French comedy breaking records

'Bienvenue' nets $34.1 million its opening weekend

French comedy “Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis” pulled off one of the more impressive upsets at the international box office in recent memory, scoring the biggest opening ever in France and easily taking the No. 1 spot at the overseas box office.

Film grossed an unheard of $34.1 million over the Feb. 29-March 2 frame from 5,014,229 admissions and a cume of $45 million through Wednesday. Advance shows the northeastern region of France — where the pic is set — brought in $4.9 million, while smaller advance preems in other locales generated a further $725,000.

Its first seven days saw a gross of $39.7 million on 793 screens for distributor Pathe.

The film, from writer-director Danny Boon, satirizes the widespread prejudices about people living in the post-industrial towns bordering Belgium and the English Channel. The film’s title means “Welcome to the Land of the Ch’tis,” the nickname for those northerners.

Henri Demoulin, director of distribution for Pathe in northern France, told Agence France Presse that not only was the film “an all-time record, but is a record for a film that is not a sequel.”

Former record-holder for biggest French opening was 2006 laffer “Les Bronzes 3: Amis pour la vie” (Friends Forever), which

came in at $27.8 million on 950

in its first week in Gaul for Warners, going on to gross nearly $81 million nationally.

“Les Ch’tis” is the second hit French comedy this year. “Asterix at the Olympic Games” opened to roughly $24.9 million in France alone, and has done equally well throughout Europe. Pic’s cume through March 2 was $115.7 million.

Boon stars in the pic with fellow comic Kad Merad. Film toplines Merad as a senior postal staffer forced to relocate to the rain-sodden north who falls for the charms of the uncouth locals — including Boon — even learning to understand their unusual provincial dialect.

“Les Ch’tis” pushed 20th Century Fox’s “Jumper” out of the No. 1 spot at the overseas box office, although at No. 2, “Jumper” remains a resilient international player.

For the weekend, “Jumper” grossed $12.5 million in its third weekend, for a foreign cume of $80.8 million and a worldwide total of $147.6 million. “Jumper’s” weekend haul was led by a second-place launch in Italy.

Sony’s political thriller “Vantage Point” came in No. 3 at the international box office in its soph sesh, grossing $11.7 million, for a foreign cume of $14.2 million and a worldwide box office of $55 million. Spring weather and some hot soccer games on the tube worked against the Spanish B.O.

As expected, “Vantage,” which is set in the Spanish town of Salamanca and toplines Spanish thesp , clicked with local auds, scoring $2.2 million from 376 prints and placing first with a $5,980 per-copy average.

Paramount Vantage’s “No Country for Old Men” made the most of an impressive Oscar bump to come in No. 4 overseas for the sesh. Pic grossed $9.3 million for an international cume of $50.3 million. Film’s worldwide box office was $119.9 through March 2.

In Italy, thanks to the Oscar bump, “No Country” shot up to numero uno after opening last week in second. The Coen brothers’ pic took in $1.9 million from 308 for a $4.6 million two-week cume, scoring the frame’s highest per-screen average — $6,100 — via Universal.

“No Country” saw a 22% uptick in its seventh frame in the U.K., to $583,341, for a cume of $12.5 million. In Spain, “No Country” dipped just 8% in its fourth sesh, cuming $8 million to date.

Fox-New Regency’s sword-and-sandals spoof “Meet the Spartans” came in No. 5 overseas for the frame, grossing $7.9 million in its fifth go-’round for a foreign cume of $12.9 million and a worldwide box office total of $50.6 million.

“Spartans” unexpectedly bested Disney’s local kiddie-franchise pic “Die Wilded Kerle 5” in Germany, placing second with $3 million from 304 screens.

David Hayhurst in France, Archie Thomas in the U.K., Andrew Horn in Germany and Emilio Mayorga in Spain contributed to this report.

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