Film opens in Spain and Italy

Gallic comedy “Asterix at the Olympic Games” went flying off the blocks in Spain and Italy this weekend, while keeping a steady pace in France and Germany, where it’s in its second lap.

In the U.K., Oscars fare including “No Country for Old Men,” “There Will Be Blood” and “Juno” performed well at wickets over BAFTA weekend.

Nic Cage starrer “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” took top spot in Blighty with $4.9 million at 491 sites, according to Rentrak data. The screen average of $9,939 was impressive for the weekend’s widest and most commercial opener.

U.S. box office smash “Juno” also opened strongly in Blighty. The Ellen Page starrer banked $3.9 million at 363 for Fox. The screen average of $10,839 was a top 10 best.

Outside the top 10, the “Juno” screen average was bettered only by Disney’s “There Will Be Blood.” The Daniel Day-Lewis starrer placed 11th with a highly successful London platform release of $423,481 at just 24 for a massive $17,645 screen average.

As widely expected, London-born Day-Lewis scooped the actor prize at Sunday’s BAFTA ceremony. The publicity generated by the main category BAFTA win should help “Blood” as it expands this coming weekend.

Another awards season contender, Pathe release “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” also took off nicely in the U.K. Julian Schnabel’s pic banked $210,101 at 29 arthouse sites for a $7,245 average. Like “Juno” and “Blood,” “Butterfly” was blessed with five-star reviews from Brit crix.

Most holdovers fell away sharply. Showing the best traction was the Coen brothers’ “No Country for Old Men,” which slipped 42% in its fourth frame for a $9.3 million running cume. “Old Men” bagged three BAFTAs (director, cinematography and supporting actor for Javier Bardem), which should help maintain awareness.

In Italy, Nanni Moretti starrer “Quiet Chaos” opened at number one ahead of “Asterix at the Olympic Games,” marking this year’s best debut locally for a non-mainstream homegrown pic.

The bereavement drama, toplining popular auteur/thesp Moretti in a thesping-only turn as a TV exec who takes to a park bench after his wife dies, scored $2.2 million off 384 screens via 01 Distribuzione, ahead of its Feb. 13 Berlin preem.

Helmed by Antonello Grimaldi and produced by Domenico Procacci’s Fandango shingle, “Chaos” has been boosted by a big marketing push, with Moretti attending Italo launches and working TV talkshows. Pic also benefited from rave reviews.

While “Chaos” started out strong, it did not equal the opening for Moretti-helmed “The Caiman” in 2006, which debuted at $3 million. Still, Fandango and 01 have reason to cheer. Pic, in which Roman Polanski has a cameo as a corporate bigwig, has benefited from a general admission rating, despite a steamy sex scene and swearwords that in Italy amount to blasphemy.

The latest “Asterix” instalment bowed in second place in Italy with $1.7 million via Warner Bros., in line with expectations given that “Asterix” historically has never really clicked in Italy.

Josh Hartnett horror pic “30 Days of Night” scared up a solid $1.3 million off 203 via Medusa for a $6,400 per-screen average, the frame’s highest, in fourth place.

Universal’s “Charlie Wilson’s War” opened at number five with $1 million from 247 screens, a lackluster launch for the star-studded Mike Nichols dramedy.

Among notable holdovers Woody Allen crimer “Cassandra’s Dream” dropped 50% in its second frame pulling $1.3 million from 347 for a still sizeable $4.7 million running cume.

In Spain, “Asterix” opened on 388 via Tripictures and took first spot, collecting $2.6 million.

“Family auds welcomed ‘Asterix’ as expected. Spanish takings will contribute nicely to its global B.O.,” said a distribber, though an exhibitor said he expected slightly more.

UPI’s “No Country for Old Men” pulled in $2.3 million from 308, registering the best copy average of the frame with $7,495. ” ‘Country’ will be a long-legged movie,” forecast a second booker.

The Coens’ 1996 pic “Fargo” cumed $2.4 million and their 2003 pic “Intolerable Cruelty” totaled $9.9 million.

Sony’s “30 Days of Night” opened with great gusto at $1.9 million. But pic is not expected to display long legs.

Holdovers “Mortadelo & Filemon. Mission: Save the Planet” and “Rambo” plunged 52% and 61% in their second and third frames respectively. UPI’s “Cloverfield” also bit the dust with a 66% drop in its soph sesh.

Warner’s “The Oxford Murders” dropped far less: 38% in its fourth sesh. “Contrary to general predictions, De La Iglesia’s movie is fighting honorably in a choppy sea,” said an exhib.

Jaime Rosales’ “Solitary Fragments” proved a winner on its re-release. The understated femme drama took picture and director prizes at the Feb. 3 Goya awards, and was rewarded with a re-release on a 38 copy spread. And it banked a decent $142,056, almost half of its eight months cume of $331,908. “The movie deserved a second chance. Nobody can now underestimate the effect of the awards,” said a distribber.

Although declining 57% in its second frame, “Asterix” is the runaway box office hit of the winter in Gaul. Its first 12 days earned Pathe a princely sum of over $36 million on 1,078.

But other, lesser blockbusters have also given distributors reason to cheer. Paramount has bumped up the print run for “Cloverfield” from 430 to 447 after a good weekend nationwide. “We’re expecting a very good second week,” said Paramount France topper Camille Trumer, helped by school hols starting in some areas of the country. The Manhattan-set monster pic earned more than $3 million in first five days.

Likewise, Metropolitan is happy with returns for “Rambo,” which bench-pressed $2.8 million on 453 over the same period.

Down only 34% on the week in its fourth frame, “A Widow at Last” is a hit for Gaumont, cuming $14.2 million on 534, or 54 more prints than on opening day.

Crime caper “Rivals” looks like a passable performer for StudioCanal, taking in $1.5 million on 290 in its first five days.

As predicted, Kinowelt’s “Saw IV” cut through lackluster reviews to rip into the charts at number one, carving out $3.2 million from only 362 screens. Result gave it a strong screen average of $8,750.

Universum/Disney’s “Planet Earth” was the weekend’s second biggest bow, finishing fifth with a glowing $2.2 million at just 147 screens. The nature doc posted the frame’s best screen average: $14,740.

Universal’s “Charlie Wilson’s War” entered the charts at number seven with $1.4 million.

Chart magnet “Keinohrhasen” jumped back up to number two. Down a mere 6% and still running hot in its eighth outing at 636 screens, pic raked in an additional $2.5 million, for a running total of $44.2 million.

“National Treasure: Book of Secrets” dropped a respectable 32% in its third frame for $2.3 million and a cume of $13.2 million.

“Asterix” dropped 33% to $2.28 million in its second frame for a muscular $6.7 million total.

Overall it was a good weekend at the Teuton B.O. with attendance up 9.5% on the previous frame and up 13.2% on the same weekend last year.

Additional reporting by Andrew Horn (Germany), Emilio Mayorga (Spain), Nick Vivarelli (Italy) and David Hayhurst (France).

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