French megahit 'Ch’tis' bumped from top spot

Hollywood’s “10,000 BC” and “Horton Hears a Who!” have managed to dislodge French megahit “Bievenue chez les Ch’tis” from the top slot at the foreign box office.

Warner’s “10,000 BC” racked up two straight weekend victories in mid-March, thanks to the pic’s ability to open well in every market, with foreign cume headed toward the $200 million mark.

Though that’s far from the territory of the previous Roland Emmerich title “Day After Tomorrow,” which grossed more than $350 million internationally, it’s still a solid performance in a year that’s seen 2007 holdovers “I Am Legend,” “The Golden Compass” and “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” generate the top numbers so far.

“It’s managed to attract the male demographic pretty well in most markets — particularly preteen boys,” a rival distrib notes.

“10,000 BC” topped the chart during the Easter frame with $28 million from 7,400 prints in 62 markets. And in a sign that underlines the growing role of emerging markets, China led the way with $3.5 million at 537 digital screens and 463 conventional locations with 35mm prints.

Warner Bros. noted the debut represented the widest digital release outside the United States and the widest opening in China ever. And the caveman adventure took in $2.1 million in the U.K. and in Russia in its second frame, $2 million its Italian soph sesh, $1.8 million in its third Spanish frame and $1.65 million Mexico, where it’s led all three weekends.

“Horton” turned out to be no slouch either, with $24.5 million from 6,600 in 49 markets during the Easter weekend. Fox execs predicted the toon would hold up well in coming weeks as spring school holidays begin in most markets.

“Horton” crossed over the $50 million mark internationally and — given the strong support for toons generally — should wind up somewhere around the $130 million to $150 million mark by the end of its run. Major markets still to open include France on April 2, Italy on April 18, South Korea on May 1 and Japan on July 12.

Rivals noted Fox had faced a significant challenge in taking a Dr. Seuss property into offshore markets, where Seuss isn’t as well known. The previous Seuss live-actioners hadn’t notched boffo numbers overseas, with “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” cuming $85 million and “The Cat in the Hat” taking in just $35 million.

Distribution execs remain impressed over the successes of local pics, particularly the French pair of “Asterix at the Olympic Games,” which cumed more than $120 million and “Ch’tis,” which has cleared $140 million— including $5 million from Belgium and $2 million from French-speaking Switzerland.

“Ch’tis,” Dany Boon’s comic valentine to the inhabitants of his native region near Belgium, showed little signs of slowing down, with $19 million from a mere 970 over Easter weekend. Final cume’s likely to wind up near $200 million.

Previews totaling $2.2 million enabled “Horton” to win the Brit box office with $5.9 million, followed by “The Spiderwick Chronicles” with $5.1 million, also enhanced by previews as the family demo was well-served during the Easter frame.

Had previews not been counted, “Step Up 2 the Streets” would have taken the Blighty title, with an impressive $4.7 million. “Streets” posted the frame’s best location average — $13,483. Bookers attribute the popularity to the homevid success of the original.

In Italy, local comic Carlo Verdone’s smash hit “Grande, grosso e … Verdone” (Big, Bad and … Verdone) held on to the top spot for its third consecutive weekend in a robust Italo Easter frame that saw homegrown pics play prominently.

The assemblage of skits pulled in $3.2 million at 419 for a cume of $19 million via Aurelio De Laurentiis’ Filmauro — enough to the edge the soph sesh of “10,000 BC,” which declined only 11%.

Local teen romancer “Questa notte e ancora nostra” (This Night Is Still Ours), toplining local heartthrob Nicolas Vaporidis, opened strong, with a $2.7 million six-day take via Buena Vista. Pic, about a young Roman undertaker who wants to launch a pop band, is produced by Fulvio and Federica Lucisano. “Colpo D’occhio,” a Sergio Rubini-helmed psychodrama starring A-list thesp Riccardo Scamarcio, also debuted nicely, with $2.5 million on 399 via 01 Distribution in fourth place.

With one of the coldest Easter weekends in recent memory, Germans avoided the outdoors and flocked to theaters despite a lack of any major new films, boosting the box office by 4.7% from the previous week. Constantin Film’s local hit “The Wave” continued its swell as word of mouth and strong reviews saw a gain of 3.4% to $3.4 million after Constantin added 103 new locations in its sophomore outing for a total of 382.

“The Wave,” which asks whether Germany could go back to a dictatorship, has so far cumed $8.2 million.

Still, Germans also showed a taste for comedy as “Horton” slipped only 23% to $2.5 million, edging the opening of “Juno,” with $2.2 million from 243, as the quirky laffer neared $50 million outside the United States.

“The success of ‘Juno’ in the U.S. has obviously helped the film here,” notes one Teuton exhib. “Moviegoers here know what’s hot, and the film’s buzz has followed it across the ocean. It will enjoy similarly strong word of mouth here.”

Universum/Disney’s hit eco docu “Earth” continued its strong performance through its seventh German frame, raking in nearly $2.1 million from 421 — nearly the same amount it grossed the previous week — for a cume of $26.3 million.

Despite the ongoing success of local pics, foreign box office revenue for Hollywood’s Big Six studios is up 2% so far this year — much of that due to strong perfs by 2007 holdovers such as Disney’s pair of family pics, the “National Treasure” sequel and “Enchanted.”

“Book of Secrets” took in a solid $5.5 million in its first week in China following a March 18 launch to elevate the foreign cume to $231.4 million, 24% ahead of the original. “Enchanted” was near $200 million, thanks to taking in more than $12 million from its first two Japanese frames.

(Archie Thomas in London, Ed Meza in Berlin and Nick Vivarelli in Rome contributed to this report.)

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