Box office business in Britian down 15%

LONDON — Italian teen romancer “Ho voglia di te” (I Want You) sated Italian auds insatiable appetite for homegrown fare but Jane Austen biopic “Becoming Jane” failed to excite Brit auds this weekend.

Biz in Blighty was down 15% on the previous frame despite three new pics crashing into the top five. Hot weather and televised sport distracted Brit auds but Nick Love’s blood-soaked revenger “Outlaw” still managed a decent result for Pathe.

“Outlaw” hacked away $1.1. million at 286. Although not gangbusters, the result reps Love’s best opening on home turf, besting the $1 million “The Business” bow in 2005.

The “Outlaw” result is particularly pleasing for Pathe given Love’s films core aud are young men who had one eye on the televised soccer, the F.A. Cup quarter finals, and rugby internationals on terrestrial TV on Saturday and Sunday.

“Becoming Jane” failed to stir Brit auds, taking $1.3 million at 325 through BVI. The result was significantly down on bookers’ expectations. “Miss Potter” — seen as a good comparison film by tradsters — took $2.7 million at 338 on its opening.

Exhibs question the box office appeal of Yank thesp Anne Hathaway playing the well-loved Brit scribe Austen. “No one seemed to mind Renee Zellwegger playing Beatrix Potter in ‘Miss Potter’ but perhaps that is because Renee won over British audiences as ‘Bridget Jones.’ “

Hathaway’s “Jane” co-star James McAvoy (“The Last King of Scotland”) is a star on the rise but not a household name.

But bookers are not wholly downhearted and stress that “Becoming Jane” is “a seven-day movie and will do 50% of its trade in the week,” said one.

As predicted, “Norbit” cashed in on its trailer, taking top spot in the U.K. with $3.8 million at 368 through Par. Hit local laffer “Hot Fuzz” felt the force of “Norbit” but still bagged another $2.6 million at 452 for a $34.7 million running total. And there are more laughs to be had for Universal with bookers predicting it will come close to a $40 million gross.

“I Want You” bested booker expectations in Italy, scoring a boffo $8.3 million on 575 via Warner Bros., the country’s second-best launch for a local pic.

Spanish helmer Luis Prieto’s “I Want You,” which pulled an impressive $14,000 screen average, had the best opening day ever for an Italian pic, coming out the gate at $2 million. Roberto Benigni’s 2002 “Pinocchio” remains the weekend record-holder with $9.3 million, according to national box office compiler Cinetel.

Toplining teenage heartthrob Riccardo Scamarcio as a macho type who becomes entangled with an independent-minded girl, played by Laura Chiatti (“The Family Friend”), “I Want You” is proving irresistible to teen femme auds. Italo exhibbers report lots of starry-eyed girls going for consecutive viewings.

Adolescent love pains pic is a sequel to 2004’s “Three Steps Over Heaven,” also starring Scamarcio, which made under $2 million theatrically but did excellently on homevid.

Italo box office is booming, with grosses up 22% year-on-year, driven by earlier local romancers “Love Manual 2″ and “Night Before Exams — Today” and now “Ho voglia di te.” The hot trio is being dubbed a “neo-romantic” wave and accounts for most of the hefty 40% market share currently held by homegrown Italo pics.

Male-skewed “Saw III” opened nicely at number two, with the blood-and-guts sequel pulling $1.9 million on 305 via 01 Distribution, while “Borat” dropped 44% from number one to the third spot, taking in $1.7 million on 393, for a $6 million two-week cume.

Local fare continues to struggle in Spain where Andres Vicente Gomez’s hyped release “Teresa: the Body of Christ” did not click with Spaniards despite toplining popular femme thesp Paz Vega (“Spanglish”).

The portrait of 16th century mystic Saint Theresa was marketed aggressively by new outfit AZeta and received lots of publicity when it was slammed by Catholic Church brass for depicting the saint “solely through the prism of sex.”

But even with the controversy boosting awareness, “Teresa” only managed $291,000. That, admittedly, was from a limited release of just 100 copies.

“Teresa” is the latest in a batch of ambitious, high-end Spanish films including “Candida,” “Miguel and William” and “The Backwoods,” which have performed below expectations in Spain. Spain hasn’t had a true-blue B.O. hit since “The Borgias” opened last October.

The hugely popular televised Real Madrid vs. Barcelona “Super Classico” soccer derby and mass anti-ETA demos hurt Spanish cinema trade this weekend.

Warm weather also dissuaded Gallic auds from a trip to the cinema where overall biz slipped 39%. French pics dominated the flat marketplace, landing the top four spots.

Hit Edith Piaf biopic “La Vie en rose” held top spot, banking another $3 million for a $31.7 million running total. “Taxi 4″ picked up another $2.4 million, driving its B.O. to $32.4 million.

Franck Mancuso’s gangster pic “Contre-enquete” has Pathe pleased with its perf at $2.1 million on 349 after five days. Thomas Gilou’s heartstring-tugger “Michou d’Auber” has cumed $3.9 million in two frames for EuropaCorp.

With poor word of mouth replacing Oscars buzz, “Dreamgirls” slid an alarming 58% in its soph Gallic sesh en route to a $2.3 million cume.

German takings were up 10% thanks to jolly good shows from Hugh Grant starrer “Music & Lyrics” and Eddie Murphy laffer “Norbit.”

Local laffer “Rennschwein Rudi Ruessel 2″ flopped. The pic about a racing pig got stuck in the mud with just $306,975 at 350 through WB. The result made a pig’s ear of bookers’ reasonably upbeat expectations.

But there was much better news for the German film industry in the form of the remarkable comeback of “The Lives of Others.” Emboldened by its foreign-language Oscar win and news it is set for an English-language remake, the pic took sixth spot with $414,069 at 148 (44% more screens that the previous frame.) The critically acclaimed drama has taken $15.5 million in 51 weeks.

Proving to have appeal outside Gaul, “La Vie en rose” slipped a respectable 38% in its soph Teuton sesh for a $2.5 million haul via Constantin.

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

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