‘Surfer’ shakes up European B.O.

'Pirates' begins to sink

LONDON — A competitive weekend frame at the European box office sees “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” and “Shrek the Third” arrive and offer stern competish to holdovers “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” and “Ocean’s Thirteen.”

“At World’s End” enters its fourth frame on a high having passed the $500 million mark overseas in just 20 days — faster than any other movie. Socko Euro results have been a key component to the pic’s international success.

But with “Thirteen” showing good legs, “Silver Surfer” debuting in the U.K. and Italy, and “Shrek the Third” arriving in France, Captain Jack Sparrow and crew will do well to come out on top in an intriguing battle of the summer sequels.

Awareness for the “Silver Surfer” bow in Blighty is sky high thanks to a savvy promotional campaign from Fox.

The worldwide three-day press junket took place this week in four capsules of the London Eye observation wheel, from which a giant PVC recreation of the Silver Surfer hangs over the city. The stunt marks the first time the tourist attraction has allowed anything to be attached to the structure of the wheel.

Buzz was further heightened by the June 12 London premiere, which was attended by all the stars including Jessica Alba.

Brit bookers are expecting “Silver Surfer” to ride the wave of publicity to the top of the charts in its first weekend with an opening frame of between $7 million and $8 million projected for the sequel. The original “Fantastic Four” pic banked $22 million in Blighty.

Reviews for “Silver Surfer” have been kind enough. “It’s all very silly and the Four’s life together has all the gravitas of an episode of ‘The Monkees.’ Entertaining, though,” wrote Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian.

Sony has given motel-set horror romp “Vacancy” a biggish promotional push and are sending it out on a wide 280. Exhibs are not expected big numbers. Brit thesp Kate Beckinsale appeals to Brit auds but co-star Luke Wilson is not a household name.

Acclaimed documaker John Pilger’s feature debut “The War on Democracy,” about global capitalism’s role in undermining democracies in the developing world, has garnered some good reviews and is generating some excitement among politically-aware arthouse auds. Campaigning doc could prove a small-scale hit for Lionsgate U.K. in its four sites.

“Thirteen” has been holding well in the week in the U.K. and bookers expect it to take second spot behind “Silver Surfer.” “At World’s End” is on the wane and set for a final cume of around $73 million — significantly down on “Dead Man’s Chest.”

“Silver Surfer” is hitting Italian shores on 650 with positive prospects of topping the frame, which also sees a slew of smaller outings.

Boosted by a massive marketing effort — Rome is plastered with posters featuring the Colosseum as backdrop to the Marvel comic book characters — the caper is expected to oust “Thirteen” from the top spot despite some decidedly downbeat reviews.

La Repubblica blasted the “Fantastic Four” sequel as “banal and repetitive.” “It makes us dream of a world that no longer needs superheroes,” said the Rome newspaper.

Leading the pack in the crowded counterprogramming trenches is Agnieszka Holland’s “Copying Beethoven.” Nexo puts out the fictional biopic, which stars Ed Harris as the classical composer, on 90 prints.

Polish helmer Krzystof Zanussi’s revenge drama “Black Sun,” starring Valeria Golino, is being released by Mikado on 30.

Guillaume Nicloux’s “The Stone Council,” toplining Monica Bellucci, is going out on 28 via 01 Distribuzione with low expectations.

Only Italo entry is Stefano Incerti’s anti-Mafia drama “L’Uomo di Vetro,” being outed by 01 starting on Saturday when it world preems at the TaorminaFilmFest.

Yank comedy “Blind Dating,” about a blind virgin, is going out on 40 via Mediafilm with very little promotional push.

In France, “Shrek the Third” opened boffo on its first day (Wednesday), taking $2.9 million at 850 for Paramount. The bow was helped by favorable reviews from the Gallic critics. The result bodes well for the prospects of the animated ogre pic in Europe.

U.S. male menopause laffer “Wild Hogs” did not resonate with Gallic auds. The BVI release grossed just 175,000 at 327 on its first day. The result is disappointing given “Hogs” did $11.8 million across the English Channel earlier this year.

“At World’s End” is trundling along very nicely in Gaul where it slipped just 37% to $5.1 million at 787 in its third week for a $35 million cume up to June 13. Studio Canal’s homegrown hit “Conversations with My Gardener” took $2.5 million at 513 in its first week.

In Germany, “At World’s End” and “Thirteen” look set to continue their battle for the top spot this weekend. New openers offer arthouse and comedy alternatives to the tentpole pics.

Bucking the Euro trend, “At World’s End” held off opener “Thirteen” last weekend and a repeat of the one-two is on the cards, according to Teuton exhibs.

X Verleih’s comedy-drama “Irina Palm,” about a hard-up grandmother forced to work in a sex parlor, looks set to attract sizeable arthouse auds thanks to strong reviews.

Munich daily Abendzeitung called the film “fine arthouse cinema, somewhere between melancholy and dry humor, never obscene, always delicate,” while trade magazine Blickpunkt Film said Sam Gabarski’s pic was in “the British tradition of ‘Calendar Girls,’ ‘The Full Monty’ and ‘Brassed Off,'” adding that it was a “laugh-out-loud, warm-hearted comedy set in the red-light district.”

Hopes are also high for Universal’s Brit laffer “Hot Fuzz,” which one exhib predicted would land in the top five thanks to its strong buzz and overseas success.

Sony Pictures’ hardcore horror “Hostel: Part II” from helmer Eli Roth is likely to capitalize on the original’s notoriety. The first “Hostel” took in some $4 million in Germany.

Unlikely to make a huge splash are Peripher’s German drama “Ferien,” which examines a dysfunctional family forced to deal with its problems while on holiday, or Kairos Filmverleih’s Italian drama “Buongiorno Notte,” about the kidnapping and murder of Italian prime minister Aldo Moro.

In Spain, few releases are generating much excitement. “Shrek” and “Surfer” do not arrive this weekend.

“If any film makes money, it could be ‘Hostel: Part II,'” said one exhibber. Horror pic goes out on 270 prints from Sony.

Given the lack of new bows, “Thirteen” is expected to top B.O. results this weekend in its soph sesh.

The quiet frame means a Spanish film may for once have a run at the box office.

Notro is putting out Felix Viscarret’s feature debut “Under the Stars” on just 78 copies, aiming not to exhaust the film in its first frame.

The Navarre village-set coming-of-ager has been enthusiastically received by the Spanish press: “endearing,” says Madrid leisure guide Guia de Ocio; “excellent,” said national daily “El Pais,” which dedicates a whole page to the film. It also swept prizes in March’s Malaga Spanish Film Festival, including best pic and actor (Alberto San Juan).

“Stars” might see some competition from French director Pierre Salvadori’s romantic comedy “Priceless,” bowed by Flins y Peniculas on 41 prints, which stars Audrey Tautou as a gold-digger.

But “Priceless” hasn’t been particularly well-received by Spanish critics: “Salvadori forgets something that is essential in is this type of comedy: the weight of sub-plots and secondary characters,” said El Pais.

Better has been the reception for Emanuele Crialese’s whimsical immigration drama, “The Golden Door,” about Italians travelling to early 20th-century New York.

Released by Golem on 25, it has reaped high-praise from the Spanish press. Culture weekly Metropli praises the pic’s “magic realism,” the work of vet d.p. Agnes Godard, the cast, toplined by Charlotte Gainsbourg and Vincenzo Amato, and “a film more interested in the details of the preparation for the journey, and the journey itself than the arrival.”

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

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