Comedy defies heat, Spartans

LONDON — Shrugging off soaring temperatures, Brit laffer “Mr Bean’s Holiday” bumbled along nicely and put blood-soaked Spartan actioner “300” in the shade this weekend at the European box office.

France was the only major Euro territory to see a local pic top the charts.

Battle of the sexes laffer “Le prix a payer” toplining Christian Clavier and Nathalie Baye retained top spot in its soph sesh with $1.9 million at 444. The pic has now scored $5.6 million and keeps up the good run of French films at home. As of April 10, local pics accounted for a whammo 58.4% of total 2007 grosses.

Audrey Tautou starrer “Hunting and Gathering” is still going strong after four frames. The Pathe release dipped just 17% in its fourth weekend, raising the gross to $13 million.

A drubbing by the Gallic crix has done “Perfect Stranger” little harm. The Halle Berry and Bruce Willis thriller took second spot with $1.6 million at 365 in its first five days through Gaumont Columbia. The screen average of $4,446 was a weekend best of any pic in the top 10.

Danny Boyle’s “Sunshine” was well received in Gaul, raking in $1.3 million on 339 for Fox. French bookers report that the spiritual sci-fi thriller is doing better in the original version than the dubbed in Paris and other major burgs.

In Blighty, homegrown comedy “Mr Bean’s Holiday” has surpassed the original “Bean” in just 17 days since its March 30 bow.

The Rowan Atkinson starrer dipped 38% in its third frame to $3 million at 505 for a $36.4 million (£18.3 million) running cume.

“Bean” did $35 million (£17.6 million) in the U.K. in the winter of 1997.

The “Holiday” result is particularly impressive given it has been repeatedly challenged by warm weekend weather.

Comedy rules the roost at the U.K. box office at present.

BVI’s male menopause laffer “Wild Hogs” took top spot with $3.4 million (including previews) at 400. And Will Ferrell ice-skating spoof “Blades of Glory” took third spot behind “Holiday” with $1.5 million at 362 in its soph sesh via Par.

Sixth-placed “Sunshine” dipped 49% in its soph sesh, a disappointing result for Fox which was hoping it would show greater traction after a weather hit bow. The pic, which received warm reviews from the Brit crix, has taken $4.7 million.

German Oscar winner and Brit crix’s fave “The Lives of Others” appealed to U.K. arthouse auds, taking $448,269 at 64 for an impressive $7,005 screen average. The Lionsgate U.K. release should show good legs as tradesters report word of mouth is strong and there is little other sophisticated fare on offer at present.

The Euro debut of “Curse of the Golden Flower” in Blighty was underwhelming. Zhang Yimou’s sumptuous Chinese epic did $726,085 at 223 — not a patch on the $2 million “Hero” (2004) U.K. bow.

In Germany, “Mr Bean’s Holiday” wrestled top spot back from “300” in its third frame for an $18.2 million cume.

Teuton box office biz was hit hard by hot weather, dipping 47% on the previous weekend. “300” was particularly affected by the weather; it slid 71% in its second frame. Sony’s “Perfect Stranger” also wilted on its German debut, grossing a mere $474,708 at 395.

Third-placed local opener “Vollidiot” raked in $1.6 million at 508 for Senator. The $3,133 screen average was a top 10 best. Bookers attribute the success to the massive popularity of TV personality Oliver Pocher, who plays a desperate thirtysomething looking for love in the romantic comedy.

Constantin’s homegrown teen comedy “Die wilden Huehner und die Liebe” managed a gritty 21% drop in its second weekend despite the weather.

“Mr Bean’s Holiday” also topped the charts in Italy despite slipping 44% in its soph sesh to $1.4 million at 429. “Bean” bested “Perfect Stranger,” which managed a so-so opening of $967,000 at 285.

Top of the trio of local pics bowing in Italy was Eagle Pictures’ “Tutte le donne della mia vita” with $530,000 on 243 — good enough for fifth spot.

Two other Italian openers, “Last Minute Marocco” from 01 Distribuzione and “Nero bifamiliare” via MovieMax, had disappointing debuts, grossing, respectively, $308,000 on 147 and $180,000 on 141.

In Spain, homegrown hopefuls “The Heart of the Earth” and “Pudor” both fared okay on opening weekend.

Antonio Cuadri’s historical drama “The Heart of the Earth” took $290,303 at 157 for an $1,849 screen average via On Pics. Local exhibbers are roundly satisfied with the result for the pic, which stars Sienna Guillory and Catalina Sandino Moreno: “‘The Heart of the Earth’ certainly stirred some audience interest, and had a strong campaign, but we expected a little bit more from the film. To catch fire, a film that bows on around 150 copies should chalk up a $4,000 average,” said one exhib exec.

Family drama “Pudor” made $108,000 at just 51 for Alta. Driven by upbeat reviews, bookers report the pic did solid biz at arthouse sites.

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

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