'Zohan' excels in Spain

LONDON — Comicbook heroes saved the European box office this weekend as “Hellboy 2: The Golden Army” and “The Dark Knight” opened top in the U.K. and Germany, respectively.

Surprise of the weekend came in Spain where Adam Sandler laffer “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan” overperformed considerably. More predictably, “Mamma Mia!” continued to pull big auds in Euro holdover biz.

In the U.K., “Hellboy 2” opened top with $5.5 million (including previews) at 464 screens. Result was slightly above expectations for the comic-based actioner sequel. Pic benefited from a bullish marketing campaign from Universal and some strong reviews from Brit crix. “Hell boy is the hottest, strangest and most fun comic-book hero around,” praised the Sun tabloid.

Box office phenomenon “Mamma Mia!” once again held tremendously well. Boosted by rowdy sing-a-long screenings this weekend, the filmed musical dropped only 17% in its seventh frame to $3.4 million and a monster $92.5 million cume via Universal.

Second-placed “Mamma Mia!” placed ahead of spy spoof opener “Get Smart,” which pocketed $2.8 million at 442 for Warner Bros. Opening take was shy of booker’s fairly modest pre-release expectations suggesting “Get Smart” topliner Steve Carell (“The 40-Year Old Virgin”) is not yet guaranteed box office in Blighty.

Local auteur Shane Meadows’ black-and-white London-set drama “Somers Town” took $223,384 at 62 in its opening for Optimum Releasing. Pic received lots of pre-release media attention partly due to fact it is fully funded by the Eurostar train service.

“The Dark Knight” took Germany by storm over the weekend, becoming the most successful comic-book adaptation since last year’s “Spider-Man 3” and the fourth biggest opening of 2008, behind “Hancock,” “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” and “I Am Legend.”

Comic-book superhero pics usually face a tough time at the German box office, with few exceptions.

Christopher Nolan’s Batpic took $9.8 million from 754, making 20% more in its first four days than the total gross of its 2005 predecessor “Batman Begins” and outperforming all other Batman films. The German box office soared nearly 26% on its bat wings.

The caped crusader cleared the field of competitors, with the only new film to make it into the top 10 being “Raeuber Kneissl,” Marcus H. Rosenmueller’s fact-based historical adventure about Bavarian bandit Mathias Kneissl, which came in at number seven.

In second, “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan” is still going strong with $2.8 million in its sophomore session for a total $9.3 million, followed by “Mamma Mia!,” which continued its boffo run with $2 million toward a $26.7 million cume.

In Spain, Sony’s “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan” defied bookers’ modest pre-release expectations with a very punchy bow. DeAPlaneta’s “Bangkok Dangerous” was most bookers’ pick for top opener but “Zohan” had the last laugh.

“The Dark Knight” was ousted from top by laffer “Zohan,” which netted $3.1 million on 338 at a first-rate copy average of $9,233. The impressive average even bested the recent opening weekend of “Dark Knight” — $7323. “It’s been a considerable surprise for us,” said a booker. “Especially if you take into account ‘Johan’s minor campaign compared with that of ‘Knight’,” added a distribber. Last year’s Adam Sandler laffer “I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry” cumed $2.6 million in total.

“Bangkok Dangerous” underperformed in fourth with $1.2 million on 314.

As elsewhere in Europe, “Mamma Mia!” is showing great traction in Spain, where the musical slid just 30% in its third frame, pushing the cume to $9.6 million

Local bows did not particularly excite Spaniards: Alta’s “Una palabra tuya” took a poor $374,254 on 100 and Fox’s “Carlitos y el campo de los suenos” managed a so-so $438,271 on 250.

In France, “Dark Knight” stayed top, despite a 49% decline. Batpic has now cumed $10.6 million. A hardy display of French fare ranked high in the charts with “Babylon A.D.” and “La fille de Monaco” placing second and fourth.

Mathieu Kassovitz directed “Babylon A.D.” raked in $1.9 million on 530. Studio Canal’s Philippe Desandre said “The movie is where we want it to be.” With the strong opening for “Babylon” and the healthy perf of “Le premier jour du reste de ta vie” (which has cumed $4.2 million after five frames), he attested that it’s a solid summer for the distributor.

“La Fille de Monaco,” penned and directed by Anne Fontaine, took in $1.5 million on 321 for Warner Bros.

Continuing to show good traction is Disney’s third-placed “Wall-E,” which dipped just 15% in the fourth sesh toward a $13.1 million French cume.

Predictably, there was little magic at the Italo box office this weekend; August is traditionally very quiet and cinema operators are looking to September for an upturn.

Disney’s “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” held on to the top spot in its second outing. Family fantasy pic fell 44% to $1.5 million with a screen average of $2,571.

New at five, Moviemax’s trippy slasher flick “Shrooms” fared best among the week’s horror releases, despite so-so reviews. It took $336,496 at a respectable $3,505 average off 96 screens.

Mitchell Lichtenstein-helmed Freudian body-horror “Teeth” showed little bite at the box office for distributor Mediafilm, bowing at just $157,817 off 114, and a $1,384 average. Universal’s “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” didn’t set the box office alight, either, taking just $69,064 off 100 screens in its first outing.

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

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