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‘Fantastic Four,’ ‘Rush’ hit Europe

Optimism abound after stellar summer

LONDON — The summer blockbuster season may be slowing but European auds seemingly insatiable appetite for Yank popcorn movies is sated this weekend as “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” arrives in France and Spain and “Rush Hour 3” hits Brit theaters.

Day-and-date release “Rush Hour 3” goes out on over 350 in Blighty via Entertainment, which achieved results of $15 million and $22.8 million with the first two pics in the series.

Exhibs expect an “alright” opening from the turbocharged actioner but “nothing legendary.” Pic is expected to bank $3 million plus on its opening weekend putting it in contention to topple “Simpsons” from pole position, a position it has held for past two frames.

Animated surfing penguin pic “Surfs Up” looks to entice kids on school hols. And reviews suggest it also has appeal to older auds: “Despite the character’s inherent cuteness, it’s arguably the most adult-orientated CGI animation yet,” declared Derek Adams in London listings mag Timeout.

But bookers are unconvinced of commercial prospects for the pic, which Sony release on 408 prints. They predict an opening below $2 million.

Brit arthouse auds are served up Romanian-set gypsy pic “Transylvania,” from French Algerian helmer Tony Gatlif, and seminal hip-hop pic “Wild Style” (1983).

Hot summer weather and the massively hyped and televised start of the soccer season could see Brit cinema biz take a hit.

But bookers are not complaining. “Pretty much everything has gone like a dream this summer,” said one London-based exhib. “There have been very few clunkers and everyone is excited about ‘The Bourne Ultimatum.'”

The Matt Damon actioner opens a week today and industry buzz is electric. English Director Paul Greengrass and Damon will attend the Aug. 15 premiere in London.

Fox’s “Silver Surfer” got off to a fast start in Gaul, capturing $1.7 million on 750 on Wednesday, its first day at Gallic wickets. So-so reviews for the comic-based pic did not hurt its opening day B.O. “Fair special effects, but weighed down by a totally transparent plot,” sniped TeleCineObs.

French cinemagoers also showed strong first day support for “La Fille coupee en deux,” the latest offering from revered helmer Claude Chabrol, which pulled $414,000 on 331 for Wild Bunch.

Watching local thesp Ludivine Sagnier (“Swimming Pool”) struggle to choose between a deranged writer and a perhaps equally unbalanced young millionaire set Gallic crix hearts aflutter. “Indisputably one of the best films of Chabrol’s long career,” hailed Le Journal du Dimanche. Ouest France revelled in Chabrol’s “reflections on a microcosm in which perversity is revealed with elegance and distinction.”

French B.O. trade is buoyant. The Paris-set “Ratatouille” took $16 million on 721 prints for Disney in its first week. And animated rival “Simpsons” has also connected with Gallic auds – it has cumed an impressive $17 million for Fox. After four frames, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” still has legs. It has cumed $42.6 million for Warners.

In Spain, Fox sends out “Silver Surfer” on 510 screens and local exhibs expect it to perform well. The first pic in the franchise – “Fantastic Four” – cumed a decent $15 million in 2005.

“Silver Surfer” will compete with holdover “Ratatouille” for teen auds.

Romantic comedy “License to Wed” bows on 249 via Warner. The Robin Williams starrer has not received much attention from the Spanish media – a problem of mid-level Yank titles.

Spanish comedy “Un buen dia lo tiene cualquiera,” the second feature from Santiago Lorenzo, who helmed “Mommy’s a Fool” ten years ago, bows on 80 via BVI. The homegrown pic about an unfortunate man who loses his job, money and home and is forced to move in with a difficult old man is boosted by strong reviews.

“2 days in Paris,” from writer-director Julie Delpy goes out on 39 via Golem amid mixed reviews. Other minor bows include Johnnie To’s “Election 2” and Park Chan-wook’s “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance.” Despite fest plaudits, the latter goes out on just two via Manga.

With “Simpsons” and “Transformers” continuing to slug it out for the top spot in Germany, a slew of smaller entries and arthouse pics offer Teutonic viewers plenty of alternatives.

Ingo Rasper’s comedy “Reine Geschmacksache,” about a sales rep whose perfect life starts to crack when his teenage son comes out of the closet and has an affair with one of his biggest business rivals, goes out via Filmlichter/Filmwelt.

The Abendzeitung newspaper called it “refreshingly laid-back, a charming mix of road-movie, loser and buddy comedy.”

Frank W. Montag’s teen horror film “Slasher” hits theaters via the director’s own Mondaymovies label, while Central is hoping the political controversy surrounding “The Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing” and strong reviews will attract politically attuned viewers.

Die Tageszeitung praised the film for “confirming all of the prejudices against American patriots and country music fans while at the same time destroying all of the prejudices against American country music bands.”

Yank country music has traditionally had a firm following in Germany.

Universal may have a hard time selling “Evan Almighty” to local auds, according to Teuton bizzers. Pic has failed to impress local crix. Some reviewers see it as the latest example of a U.S. film targeting religious moviegoers.

“Hollywood is again flirting with Christian fundamentalists, a target group which it does not want to ignore,” wrote the Stuttgarter Zeitung.

Steve Carrell starrer “Evan Almighty” failed to excite Brit auds on its U.K. bow last weekend – its debut at a major Euro market.

Pandora’s Iranian-Iraqi co-production “Niwemang” (“Half Moon”) from Iranian helmer Bahman Ghobadi, about an old Kurdish singer living in Iran who embarks on a bus journey for one last concert in Iraqi Kurdistan following the U.S. invasion of the country, has benefited from strong reviews and looks likely to generate good arthouse business.

Francois Ozon’s “Angel,” going out via Concorde, may attract fans of the French helmer but pic has received only lukewarm reviews.

Fox releases Chris Rock’s “I Think I Love My Wife” and Warner takes aim at local tykes with Bob Shaye’s “The Last Mimzy,” while Alamode/24 Bilder offers arthouse auds Rolf de Heer’s Aboriginal film “Ten Canoes.”

Expect very low attendances in Italy this weekend as locals head towards beaches ahead of the Wednesday, Aug. 15, national holiday.

Only new outings are Fox’s kidpic “Firehouse Dog,” release of which had been announced for last weekend, but was pushed back, and Aussie gross-out thriller “Feed,” about men turned on by overweight women, via Mediafilm.

In the understandable absence of any fresh high-profile Hollywood fare such as “Ratatouille,” “Simpsons,” or “Evan Almighty,” “Phoenix” will continue to rule. Its current Italo cume stands at $24 million.

Italo attendance is not expected to start normalizing until Aug. 24 when Brit laffer “Hot Fuzz,” Michael Moore doc “Sicko,” and “License to Wed” are skedded. Biz should then be back in full swing by Aug 31, when out-of-synch Italos will get their “Shrek the Third.”

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

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