Euro soccer set to dent box office

'Caspian,' 'Wanted' battle Germany-Spain match

LONDON — Targeted releases of “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” (U.K. and France) and “Wanted” (U.K.) look to score at the European box office this weekend.

Biz should take a sizeable dent due to Sunday evening’s European Championships soccer final between Germany and Spain.

Most promising local opener is Italo laffer “Un ‘estate al mare” (A Summer by the Sea).

In the U.K., “Prince Caspian” opened Thursday, taking $997,995 at 526 screens according to Disney. It did not match the first day haul achieved by original pic “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” which took $1.3 million on Dec. 5, 2005.

On the plus side, “Prince Caspian” has already proved its overseas appeal, banking $140 million in international, and the C.S. Lewis source books are treasured in Blighty.

“Prince Caspian” has divided the Brit critics. “You need look no further for this summer’s blockbuster for children,” praised Chris Tookey in the Daily Mail. “Disappointing muddle,” wrote Sukhdev Sandhu in the Daily Telegraph. “The magic is fading a little but the Narnia saga is still on track,” wrote Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian.

The other big opener of the weekend in Blighty is Universal release “Wanted,” Russian-Kazakh filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov’s English-language debut, which toplines Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy. Impressive cast and bullish marketing should guarantee B.O. success.

Once again, local critics are divided. “It is an in-yer-face blockbuster like nothing else this summer and it is going to be enormous,” predicted Tim Robey in the Daily Telegraph. “Heartless, antisocial, impudent and repulsive,” sniped Anthony Quinn in the Independent.

The weekend’s two other releases — Chris Waitt’s painfully honest doc “A Complete History of My Sexual Failures” (Optimum Releasing) and French period adventure “Female Agents” (Revolver Entertainment) — aim at upmarket auds turned off by summer blockbusters. 

“Sexual Failures,” in which Brit Waitt interviews old girlfriends to learn why they dumped him, while simultaneously trying to get a new squeeze, should attract interest thanks to some good notices. “It will make you laugh like nothing since Borat,” wrote Robey.

In Italy, “Un ‘estate al mare” is going out on a massive 650 via Medusa with a clear field and a lot riding on it for the local industry.

Helmed by Christmas comedy veterans Carlo and Enrico Vanzina, “Estate” is made up of a string of sketches packed with local TV talent. It’s Italy’s first attempt in decades to launch a local crowd-pleaser during the summer, when auds traditionally prefer the beach.

Medusa has put molto marketing muscle behind the pic, trying to capitalize on the absence of Yank blockbusters in this frame.

Italo plex bookers are upbeat even though “Estate” reviews are mostly negative — Corriere della Sera blasted its vulgarity and scatological humor.

Italy’s second-biggest bow is Keanu Reeves starrer “Street Kings” out on 250 via Fox. The L.A.-set noir is likely to do decent biz also thanks to the presence of Hugh Laurie, since his hospital drama “House” is huge in Italy.

Teutonic toon “Impy’s Island” goes out on 133 via local distrib Mediafilm, a clever counterprogramming move.

In the Italo arthouse arena the standout bow is Nikita Mikhalov’s courtroom drama “12” going out on just 15 via 01 Distribuzione.

In France, “Prince Caspian” bowed Wednesday with panache for Disney. A first day take of $1.7 million on 768 makes it the sixth-best opening of the year so far in Gaul.  

Laffer “Seuls Two,” a joint debut as helmers from frequent thesp co-stars Eric Judor and Ramzy Bedia, was also off to a grand start for Warners, banking $795,100 on 549. 

The tale of a policeman hellbent on nabbing an elusive master thief went down well with most crix. “The Tom and Jerry episodes through the city are hilarious. Certain to be a cult classic,” said Tele 7 Jours. 

Positive ink for “Street Kings” may belie its box office appeal in Gaul. The gritty cop thriller made a passable $163,000 on 233 for Fox.  “Considering we’ve been up against the European Cup soccer semi-finals, we’re relatively satisfied with the returns so far,” said Fox’s distribution topper Philippe Fonteix. 

Helmer Ari Folman’s Cannes screener “Waltz With Bashir” opened at $111,275 on 157 for local outfit Le Pacte. Animated doc about Israel’s 1982 Lebanon invasion has been a massive critical hit in Gaul.

Noirish comedy caper “In Bruges,” toplining Colin Farrell, took in $79,790 on 155 for SND. 

The Spanish soccer team’s success at Euro 2008 continues to irk Spanish cinema operators. Box office biz should grind to a near standstill on Sunday when Spain take on Germany in the massively-hyped final, which is expected to beat all-time Spanish TV records.

UPI’s romantic comedy “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” bows on 252 hoping to offer women something for the weekend. Reviews have been mixed. “The movie moves between nice rudeness and schmaltzy cordiality,” said La Razon newspaper.

Spanish helmer-producer Fernando Colomo (“The Near East”) fights fire with fire with “Rivales,” a laffer set in the Spanish soccer universe that examines the fierce Barcelona-Real Madrid rivalry. On Pictures releases the pic, which stars well-known local thesps Rosa Maria Sarda, Jorge Sanz and  Santi Millan, on a wide 240.

The second homegrown opener is Versus’ “Los Cronocrimenes” (Timecrimes), which bows on 77. Nacho Vigalondo’s feature debut is a time travel fable whose English remake rights were acquired by United Artists.

With no major blockbusters this week and “Sex and the City” and “Crystal Skull” finally running out of steam, the German box office looks primed for chills, thrills and quirky comedies, but the Euro soccer final will keep theaters largely empty on Sunday.

Senator’s aiming for the youth demo with its horror throwback “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” but faces competition from Universal’s killer herb in “The Ruins.”

Local critics are rooting for Jonathan Levine’s “Mandy Lane.”

“Levine masters the challenge that many of the new horror directors have failed to reach: he can provide a perfidious commentary on the genre while at the same time produce a serious slasher film; he can orientate himself on the old trusted templates and still deviate to such an extent that the horror comes off fresh and original,” wrote daily newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

Central releases “Charlie Bartlett,” which has also won wide praise from local critics, many of whom have singled out Robert Downey Jr.’s performance as the pic’s highlight.

For more niche-oriented arthouse auds, Lucia Puenzo’s Argentinean hermaphrodite drama “XXY,” which goes out via Kool, may be the pic to see.

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

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