‘Hitler’ chases Stiller in Germany

Controversial Levy pic scores $9,648 average

LONDON — Fox’s Ben Stiller comedy “Night at the Museum” just held off local laffer “My Fuhrer – The Absolutely Truest Truth About Adolf Hitler” for the top spot at the German box office this weekend.

Dani Levy’s controversial Hitler comedy was the real winner. The pic scored $2.5 million at 265 screens for a boffo $9,648 average — almost three times better than the third frame of “Museum” ($3,375).

Helmer Levy and Teutonic funny-man Helge Schneider, who plays Hitler, gave countless TV and newspa-per interviews, which helped hype the laffer. Such was the level of interest in the pic that even Schneider’s own criticism of the movie, which he complained was not funny (many critics agreed), did not dissuade auds.

Stephen Frears’ awards season contender “The Queen” bowed satis-factorily in Germany, banking $731,224 at 153 through Concorde.

As predicted by Brit exhibs, Fox’s Forest Whitaker-starrer “Last King of Scotland” played well in London’s West End, key city sites and in Scotland. Boosted by strong reviews and five BAFTA noms, the Idi Amin pic took $1.7 million at 246.

“Miss Potter” — another awards season runner – dipped just 19% in its soph sesh in Blighty and has now grossed $6.3 million for Momentum. Last Friday, the Beatrix Potter biopic received no BAFTA nominations.

Exceeding industry expectations, Sony’s “The Pursuit of Happyness” took top spot in the U.K. charts with $5 million at 402 including previews of $246,052. Tradesters attribute the explosive bow to the enduring box office appeal of Will Smith for Brit auds.

“Smith is the most bankable Hollywood star at the moment and this is a tremendous result for a personal project with no guaranteed appeal to multiplex audiences,” said one booker.

Working Title’s mob thriller “Smokin’ Aces” cleared the $2 million mark on its opening weekend in the U.K., which satisfied local bookers. Shrugging off extremely poor reviews, the pic — which is Universal’s first release since the dissolution of UIP — landed third spot and posted the third best screen average ($5,955) in the top 10. Bookers attribute the solid opening to the “racy, sexy trailer and the good ensemble cast.”

Bollywood release “Guru” danced into 15th spot in the U.K. charts with $308,705 at 44 for a strong $7,014 screen average through distrib Adlabs. The pic stars former Miss World, Aishwarya Rai, and Abhishek Bachchan, who announced their engagement over the past weekend.

In Spain, “Rocky Balboa” knocked the competition out with $3.3 million at 300 — over double some local exhib’s expectations. Spanish box office biz was boosted by a weekend cold snap. Daniel Monzon’s local pic “The Kovak Box” also opened above expectations, scoring $640,849 at 194. The Filmax produced and distributed pic, about a writer trapped in the plot of one of his own novels, landed fourth spot.

As in the U.K., Gabriele Muccino’s “The Pursuit of Happyness” did boffo biz in Italy where it grossed $4.7 million at 391 for local distributor Medusa, confirming the local pull of both Smith and the Italo helmer Muc-cino whom Smith chose to helm the pic.

A good weekend at the Italian box office also saw “Rocky Balboa” weigh in with an impressive $3.8 million on 331 for Fox. The punchy first round was assisted by Stallone’s stellar promotional work.

“Casino Royale” and “Apocalypto,” both nosedived in their second frames, though they came in third and fourth respectively. “Royale” dipped 48% to $2.2 million on 399 for a $7.3 million cume. Mel Gibson’s gory epic slid 46% to $1.8 million for a $6 million take to date.

On the Italian arthouse circuit, Lars Von Trier’s labor comedy “The Boss of it All” leapt up 5% in its second frame to $260,000 on 58 for a $610,000 cume through Lucky Red. Lucky Red also is doing decent biz with Patrice Leconte’s Daniel Auteuil-starrer “My Best Friend,” which has pulled in $1.8 million in six weeks.

Aki Kaurismaki’s thriller “Lights in the Dusk” opened decently, pulling $94,000 on 27, for a $3,500 screen average, through Bim Distribuzione.

Luc Besson’s animated pic “Arthur and the Invisibles” held top spot in France for the fifth week running despite a 74% dropoff. Multiplying the admissions figures by the average ticket price of $6.38, “Arthur” has now cumed $36,546,024.

Eric Barbier’s homegrown thriller “The Serpent” landed second spot with $1.6 million at 305 for a chart-topping $5,244 screen average. The debut pleased local bookers. But the pic faces significant competish from Laurent Boutonnat’s “Jacquou le croquant” and Frederic Schoendoerffer’s “Truands,” which debut Wednesday in Gaul.

“Apocalypto” took third place on its Gallic bow with a reasonable $1.3 million at 437 through Quinta.

Additional reporting by Ed Meza (Germany), Liza Klaussmann (France), Nick Vivarelli (Italy) and Gorko Bilbao (Spain) .

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