf movie “Blood and Chocolate,” by Teutonic helmer Katja von Garnier, on 157.

Italian comedy “Il mio miglior nemico” distributed by On Pictures, will bow on a healthy 86 in an important test of whether this smash Italo hit can travel.

Both these pics, however, fall outside most exhibs’ radars.

Prospects seem slightly better for “In the Land of Women,” the tragicomedy toplining Adam Brody, Meg Ryan and Olimpia Dukakis, out on 200 via Manga.

“The cast should have some appeal and the movie will probably hook female audiences, though its performance shouldn’t be anything above normal,” said one exhib.

Another indie Yank pic jumping the pond to Spain is steamy Tennessee-set “Black Snake Moan,” starring Christina Ricci and Samuel L. Jackson.

In Germany “At World’s End” is showing no sign of letting up, playing on 974 after being best opener of the year last week and scoring the second best “Pirates” running cume in Europe — $28 million, via BVI.

Highest profile new entry this week is Warner’s David Fincher-thriller “Zodiac,” which offers older auds a solid alternative to “Pirates” but poses little in the way of competition.

Nevertheless, “Zodiac” has won wide praise from local critics, with Sueddeutsche Zeitung calling it a “masterpiece.”

Also opening is Michael Schorr’s arty laffer “Schroeders wunderbare Welt,” about a man fulfilling his dream by building a tropical paradise in a lonely village near the German-Polish-Czech border.

Followup to Schorr’s hit “Schultze Gets the Blues” is being outed via Alpha Medienkontor.

Prokino is releasing Italo helmer Emanuele Crialese’s Ellis Island immigration drama “The Golden Door,” while Pandora is handling German-French fantasy-drama “Valley of Flowers” from helmer Pan Nalin.

NFP’s ambitious “GG 19,” a collection of 19 short films based on the 19 articles of the German constitution, celebrates the document’s 55th anniversary and may generate limited biz from arthouse auds.

In Gaul, where “At World’s End” has taken the third highest Euro cume — $24 million via BVI — the counterprogramming effort is being spearheaded by Al Pacino-starrer “88 Minutes.”

Jon Avnet helmed thriller in which Pacino stars as a forensic psychiatrist who receives a death threat claiming he has only 88 minutes to live, is being outed in Europe way ahead of its Stateside release next year. Sony just picked up North American rights to this Nu Image-produced pic in Cannes.

Metropolitan is outing “88” on 194 amid thumbs-down from French crix, with Liberation complaining that “plot weaknesses pile up like pebbles scattered by an incredibly stupid story.”

In artier milieus, Catherine Breillat’s costumer “An Old Mistress,” toplining Asia Argento, is out amid moderate hopes on 161 via Studio Canal, boosted by glowing reviews following its Cannes launch.

Another Cannes competish pic, Christophe Honore’s romantic musical “Love Songs,” enters its second Gallic frame with a decent $860,000 five-day take on 225.

Ed Meza (Germany), Matt Griffin (Spain), Ali Jaafar (UK), and David Hayhurst (France) contributed to this report.

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