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‘Thirteen’ odds on to beat ‘Pirates’

Pair battle for European B.O.

LONDON — “Ocean’s Thirteen” rolls out across Europe this weekend and will be looking to give the third frame of “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” a run for its money.

“Thirteen” should pack a hefty punch in Europe due primarily to the big appeal of the star-laden cast, which includes George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Don Cheadle, Ellen Barkin and Al Pacino.

The splashy Cannes launch, which attracted the world’s showbiz fotogs en masse thanks to the attendance of Pitt and g.f. Angelina Jolie, has given the pic huge exposure in Europe.

In Blighty, “Thirteen” is expected to land top spot, with bookers predicting “at least $6 million and possibly $8 million depending in part on the weather.”

“Thirteen” is expected to finish up with a final cume better than the last pic in the franchise but not exceeding the original. “Ocean’s Eleven” took $10.1 million at 433 in its opening frame en route to $48.9 million. “Twelve” opened to $6.7 million at 450 for a $24.7 million final take.

U.K. exhibs feel the “Ocean’s” franchise “attracts a maturer audience profile than your average blockbuster” and are hoping that this will help it hold better than some in the over-crowded summer season.

Reviews for “Thirteen” from the Brit crits have been warm bar a few stinkers. Pic is “fun souffle,” according to Daily Telegraph reviewer Sukhdev Sandhu.

The opening line from the Variety review — “as smooth as a good mojito, as stylish as an Armani suit” — gets prominent play on the U.K. poster. It drops the rest of Todd McCarthy’s opening sentence: “and as meaningful in the grand scheme of things as yesterday’s Las Vegas betting odds, ‘Ocean’s Thirteen’ continues the breezy good times of the first two series entries without missing a beat.”

There are few other notable releases in Blighty this weekend. Family film “Are We Done Yet?” from Sony looks the most commercial.

U.S. indie “The Chumscrubber,” starring Jamie Bell, John Boorman’s “The Tiger’s Tail” and a pair of political docs — Chris Atkins’ “Taking Liberties” and the Francis Bros.’ “Black Gold” — look to lure arthouse auds.

On Italo shores the one-two punch of “Ocean’s Thirteen” and “Meet the Robinsons” is expected to knock some wind out of “Pirates” sails.

Doubts are rife among local exhibs whether Captain Jack will retain the top spot in its third frame, though the feat is not deemed impossible. “At World’s End” has cumed $18 million in Italy to date.

“Thirteen” bows on 526 screens boosted by gushy reviews — La Repubblica compared Clooney’s perf to Cary Grant — while Buena Vista CGI pic “Robinsons” is being outed on 220, also driven by positive press.

Debuts countering the summer tentpoles are scarce, with no local titles bowing. Mikado is outing Yank cop-gone-astray pic “Harsh Times,” toplining Christian Bale, on 55, while Fox is giving back-from-Iraq pic “The Marine,” starring pro wrestler John Cena, a pro-forma release on a mere 35.

On the Italo arthouse front, Lucky Red is outing Berlin Golden Bear winner “Tuya’s Wedding,” by Chinese helmer Wang Quanan, on 25.

In Germany, it’s again a battle between stylish crooks and grubby pirates as “Thirteen” challenges “At World’s End” for weekend box office booty.

Hot summer weather is likely to impact overall business as most Teutons head outdoors to watering holes and beer gardens rather than cinemas.

As in Blighty, German bookers are targeting a “Thirteen” opening weekend better than “Twelve” ($5.2 million) but not projecting “Eleven” ($7.3 million) numbers.

As elsewhere in Europe, “Thirteen” has received positive reviews from the Teuton crits. Local trade magazine Treffpunkt Kino wrote: “It’s no wonder that the mix of meticulous planning, perfect teamwork, easy humor and thrilling heists can still make the cinematic experience hugely entertaining, even for a third time.”

Gerardo Olivares’ German-Spanish co-production “The Great Match” offers something for German arthouse auds. The Zorro release follows three isolated indigenous groups in Mongolia, Niger and the Amazon in their exhaustive efforts to find a TV to watch the 2002 soccer World Cup between Germany and Brazil.

Also opening in Germany is Mira Nair’s Indian-American family drama “The Namesake” via Fox and Todd Verow’s gay drama “Vacationland” from Salzgeber.

In Gaul, “At World’s End” and “Spider-Man 3” are running out of gas after strong runs, opening the way for homegrown fare to flourish.

Jean Becker’s “Conversations With My Gardener,” starring Daniel Auteuil and Jean-Pierre Darroussin, recorded a boffo opening day — Wednesday — of $344,000 at 512 for StudioCanal.

The light-hearted romp about a friendship between a painter and his green-fingered buddy got the thumbs-up from most French crits. “Becker effects a dialog that reveals a sweet story of friendship painted in subtle, impressionistic touches,” declared Figaroscope.

Quentin Tarantino, a man who rarely puts a foot wrong with French crits or auds alike, has struck Gallic gold again with “Grindhouse: Death Proof.” First-day takings were around 280,000 on 347 for TFM. The Cannes launch helped build awareness.

“Ocean’s Eleven” is held back until June 20 in Gaul.

In Spain, bookers are upbeat about the prospects for “Ocean’s Thirteen,” which WB saddle up on 487.

“The film has potential, no doubt,” noted one exhib, “but its summer premiere is different from its previous Christmas debuts and might change its numbers unexpectedly.” The previous two installments in the franchise did $14 million and $18.9 million, respectively.

Other releases in Spain are slighter. Alta Films send out Robert Downey Jnr. starrer “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints” on 57 and will be hoping the arthouse offering can make more of an impact than Downey’s “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang,” which managed just $161,533 in Spain.

German-U.S. animated effort “Happily N’Ever After” and “Lassie” from Blighty are aimed at Spanish schoolkids. Both get modest releases of 25 and 43 screens, respectively.

Sony’s horror sequel “Hostel: Part II” from ‘splat pack’ main man Eli Roth is outed in Slovakia, where the ultra-grisly pic takes place.

Additional reporting by Matt Griffin (Spain), Ed Meza (Italy), David Hayhurst (France) and Ed Meza (Germany) .

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