Major markets await 'Potter' magic

BERLIN — “Die Hard 4″ and “Shrek the Third” continued to enjoy boffo biz in major Euro markets as summer weather put a damper on “Transformers” in Italy and Spain.

For local exhibs, it’s the lull before next week’s bow of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.” Pic is sure to take Europe by storm.

In France, Gallic distribbers are among the only folks happy about the sodden, chilly weather across most of the country.

“Live Free or Die Hard” got off to a roaring start, filling Fox’s coffers to the tune of $6.6 million on 749 after five days – the sixth best opening week for any pic in France so far this year.

“Shrek the Third,” in its fourth frame, remains a colossal hit nationwide, still on as many screens (850) as its first week and to date cuming some $35 million for Paramount.

Indeed, “Shrek the Third” has continued its stellar box office performance around the globe.

Cumulative worldwide gross is reaching $640 million – enough to boost the “Shrek” franchise’s global take beyond the $2 billion mark, making it one of the most successful franchises in movie history.

Another toon feature, the more sober Cannes Jury Prize winner “Persopolis,” has proved a sleeper hit in France, where several local kudos-earners have been less fortunate.

The animated tale of an Iranian family’s triumphs and woes during and after the Shah’s downfall has earned Diaphana over $3.7 million after two frames.

With almost every scribe in the country raving, the small, artsy distribber increased print numbers to 370 from a first-frame run of 199.

“Ocean’s Thirteen” was down 52% in its third frame, having cumed a none-too-shabby $11 million on 730 for WB, pleased to avoid any sequel-itis fatigue amongst Gallic auds.

Having the gumption to show the 167-minute director’s cut of helmer Robert De Niro’s “The Good Shepherd” has paid off for StudioCanal.

The intricate look at some of the people who created the CIA earned over $1 million on 240 in five days.

Topping the local-product opener’s list was helmer Anne Fassio’s family-vacation laffer “Je deteste les enfants des autres.” It made a satisfied SND around $858,000 on 254 after five days.

A sunny weekend in Blighty following weeks of miserable weather saw box office grosses slide 42% on the previous frame.

Brits not bronzing themselves outdoors were spoilt for choice when it came to televised sport.

The epic five-set Wimbledon final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, the London start of the Tour de France and the British Grand Prix (Formula 1) all drew auds to TV screens.

“Shrek the Third” dropped 51% in its soph sesh to narrowly hold top spot from the locally titled “Die Hard 4.0.” “Shrek” banked another $10.26 million at 538 screens to push its cume up to $51.8 million.

“Die Hard 4.0″ took $10.1 million at 458 including Wednesday/Thursday previews of $3.2 million.

The opening frame pleased bookers. They attribute success to the enduring appeal of Bruce Willis’ gritty John McClane character and the surprisingly supportive reviews from Brit crix who often sniff at Yank popcorn actioners.

“If the weather had been really rainy again this weekend ‘Die Hard’ might have taken another £1 million ($2 million) but, all in all, it has opened strongly,” noted one booker.

Exhibs expect the “extremely front-loaded” pic to fall away heavily next weekend as “Harry Potter” arrives to obliterate the competish.

No other opener penetrated the top ten in the U.K.

Summer tentpoles already on release felt the heat. “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer,” “Ocean’s Thirteen” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End ” dropped off 52%, 52% and 46% in their fourth, fifth and seventh frames, respectively.

In Germany, where overall biz dropped 35% despite rainy weather, “Die Hard 4.0″ held on to the top spot in its second week, dropping 47% to $4 million on 727 and cuming $14 million for Fox.

Continuing to show strong staying power with just a 37% slide, “Shrek the Third” followed with $3 million towards a $19.5 million total in its third frame.

Counter-programming with Colin Nutley’s Swedish comedy “Heartbreak Hotel” paid off for Prokino/Fox. The chick pic opened at number five with $460,000 from133, while X Verleih/Warner’s British comedy “Irina Palm” continues to hold well in sixth thanks to strong word of mouth and rave reviews, falling just 29% to $213,239 from 82.

“Ocean’s Thirteen” and “At World’s End” maintained their third and fourth positions, with Warner Bros’ star-studded heist pic pulling in $1.05 million on 647 in its fifth frame towards a running total of $14.7 million. In its seventh session, Buena Vista Intl.’s pirate extravaganza raked in $997,033 on 598 for a whopping $57.1 million cume.

“Transformers” invaded Spain but failed to make a big splash, grossing a so-so $3.4 million with a copy-average of $4,651.

DreamWorks’ tentpole divided exhib opinion between those who thought it went as expected and those who are convinced it performed below expectations.

In its third week “Shrek the Third” proved the ogre has legs in Spain, easily withstanding giant robot competition, taking $2.7 million and scoring a second place in copy average with a $4,290.

The upcoming “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” meanwhile, has most Spanish bookers giddy with excitement. Ticket presales are outperforming those of recent blockbusters.

However, one exhib predicted “a very good first weekend, but with no strength to endure following weeks,” adding that the latest “Potter” film may look too similar to previous instalments for Spanish tastes.

In their second week, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s “28 Weeks Later” took a fine $781,008 and Alvaro Diaz Lorenzo’s “Cafe solo o con ellas,” garnered an impressive $473,170.

“Word of mouth has begun to work and young audiences are having a good time with this comedy,” an exhib said.

Spanish comedy “Chuecatown” performed as expected, making a discreet $207,847, while French laffer “Odette Toutlemonde” surprised with its strong showing, enjoying a third place in average-per-copy rankings with $3,265.

Some exhibs even went out of their way to congratulate distrib Notro for its smart distribution strategy and prudent copy spread launch of 62 prints.

“Transformers” easily nabbed the lion’s share in Italy’s lame frame, which saw biz drop 37% compared with the previous week-end.

Michael Bay’s Hasbro-inspired tentpole took $1.4 million on 565, sliding 52% in week two for a $7.5 million running Italo cume to date.

With no new Hollywood tentpoles and the sunny clime making beaches irresistible, Italo B.O. sunk to a 2007 low. The entire frame was worth $3.4 million.

Hip-hop romp “Stomp the Yard” limped to take $300,000 on 250 via Sony, debuting in third place.

Paris-set horror flick “Catacombs” scared up a scarce $128,000 on 93 via Eagle Pictures for the fifth slot in its first outing.

New Italo entry “Agenzia Matrimoniale,” a dating agency comedy by first-timer Christian Bisceglia, got snubbed big time, pulling a mere $28,000 on 47 via 01 Distribuzione.

Only relative bright note was Gallic auteur Andre Techine’s AIDS drama “The Witnesses” starring Emmanuelle Beart, which grossed the frame’s highest per-screen average – $2500 – taking $30,000 on 12 via 01.

Additional reporting by David Hayhurst (France), Nick Vivarelli (Italy), Archie Thomas (U.K.) and Emilio Mayorga (Spain).

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