'Lissi,' 'Orphanage,' 'Coeur' go top

LONDON — Local offerings “Lissi,” “The Orphanage,” and “Le Coeur des hommes 2” topped the charts in Germany, Spain and France at the European box office this weekend. But Hollywood fare remains just as tasty to Europeans.

Disney/Pixar’s animated rat pic “Ratatouille” cooked up more solid biz across Europe, serving up top spot finishes in its U.K. and Italo holdovers. Pic, which also topped the charts in Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Poland and Switzerland, now has $246.8 million internationally up to Oct. 28. The pic is so popular with tykes that sales of rats are said to booming in European pet shops.

Horror sequel “Saw IV” made the most of pre-Halloween blood-lust, debuting menacingly in the U.K. and Spain.

In Germany, Michael Herbig’s animated laffer “Lissi” knocked “Ratatouille” off the top spot with the second-best start of the year for a German film after “The Wild Soccer Bunch 4,” which opened in February.

Garnering $5 million from 790, “Lissi” was nevertheless below initial expectations and well under the opening takes of Herbig’s previous hits, “Dreamship Surprise” and “Manitou’s Shoe.”

Like those films, “Lissi,” Herbig’s first CGI laffer, is a genre spoof — a parody of Ernst Marischka’s hugely popular “Sissi” trilogy from the 1950s, which starred Romy Schneider as the 19th-century Bavarian princess who became empress of Austria.

Local bookers attributed the Constantin pic’s less than spectacular opening to the fact that it is targeted more specifically at tyke auds than Herbig’s previous films.

While local reviews have been generally positive, they have underscored the differences between “Lissi” and Herbig’s past laffers, which were aimed at slightly older auds.

“We definitely were expecting more from the film,” noted one exhib. “In the end, the big winners this weekend were the kids. ‘Lissi’ is very much a children’s film and with ‘Ratatouille’ still going strong, there are two strong movies out there for the little ones.”

Indeed, “Ratatouille” took in $3.9 million from 845 in its fourth session on its way to a $35 million cume, followed by Universal’s “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” with $870,004 from 458, with a running total of $11.9 million.

U’s “Stardust” continued to do reliably, pulling in $820,358 from 344 for a $2.3 million total.

At number five was “Halloween,” the only other new opener to make it into the top 10. The Rob Zombie remake scared up $633,072 from 221 via Senator.

In Spain, Warner’s “The Orphanage” continues to boss biz in its third frame. Dipping just 22%, Juan Antonio Bayona’s chiller took $4 million for an impressive $20.7 million running cume.

” ‘Orphanage’ is beginning to go beyond the great expectations we all had,” a booker said. “The marketing campaign was excellent, but ‘Orphanage’ has also gotten great word of mouth,” another booker said.

At this rate “Orphanage” could approach the numbers posted by the best cumes of the year in Spain: “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” ($31.4 million), “Shrek the Third” ($30.2 million) and “The Simpsons Movie” ($25.5 million).

The hit supernatural thriller has local exhibs upbeat about overall biz. “This is good for everybody. If moviegoers are happy they come back soon. This is what’s happening right now,” said one exhib. “Not only is ‘Orphanage’ performing superbly, the other movies are also making good takings,” another exhibitor said.

Frame’s other openers included BVI’s “Saw IV,” which took $2.7 million and an impressive $9,151 screen average.

UPI’s “Stardust” went out on 218, and took $1 million, at a good $5,160 per copy average.

Spanish Woody Allen devotees seem not to have paid too much attention to the generally bad reviews from crix. On Pictures’ “Cassandra’s Dream” bowed on a discreet 162 and took $826,738, for the third best average per copy of the week: $5,199.

Wanda’s eco doc opener “Planet Earth” took a promising $453,040 with a $4,670 screen average.

In Gaul, it was a 1-2-3 for new product. “Le Coeur des hommes 2,” Marc Esposito’s laffer about four buddies in their forties, is bringing home the bacon for BAC. Making $3.8 million on 517 in its first five days, it has outperformed the 2003 bow of the original by 35%.

“Surf’s Up” also enjoyed a very solid first frame for Sony. Buoyed by some very strong reviews and the fall school holidays, it earned $2.9 million in five days on 379.

Alain Corneau’s gangster pic “Le Deuxieme Souffle,” toplining Daniel Auteuil and Monica Bellucci, bowed at a decent $1.8 million on 586 for distrib ARP Selection.

In the U.K., “Ratatouille” held top spot thanks to a 17% rise in its third frame. The Disney/Pixar pic gobbled up another monster helping — $7.4 million at 525 screens for a $35.7 million running cume.

Overall biz climbed 37% on the last weekend and 10% on the same weekend last year. The last weekend of half-term school holidays and drizzly weather meant the plexes were packed.

Also showing good legs is Matthew Vaughn’s epic fantasy “Stardust.” Pic rose 18% (excluding previews) in its soph sesh to move the running take to $14.3 million for Par.

Best opener was “Saw IV,” which scared up $5.1 million at 393 via Lionsgate U.K. Result matches the U.K. opening of “Saw III” and bests the “Saw” and “Saw II” debuts.

David Cronenberg’s London-set “Eastern Promises” opened to a modest $1.3 million at 280. The Pathe release might have hoped for more as it got lots of publicity thanks to its high-profile screening as opening night pic at the Times BFI London Film Festival.

“Sicko” opened anemically, taking 10th spot with a sickly $322,926 at 166 via Optimum Releasing. Screen average of $1,945 trailed the eighth frame of “Atonement” and “Run, Fat Boy, Run.”

“Ratatouille” also kept on cooking in Italy, tallying a tasty $4.5 million in its second frame on 661, which reps a mere 33% drop and gives the Mouse House rat a $14 million Italo running cume.

Bruce Willis came in a distant second with “Live Free or Die Hard,” which still opened decently at $1.8 million on 360, via Fox.

“Elizabeth: The Golden Age” followed closely with $1.7 million off 323, via Universal, besting expectations for the Cate Blanchett starrer, following its European launch from the Rome Film Festival.

Local sci-fi spoof “2061,” which was meant to be a local blockbuster, instead disappointed with a mere $1.1 million from 378, for the trashy pic toplining popular comic Diego Abatantuono via 01 Distribuzione.

The weekend’s big opener was another local title, auteur Silvio Soldini’s “Days and Clouds,” which scored $5,800 per engagement — the frame’s highest per-screen average after “Ratatouille” — for $1 million on 176 via Warner Bros.

Soldini’s latest, about a well-to-do couple suddenly facing money trouble, unspooled in Rome after bowing in Toronto.

Keira Knightley starrer “Silk” didn’t open very smoothly, spinning a thin $500,000 from 200 via Medusa, also following Toronto and Rome bows.

Francis Ford Coppola’s rejuvenation drama “Youth Without Youth” did so-so in its theatrical world bow, pulling $237,000 from 77 via BIM Distribuzione.

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

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