'Sicko' performs poorly in Italy

LONDON — As the summer tentpoles wind down at the European box office, Yank laffer “Knocked Up” delivered decent numbers on its opening berth in the U.K. and Germany.

In the U.K., soaring temperatures evaporated cinema attendance. Overall trade slipped 44% from the previous weekend but it was still up 21% on the same weekend last year, according to Nielsen EDI.

“The Bourne Ultimatum” led the field in it soph sesh. The Matt Damon starrer dipped 46% for a $26 million cume.

Judd Apatow’s laffer “Knocked Up” took second spot with a bullish bow of $3.2 million at 424 screens. Buzz surrounding the boffo Stateside perf of “Knocked Up” crossed the pond and helped boost the pic in the U.K. Positive reviews from the Brit critics also helped.

No other opener pierced the top 10 in Blighty and most holdovers slipped more than 50%.

“Bratz: The Movie” was unable to follow up on its strong bow — it dipped 57% in its soph sesh for a $5.2 million running cume.

Gallic arthouse offering “Lady Chatterley” did not prove to have B.O. allure for sophisticated Brit auds. The Artificial Eye release received rave reviews from the Brit critics but scored just $98,091 from 51 screens for a lame $1,922 average.

Bollywood pic “Heyy Babyy” from distrib Eros International had little trouble drawing auds in the hot weather. The pic about three lecherous bachelors who suddenly are forced to care for a baby scored $459,971 at 48 for an impressive $9,583 average — second only to “Ultimatum” ($12,603).

Germany’s box office dropped 35% as many Teutons spent the final days of summer vacationing and spending the weekend outdoors.

Nevertheless, as in the U.K., crowds turned out for “Knocked Up,” which surprised local exhibs by knocking actioner “Rush Hour 3″ from the top spot.

“Knocked Up” pulled in $2.1 million from 597, ahead of “Rush Hour 3,” which garnered $1.7 million from 615 for a running cume of $7.1 million. “Knocked Up” was the only new entry to make the top 10.

At number five, “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” saw ticket sales plunge 70% to $500,456 from 453 in its soph sesh following a disappointing start the previous week.

Claude Berri’s French comedy “Hunting and Gathering” continued to do well in its second frame, taking in $487,134 from 148 for a total of $1.9 million via Prokino/Fox.

Two of the most eagerly anticipated local films of the year bowed in Spain in a significant test of strength for the local industry.

Both Roberto Santiago’s “El club de los suicidas” (Suicides Club) and Julio Medem’s “Chaotic Ana” pretty much passed the test, proving that Spanish cinema can still fire on hometurf after some below-par results earlier in the year.

Launched with a powerful TV campaign and on a considerable copy spread of 321, “El club de los suicidas” made the biggest first weekend of any Spanish film this year: $704,173 against an opening three-day $658,291 for “Cafe solo o con ellas.”

“Ana” took $460,061, making a tidy average of $3,108, suggesting the pic from auteur Medem is more than a niche item.

But bizzers wanted more from both films, especially “Club.”

“‘Ana’ and ‘Club’ weren’t completely bad, but their respective takings are far below the box office kick that we need. The result is low. I hope Spanish films slump is just cyclical,” said one disgruntled distributor.

“‘Club’ B.O. is good, though nothing to write home about. Everybody was expecting a bit more,” said a more upbeat booker.

Top-placed “Evan Almighty” took $1.7 million and “The Last Legion” nabbed $1.6 million — solid perfs in line with bookers’ expectations.

In Italy, indie pics made strong showings. Modestly budgeted Yank romancer “In the Land of Women” unexpectedly landed top spot ahead of Michael Moore’s campaigning doc “Sicko.”

“Women,” which stars Adam Brody as a soft porn scribe with a broken heart and Meg Ryan as a housewife he becomes entangled with, pulled $642,000 on 188 via local distribbery Moviemax — a nifty take given the scorching weather and the title’s relative obscurity.

By contrast “Sicko,” for all its marketing muscle with Moore tubthumping in Rome and making mega mag covers, disappointed somewhat, grossing $492,000 on 241 via 01 Distribuzione. Still, some exhibbers said “Sicko” didn’t fare badly for a docu, especially given the high mercury levels.

Fox’s Viking thriller “Pathfinder” came in third, navigating its way to $469,000 on 148, while Robin Williams’ Warner Bros. laffer “License to Wed” opened at number four, with $399 on 162.

Italos gave a cold reception to Brit laffer “Hot Fuzz,” which mustered a mere $113,000 on 99 via Universal.

In the arthouse arena, Cannes Palme d’Or winner “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” opened at number seven with $170,000 on 125. “About as good as could be expected for a film that should have a long run,” commented one satisfied exhib.

In Gaul, smash hit “Ratatouille” continues to dominate biz. Dropping just 27%, the Paris-set Pixar toon held top spot for the fourth weekend running and has now banked $44.9 million. “Ratatouille” is set to become the biggest grossing pic in France this year so far — it currently trails “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” by just $3 million.

Next best in Gaul was local comedy “Trois Amis,” which banked almost $2 million in its first five days via Gaumont.

In Russia, “The Bourne Ultimatum” got off to a fantastic start, taking $2.8 million at 392 sites. The opening was more than the combined total tallies for the first two “Bourne” pics in the territory and helped “Ultimatum” to a weekend international best haul of $14.4 million.

Additional reporting by Nick Vivarelli (Italy), Ed Meza (Germany), Emilio Mayorga (Spain), Emma Gray Munthe (Iceland).

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