Germany gives local pics free run
LONDON — A trio of promising local pics fight for auds in Germany while “300” begins it massive assault on all the other major European box office territories this weekend.The three Teutonic newcomers are not expected to unseat comedy spoof “Neues vom Wixxer” at the top. Highest-profile new Teuton release is Stefan Ruzowitzky’s “The Counterfeiters,” which has received seven German Film Award noms, including best picture. The Universum release, a true story about a group of concentration camp prisoners forced by the Nazis to forge millions of pound and dollar notes to support the German war effort, has received stellar reviews. Movie mag Treffpunkt Kino called “The Counterfeiters” “a gripping drama,” while Blickpunkt wrote, “This drama, with its wonderful ensemble cast, really gets under your skin.” “The Counterfeiters” is going out on an initial 80 copies but a strong turnout will likely result in a bigger second week release. Other strong local contenders include Detlev Buck’s “Haende weg von Mississippi,” an adaptation of the popular German children’s novel about a girl trying to save a horse from scheming crooks. Delphi is releasing the pic on more than 300 copies. “If there hasn’t been a perfect example of what good children’s films should look like, Buck has now delivered one,” wrote Blickpunkt. Kinowelt’s “Am Limit,” Pepe Danquart’s documentary about two German sibling mountain climbers and their attempt to scale a granite face in California’s Yosemite National Park, has received excellent reviews and press coverage may propel the doc up the charts. A crowded weekend in the U.K. sees “300,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” open alongside Brit laffer “I Want Candy” and costumer “Amazing Grace.” Add to the mix nationwide previews of “Mr Bean’s Holiday.” News of the whammo “300” U.S. bow has had Brit bookers frantically upping their projections. Exhibs describe the trailer as “quite possible the best ever” and report that it is not only bloodthirsty male teens getting over-excited — “the six-pack factor is attracting females,” said one exhib. An opening four day figure approaching $8 million is predicted. The political controversy surrounding the film — Hollywood vs. Ahmadinejad — has stirred up a lot of press in the U.K. and may draw in some inquisitive upscale auds who might otherwise have swerved the CGI-heavy actioner. Carmen Elektra starrer “I Want Candy” has had a big push from BVI. The pic is being sold to auds as “a British American Pie” and suggestive posters of Elektra in her underwear are seemingly everywhere. Reviews have been savage. “Makes ‘Sex Lives of the Potato Men’ look like ‘Citizen Kane,'” wrote Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian. But bookers are confident it can top $1 million in its opening frame. Rowan Atkinson laffer “Mr Bean’s Holiday” previews this weekend amid high expectations. Previous “Bean” did $34.4 million in the U.K. 10 years ago and the mute Bean character remains well-loved by Brits a decade on. Michael Apted’s “Amazing Grace,” about the abolition of slavery in the U.K., has been getting lots of publicity as the release coincides with the 200th anniversary of the end of slavery. Complaints that it presents a “Great White Male” view of history have seen it get lots of inches in the upscale press. The pic, which Momentum Pictures releases, is packed with Brit talent including Michael Gambon, Rufus Sewell, lead Ioan Gruffudd and rising star Benedict Cumberbatch. But reviewers and exhibs say it plays more like a Sunday TV drama. Euro prospects for “300” were given encouragement by the first day Gaul haul of $1.5 million at 485 Wednesday. Gallic crix were impressed by the war epic. “It is done with intelligence and brio,” chirped Figaroscope. Claude Berri’s romantic drama “Ensemble, c’est tout,” which toplines ever popular Audrey Tautou, kept up the good recent run of Gallic pics on home turf, managing a decent first day return of $650,241 at 389. Edith Piaf biopic “La Vie en rose” continues to prove a big draw. The TFM release took another $3.5 million last week for a $36.4 million running take. Italian films have been doing boffo biz on home turf in 2007 but this weekend sees a slew of Yank pics including “300,” “Norbit” and “Bordertown” enter the market. It is “300” generating the most heat. “No European would likely be capable of telling such an epic cinematic tale of muscles, earth and instinct. For an Italian director it would taste too fascist,” wrote novelist Roberto Saviano, who praised the Zack Snyder graphic novel adaptation for its “enormous visionary freedom.” On the Italian arthouse circuit, the Taviani brothers’ “The Lark Farm,” a drama about the plight of the Armenians, is debuting on 64 via 01 Distribuzione with local crix mostly supporting the latest work from the veteran Italo helming duo. In Spain, WB sent out “300” on 538, the eighth-biggest release ever in the territory. Exhibs expect it to account for 50% of weekend trade. “300” faces little competish from fellow openers, which mostly go after the arthouse crowd. Vertigo release Brit director Michael Winterbottom’s “Tristam Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story” and it might find some traction. The helmer’s previous pics “The Road to Guantanamo,” “Code 46″ and “In This World” were reasonably well received. Universal’s German toon pic “Urmel aus dem Eis,” which bows on 103, goes after the Spanish kiddie vote in the run up to Easter. Additional reporting by Ed Meza (Germany), David Hayhurst (France), Nick Vivarelli (Italy) and John Hopewell and Matt Griffin (Spain) .