'300' crushes rivals

LONDON — Spartan epic “300” posted socko B.O. numbers across Europe but local pics, including France’s “Ensemble, c’est tout,” Britain’s “Mr Bean’s Holiday” and surprise package “Il 7 e l’8″ from Italy, put up a noble fight this weekend.

In its best overseas effort, “300” crushed the competish in Blighty, taking $9.3 million in its first four days on release. The result was north of bookers’ upbeat pre-release expectations. As predicted by tradesters, the war epic was welcomed by carnivorous fanboys but also found favor with female auds thanks to the “six-pack factor.”

The whammo “300” bow pushed the U.K. weekend take up 69% on the previous weekend and up 30% on the same weekend last year.

And that’s not even including impressive “Mr Bean’s Holiday” previews.

Universal’s “Mr Bean’s Holiday” previewed on Saturday and Sunday, taking $3.7 million at 473. The excellent result was significantly above expectations and bodes well for the official bow of the local laffer.

The mute Bean character, which Rowan Atkinson originated on Brit TV, remains well-loved by local auds.

Momentum release “Amazing Grace” did $849,000 at 238. The timely release of Michael Apted’s pic about the abolition of slavery chimed with the 200th anniversary of abolition in the U.K. But bookers say the pic, which “plays like a Sunday TV matinee,” according to one exhib, did little more than meet reasonable expectations.

Carmen Elektra starrer “I Want Candy” bit off a modest $686,000 at 257. The result for the teen-skewed pic, which BVI pushed hard as Britain’s answer to “American Pie,” did not titillate exhibs, who feel it may have more luck on homevid.

British-set Bollywood pic “Namastey, London” crashed the top 10 with $469,000 at just 42 for a boffo screen average of $11,200 — second only to “300” ($25,300). The Eros release attracted attention from the mainstream Brit press thanks to the local setting and plotting.

While “300” conquered the top spot in Italy with $4.6 million at 459, local titles still fared nicely with four pics from homegrown helmers among the top 10.

The weekend’s real surprise was Medusa’s comedy “Il 7 e l’8,” which grew 19% in grosses in its second frame for $2.2 million on 304 for a $4.8 million two week cume. The impressive soph sesh placed it second to “300.”

The local laffer stars comic duo Ficarra and Picone as two thirty-somethings from very different social backgrounds who discover their cribs were mixed up in the maternity ward.

Hit local romancer “Ho Voglia di Te” dropped 56% for $1.5 million on 390. The Warner Bros. release has scored an impressive $17 million three-week cume.

Francesca Archibugi’s “Flying Lessons” held up nicely, dropping a mere 9% in its second frame for $500,000 on 148 via 01 Distribuzione in eighth spot, while Ferzan Ozpetek’s “Saturn in Opposition” pulled $311,000 on 216 via Medusa, dropping 49% in its fifth frame for a stellar $10 million cume at number 10.

France also fell for “300,” which slayed the opposition with $5.7 million at 485 in its first five days.

Pathe’s Audrey Tautou starrer “Ensemble, c’est tout” landed second spot with $4.3 million at 389.

The rollercoaster life story of plucky French cultural icon Edith Piaf continues to fascinate Gallic auds. “La Vie en rose” took third spot in its sixth frame and has now taken a whammo $37.8 million for TFM.

“300” posted the best opening in Spain of 2007: $6.4 million at 538. The result was above expectations, which Spanish exhibs attribute to WB’s bullish campaign, a lack of meaningful competish and local auds healthy appetite for historical pics.

The boffo “300” bow has Spanish final cume estimates being bumped up from $16 million-$19 million to $22 million-$23 million.

In a market utterly dominated by “300,” German toon “Urmel aus dem Eis” did find some traction in Spain, taking $289,000 at 103. The decent bow gives it a chance of holding screens and luring in Spanish tykes over Easter.

Brit director Michael Winterbottom has something of an arthouse following in Spain but his latest release — “Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story” — only made a small ripple this weekend, taking $64,000 at 28.

Sunny spring weather and no “300” to lure auds into theaters did for German box office biz, which dipped 19% from the previous frame.

Local laffer “Neues vom Wixxer” held top spot, dipping a respectable 30% to $1.6 million at 600 for a $4.4 million running total.

Three other Teuton titles cracked the top 10 in the flat frame.

Delphi’s “Haende weg von Mississippi,” Detlev Buck’s children’s pic about a girl’s efforts to save a horse, opened at number six with $565,000 from 313.

Scoring one of the strongest per screen averages — $4,438 — was Kinowelt’s mountain climbing documentary “Am Limit,” which grossed $315,000 from 71 screens, good enough for eighth place.

“The Lives of Others” refuses to die at the German B.O. The foreign-language Oscar winner slid just 22% in its 53rd frame to bank $333,000. The seventh-placed pic has now amassed $16.8 million on home turf.

Universum’s Berlinale screener and German Film Award nominee “The Counterfeiters” puttered on 80, opening at number 15 with $155,000.

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

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