Opposition falls away

LONDON — “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” showed steady sea legs and no seasickness in its second voyage at the European box office this weekend.

The Disney swashbuckler faced little direct competish from new fare but there were some notable counterprogramming successes including a decent Italo opening haul for Tarantino’s “Death Proof,” despite some negative local press.

Outside the U.S., “At World’s End” has plundered its biggest box office booty in Blighty.

The swashbuckler may not have broken any U.K. opening weekend records but it is showing good staying power. In its soph sesh, the actioner dipped a very respectable 53% to $10.7 million at 550 for a $19,486 screen average.

The strong second frame propelled “Pirates” to a $58.3 million running cume after 11 days on release. That puts it well ahead of last year’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” which grossed $34.4 million from 514 in its first 11 days.

“Dead Man’s Chest” went on to bag a whammo $103.1 million, making it the second biggest grosser released in 2006 — trailing only “Casino Royale.” “At World’s End” has already lapped the original pic in the franchise, which pocketed $55.8 million in 2003.

The result is particularly pleasing for Mouse House brass as weekend weather was very warm — traditionally more conducive to a trip to the beach than to the local multiplex in the U.K.

To Robert Mitchell, m.d., BVI U.K., the ongoing success is attributable to a few key factors: “It ties up all the loose ends. It was always written as a trilogy and this film finishes the trilogy,” adding that “the enduring appeal of the Jack Sparrow character and the blossoming of the relationship between Orlando Bloom’s character and Keira Knightley’s character in the third installment” are captivating Brit auds.

Mitchell reports that exit polls results are “superb” and is confident the pic can prove to be the one to last through the summer, partly thanks to repeat visits.

Yank laffer “Wedding Daze” worked as very effective counterprogramming to “Pirates.” The Jason Biggs starrer collected $1.6 million (including $290,159 in previews) at 344 and second spot in the process.

“At World’s End” is catching “Spider-Man 3″ in Blighty. The Sony comic book actioner dropped 54% in its fifth frame to $1.2 million at 451 and a $64.7 million running total — $6.4 million ahead of “At World’s End.”

Horror remake “The Hitcher” failed to scare up much biz on its Euro debut in Blighty via Universal. The pic, which toplines Brit thesp Sean Bean, managed a weak $434,014 at a wide 255 — good enough for sixth in the charts. It didn’t get a helping hand from the Brit critics: “Bloated, boring and over-explained, this gets a definite thumbs-down,” wrote Nigel Floyd in London listings mag Time Out.

Faring better was rival horror “Paradise Lost” from Lionsgate U.K., which took $809,689 from 292. Pic is being released as “Turistas” (U.S. title) elsewhere in Europe.

Homegrown laffer “Mr Bean’s Holiday” is still chugging along for Universal. The Rowan Atkinson starrer dropped 27% in its 10th frame for a $43.9 cume to date.

In Italy, Captain Jack commanded a solid second frame, dropping a mere 32% to $5.1 million on 878.

But while “At World’s End” capitalized on the rainy Italo weekend, the pic didn’t cannibalize all the competish, especially not Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof,” which debuted at a lively $1.2 million on 343 via Medusa, ousting Spidey from the second spot.

Tarantino’s trashy homage to B movies did better than expected in the face of largely negative reviews and despite the helmer’s highly publicized comments on the state of current Italo cinema, which Tarantino branded “depressing.”

“Spider-Man 3″ dropped a mere 22% in its fifth frame scoring $776,000 on 273 for a $23.6 million running cume.

Second frame cume for “At World’s End” is $17.2 million, putting it ahead of the first “Pirates” pic, but behind “Dead Man’s Chest,” which at this stage had pulled $20 million in Italy, per national box office compiler Cinetel.

Yang Zimou’s “Curse of the Golden Flower” rose from fifth to fourth place in its soph sesh, pulling $519,000 for a $1.2 million cume via 01 Distribuzione.

Mira Nair’s “The Namesake” debuted nicely, taking $173,500 at 50 via Fox and scoring the frame’s second-highest per screen average — $3,470.

Yank chiller “Turistas” lured some teen visitors, scoring $400,000 on 126 via Eagle Pictures.

In Germany, “At World’s End” slipped 47% to $9.7 million at 974 en route to a $38 million running take. That puts it close behind “Dead Man’s Chest,” which had banked $40.6 million at the same stage.

“At World’s End” utterly dominates German box office; opener “Zodiac” came in a distant second with $813,571 from 150 via WB.

“At World’s End” has overtaken “Spider-Man 3″ in Germany. The webslinger landed third spot with $651,437 at 641 for a $28.4 million cume.

Local Teuton pics are working well as counterprogramming to the summer blockbusters.

3L’s French-German romantic comedy “2 Days in Paris” from director-thesp Julie Delpy dipped just 15% in its third session for a $1.1 million cume.

Constantin’s tyke pic “Herr Bello,” about a dog that drinks a potion and turns into a human, leapt up 3% on its way to a $1.2 million total in its third week. At number 10, X Verleih’s “Shoppen,” a comedy about desperate singles searching for the right partner through speed dating, was up 2% in its fifth frame for a total of $1.5 million.

In France, “At World’s End” dropped off 57% to $7.3 million at 783, moving the cume to $29 million according to French box office compiler CBO. Meanwhile, “Spider-Man 3″ bagged another million, taking its Gallic cume to $48 million.

Top opener in Gaul was Al Pacino starrer “88 Minutes,” which is not released Stateside until 2008. The Jon Avnet helmed effort took $895,000 at 194 via Metropolitan. The pic posted the second best screen average behind “At World’s End” despite getting the thumbs down from French crix.

“Zodiac” continues to perform well at Gallic wickets. The cerebral thriller, which benefited from a splashy Cannes launch, dipped 42% in its third frame for a $6.8 million total.

Upmarket home-made offerings have only done so-so biz, despite buzz from Cannes. Christophe Honore’s romantic comedy “Love Songs,” a Palme d’Or nominee, has taken in over $1.2 million on 240 after two frames for Bac.

Helmer Julian Schnabel took best director prize for Franco-American co-production “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” which has been lauded by French crix. The surrealistic memoirs and musings of a paralyzed Elle France editor, toplining Mathieu Amalric and Emmanuelle Seigner, has made Pathe a little under $815,000 on 222 after two frames.

In Spain, “At World’s End” followed up on its record-breaking opening weekend by dropping a respectable 50% to $6 million in its soph sesh. The running total stands at $21.1 million.

“We expected a 60% fall, which ‘Pirates 3′ outperformed,” commented one Spanish booker, while another added “the word of mouth is great and reflects the enormous popularity of the franchise.”

Despite the bumper biz, “At World’s End” is still lagging behind its immediate predecessor. By its second weekend, “Dead Man’s Chest” had grossed $25.6 million, $4.5 million more than the current installment.

Other American films failed to lure Spanish auds. Tragicomedy “In the Land of Women” grossed a so-so $503,457 on 200, despite favorable reviews from Spanish critics. German director Katja von Garnier American debut “Blood and Chocolate” failed to capture Spanish audiences, making $277,407 at 157.

Drowning even deeper in the wake of “Pirates” were Euro pics, which sunk below exhibitors’ expectations and even lower than Yank competitors. Spanish production “Solitary Fragments” received praise at Cannes but failed to pull domestic audiences into theaters. Italian debut “Il mil miglior nemico” also failed to excite.

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

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