Bond blows away opposition in U.K.

'HSM3' hits high numbers in Italy, Germany, Spain

LONDON — High-octane actioner “Quantum of Solace” delivered on the massive pre-release hype, with socko bows in the U.K., France and Sweden.

Very fast start for Bond 22 — which performed particularly impressively on home turf in Blighty — portends well for its international rollout.

“High School Musical 3: Senior Year” dominated cinema trade in the other key Euro markets, opening top in Italy and holding pole position in Germany and Spain.

Euro hit of the weekend frame was Gallic laffer “Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis” (Welcome to the Sticks), which followed up on its whammo home turf perf earlier this year with strong showings in Germany and Italy. Good showings were not guaranteed given it attracted no interest in Blighty when released there.

In the U.K., “Quantum of Solace” broke records, taking $24.4 million at 540 in its whammo opening weekend. Huge haul makes it the biggest ever standard three-day opening in the U.K., eclipsing “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.” “Solace” opened comfortably ahead of “Casino Royale,” which raked in $21.8 million when it bowed, which included Thursday previews.

Powered by lots of advance ticket sales and buzz from the Oct. 29 royal world premiere in London, “Solace” got off to lightening start on Friday, taking $8 million — the biggest ever opening Friday in U.K. box office history.

Just prior to release, bookers predicted a bow of $21 million so “Solace” has outstripped upbeat expectations. Bond biz was goosed by persistently rainy weekend weather, ideal for cinemagoing.

Reviews were mostly mixed for “Solace” and Sony will be hoping word of mouth from opening weekend will be more positive, especially as the Stateside launch isn’t until Nov. 14.

In a weekend dominated by Bond — it commanded 70% of biz — there were steep drop-offs for almost all holdovers, including Disney’s “High School Musical 3,” which dipped 67% in its soph sesh for a $28.3 million running cume.

Besides Bond, hit of the weekend was comedy “Golmaal Returns,” a sequel to the successful “Golmaal — Fun Unlimited.”

“Returns,” which stars Ajay Devgan, Kareena Kapoor and Arshad Warsi, proved a smash with $307,015 at only 42 screens for a $7,311 screen average — bettered only by giants “Solace” and “HSM3.”

As predicted, Terence Davies’ “Of Time and the City” (BFI Distribution) and Steve McQueen’s “Hunger” (Pathe), firm faves on the fest circuit, played well at upmarket arthouse sites in their openings, scoring screen averages of $3,643 and $3,194, respectively.

“Solace” also blasted out of the gate in style in France, with crix and auds won over by the somber, man of action-style 007 sculpted by helmer Marc Forster.

A rare Friday release (pics usually open Wednesday in France) delivered $9.9 million in three days on 787 for Sony and marked the third-best bow of the year in Gaul.

It also managed a more-than-solid $2.7 million opening in Sweden, its only other release territory.

“HSM3” has also done well in France, often in the past a tricky market for Hollywood tuners. Up 4% on the week, it’s cumed $9.4 million on 435 for Disney after two frames.

Off by 17% in its second frame, “Mesrine: L’Instinct de mort” (Public Enemy Number One, Part 1) is proving a very nice earner for Pathe. The critically lauded biopic of a notorious Gallic villain, toplining Vincent Cassel and Cecile de France, has cumed nearly $9.4 million on 491. The local buzz is intense for “Part 2,” which bows Nov. 19.

Also going well is SND-released toon “Space Chimps,” which rose 135% in its second frame, due in large part to school hols and generally rotten weekend weather nationwide.

“Our objective is 1.2 million viewers. As long as we pass a million, which we look very likely to do, we’ll be very happy,” said sales exec Henry Hamelle.

Comicbook actioner “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” also clicked with school vacation auds, taking $2.6 million on 398 for Universal. “It’s certainly met our expectations,” said sales director Jean-Michel Lorenzi.

“HSM3” rocked Italo auds, scoring a stellar $5.1 million off 493 at numero uno for Buena Vista International after launching from the Rome Film Festival. Big bow helped push Italo biz up 35% on the previous frame.

The crowded Italo frame also saw “Welcome to the Sticks” get a warm welcome with $1.3 million from 325 via Medusa, among the top opening takes for a Gallic pic in Italy recently.

Gavin O’Connor’s New York cops drama “Pride and Glory” bowed better than expected with $881,000 off 245 via Eagle Pictures, while Teutonic terrorism drama “The Baader Meinhof Complex” bombed with a disappointing $163,000 from 119 — at a paltry $1,370 per screen average — via BIM.

Italo youth drama “The Past Is a Foreign Land,” by Daniele Vicari, had a barely passable outing, pulling $400,000 off 179 via 01 Distribuzione, while “Si Puo Fare,” an ensembler by Giulio Manfredonia about a bunch of mental institution patients re-entering society, scored a solid $325,000 from 90 via Warner Bros.

Main casualty of the crowded frame was “Donkey Xote,” the Spain-Italo co-production based on the Cervantes classic, which only managed to make $3,100 from 69 for a pathetic $450 per-screen average via co-producer Lumiq Studios and Revolver.

As expected, “HSM3” remained top of the pile in Germany in its second frame, while the real surprise turned out to be the remarkable success of French comedy “Welcome to the Sticks”.

The overall box office was down 13.5%, and while “HSM 3” generated most of the business, the rest of the pie was evenly split, with all top five pics surpassing the $1 million mark.

“Welcome to the Sticks,” Dany Boon’s laffer about a postal manager who is banished from sunny Provence to a bleak town in northern France, struck a chord with Teutons, who were tickled by the pic’s slapstick humor and the fun poked at regional prejudices.

“It’s a great light-hearted comedy and German audiences can really relate to regional differences — Berliners, Bavarians, Saxons and northern Germans all make fun of each other in similar fashion,” noted one exhib.

The Prokino/Fox release nabbed $1.3 million from 160, giving it an impressive per-screen average of $7,789.

Remaining in first place in its second frame, “HSM 3” added $3.1 million to its $10.5 million tally.

Still going strong and climbing up a notch to third place, Fox’s fantasy epic “Krabat” showed muscular legs, dropping just over 5% to $1.2 million for a running total of $7.6 million in its fourth frame.

Concorde’s “Die Geschichte vom Brandner Kaspar” took in $1.2 million, amassing a total of $4.6 million and, in fifth, “The Baader Meinhof Complex,” pulled in another $1.1 million for a $20.3 million cume in its sixth week.

As in Germany, “HSM3” stayed top in Spain, where it dropped 52% to $2.4 million and an $8 million cume.

“It was a dull weekend with no big surprises. Some holdovers took advantage and performed brilliantly,” said one booker.

“No release was capable of snatching top position from ‘HSM3.’ It looks like youngsters mainly managed to brave the appalling weather conditions in Spain and go to the movies,” said a second booker.

Aurum’s “Disaster Movie” came in second, scoring $1.3 million off 284. Showing stamina were Universal’s third placed “Burning After Reading,” sliding just 24% after four frames for a $7.5 million running total, and Filmax’s “Transsiberian,” which fell just 23% in its soph sesh for a $1.6 million cume.

The biggest surprise was the poor performance of Fox’s “Solo quiero caminar,” which bowed on 321 screens for $562,284, at a very modest $1765 print average.

” ‘Solo’ definitely deserved better. It’s a dazzling thriller backed by a good campaign,” lamented one booker.

“Maybe Spaniards are saturated by local pics of late. Then a good one with B.O potential opens and has to overcome auds’ unreceptive mood and inertia,” explained a second.

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

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