Borat finds his way to Italy

Critics welcome Baron Cohen movie in final territory

LONDON — It has been a long wait but Italian auds finally get their chance to get an eyeful of Sacha Baron Cohen in his G-string this weekend when “Borat” finally arrives in Italian theaters.

The long-awaited launch reps the last major territory to get “Borat,” following releases in more than 70 other countries.

“Borat” is boosted by a massive marketing effort from Fox which is sending out a dubbed version on 400 prints. Baron Cohen’s face is splashed on the covers of many mags — including local editions of Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair.

A costly “Borat” ad campaign includes provocative “Tua Pussy is Very Nice” posters in public toilets.

Italo crix are backing “Borat.” La Repubblica praised the pic for its “great comic timing.”

Italian exhibbers, who would have preferred an earlier “Borat” release, don’t expect it to be a whammo smash but do project a healthy $2.5 million -$3 million bow.

Other Italo outings include local helmer Eugenio Cappuccio’s disease-themed drama “Uno su due” on 117 via 01, which is seen as a tough sell, Warner Bros.’ “The Good German,” on 77, which is hampered by mixed reviews, and Sony’s “Running With Scissors,” on 50, which has been trashed across the board.

Post-Oscar re-releases are set for “The Departed,” which Medusa is re-outing on 130, and “The Queen,” back out via BIM on a mere eight.

Brit bookers expect local laffer “Hot Fuzz” to retain top spot for the third weekend running although predict that opener “Ghost Rider” will run a close second.

Nicolas Cage vehicle “Ghost Rider” has already done solid biz in Germany and Spain, and looks set for a promising debut in Blighty where exhibs praise the trailer and are projecting an opening between $3 million and $4 million.

However, Brit bookers are not convinced by the “Rider” poster campaign, which features headshots of Cage and co-star Eva Mendes above a burning bike but does not play up the flame-headed Ghost Rider character.

“You don’t sell ‘Superman’ on the Clark Kent character or ‘Batman’ on Bruce Wayne,” complained one London-based booker. Striking posters of Johnny Blaze transforming into Ghost Rider appear in some cinema foyers.

Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti starrer “The Illusionist” has been getting some good reviews from the Brit crix and has big backing from Momentum Pictures, which sends the pic out on 273. Bookers are fairly positive about its prospects and predict a bow between $800,000 and $1.4 million.

The Oscars winners still on release in the U.K. are coming to the end of their run so tradesters expect little box office bump this weekend for the likes of “The Last King of Scotland” and “The Queen.”

Pathe said “The Queen” will stay on 170 prints despite the massive publicity generated by Helen Mirren’s Kodak Theater triumph.

“In order to give the new product a chance we cannot start bringing back Oscar winners at the end of their run,” said one booker. “The Queen” — which has raked in $104.7 million worldwide — is released on DVD in the U.K. on March 12.

In France, another local pic opened promisingly on Wednesday. Thomas Gilou’s “Micou D’Auber,” starring Gerard Depardieu and Nathalie Baye, took top spot on opening day, earning $383,687 on 359 for EuropaCorp.

Reviews were largely positive. “A pleasant, tender little film,” quipped Le Parisien.

Edith Piaf biopic “La Vie en rose” continues to draw big auds in France and has now cumed $22.4 million on home turf.

“Dreamgirls” arrived in France on Wednesday hoping to cash in on Jennifer Hudson’s Oscar win to mixed results. The pic scored $355,352 at 334 through Par.

Jim Carrey starrer “The Number 23” proved critic proof in Gaul. Despite poor reviews, the actioner raked in a decent $301,776 at 251 via Metropolitan Filmexport on its first day.

In Spain, “Bridge to Terabithia” gets its first outing in a major Euro territory. DeAPlaneta sends the kids’ pic out on 305 and local bookers are looking for at least $1.5 million and possibly $2 million. Tradesters do not feel it has the same appeal for kids as “Chronicles of Narnia” but do report playground want-to-see buzz.

Korean horror title “The Host” is also set for a decent Spanish opening from a limited release. Notro Films release the well-reviewed film on 167, hoping that Spanish auds’ fondness for horror will help fuel biz.

Oscars’ winners get a lift in Spain where “The Last King of Scotland” is upped from 90 to 110 and best picture “The Departed” is upped considerably from 37 to 122.

In Germany, “The Soccer Wild Bunch 4” has the opportunity to re-take top spot this weekend in a frame where none of the openers are generating much buzz.

“Ghost Rider” took top spot last weekend in Germany but Teuton exhibs expect “the typically front-loaded fanboy film” to dip sharply in its soph sesh, allowing “Bunch 4” to re-take pole position.

“Smokin’ Aces” and “The Hitcher” are the highest-profile openers in Germany where no fresh local pics enter the fray.

Foreign-language Oscar winner “The Lives of Others” is already out on DVD in Germany so is not set for a theatrical re-release on home turf.

Additional reporting by Gorka Bilbao (Spain), Christian Koehl (Germany), David Hayhurst (France) and Nick Vivarelli (Italy).

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