Berlinale pic performing beyond expectations

PARIS — Gauls flocked to the Valentine’s Day bow of Edith Piaf biopic “La Vie en rose” Wednesday — while in a tough head-to-head, EuropaCorp’s b.o. juggernaut sequel “Taxi 4″ also sped off the theatrical starting blocks.

The Marseilles-set “Taxi” grossed $3,495,695, or 450,755 admissions on 867 prints, while distribber TFM pocketed $1,786,565 from the Piaf musical melodrama’s 230,370 ticket sales. Pic was out on 675 prints.

Performance reps boffo biz on both counts.

New “Taxi” episode came in with slightly fewer first day admissions than 2003’s “Taxi 3,” but that film bowed on 969 prints and had no serious box office competition the day of its release.

“La Vie en rose” outperformed such Gallic hits as “A Very Long Engagement” and Guillaume Canet’s hit thriller “Tell No One,” still playing on Gallic screens.

Despite the two pics having slightly overlapping constituencies — choice may have caused the odd lovers’ squabble among younger Gallic couples — Pierre Ange Le Pogam, Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp partner said on Wednesday the head-to-head wasn’t a worry — as those first day figures suggest.

“The French market is big enough for both films,” the topper pronounced, adding that Feb. 14 was “the ideal date to catch holiday audiences.”

The French school hols, on different dates in different regions to avoid the country coming to a halt, go through to March 5, giving Gallic exhibbers one of their busiest periods in the year.

TFM marketing topper Henri Ernst also said that the films were sufficiently different not to damage each other’s chances.

“There isn’t much overlap in the audience, maybe about 10%,” he said.

According to TFM’s reckoning, Marion Cotillard’s turn as France’s legendary chanteuse — much appreciated in Berlin — is now expected to garner at least 3 million, perhaps 3.5 million admissions in Gaul. The distribber had originally been tabling on less than that, Ernst said.

As for “Taxi 4,” Paris figures are harder to extrapolate from, since the pic is likely to draw big auds in the provinces. In any case, it should outperform the 6.2 million made by its predecessor in 2003. “Taxi 2″ notched up more than 10.4 million in 2000.

Sami Naceri, star of the pic with Frederic Diefenthal, followed the release from a prison cell in Aix-en-Provence where he is in custody awaiting trial for assault.

The Marseilles-set actioner has sold all over the world, including in Berlin to Scandinavia’s Nordisk and Korea’s Inmoa Entertainment. EuropaCorp is also poised to strike German and Spanish deals. But will this be the “Taxi” that gets sold Stateside? Previously, the franchise has only crossed the Atlantic for remake purposes, but a Fox-backed American version two years ago proved a sluggish performer.

“Taxi 4’s” release makes EuropaCorp the most ubiquitous distribber of the moment in French movie theaters. Company still has more than 200 prints in circulation of its hit 3D animation pic “Arthur and the Invisibles,” which has notched up 6.2 million admissions since coming out in December. “Tell No One,” Guillaume Canet’s Harlan Coben adaptation is also still playing on around 40 screens.

That pic, which recently passed the 2 million admissions mark, last week won the Paris’ foreign press corp’s Lumiere Award for best French film of the year and is up for nine Cesar awards.

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