‘Solace’ races across Europe

Bond film opens in Italy, Russia, Germany

LONDON — Bondpic “Quantum of Solace” guns for glory at the European box office this weekend where it expands widely after tasting early success last weekend in the U.K., France and Sweden.

This frame, the 22nd 007 pic launches in Russia, Italy and Germany, leaving Spain (Nov. 21) as the only key Euro territory yet to find “Solace.”

“Solace” launches in Italy with a clear field amid mixed reviews and solid but not stellar exhibitor expectations.

The pic, briefly shot in Italy, bows on 489 via Sony with La Repubblica giving it the thumbs up, while Corriere della Sera warned that “007 fans will be disconcerted” by its lack of irony and playfulness, stating that “the pleasure of the Bond universe crumbles.”

Bond, in any event, has never done boffo biz in Italy, as in some other Euro territories.

Italy’s second-biggest opener is Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger starrer “The Burning Plain,” marking the directorial debut of “Babel”-scribe Guillermo Arriaga.

After preeming in Venice, “Burning Plain” goes out on 220 via Medusa with tepid Italo notices. La Repubblica called Arriaga’s trademark time jumps “annoying” in this drama.

Local pic “Un Gioco da ragazze” (Girl’s Play), Matteo Rovere’s titillating tale of three well-bred Italo high-school femmes who humiliate their teachers, is launching on 178 via 01 Distribution, playing on its potential teen appeal, though lack of star power makes success dubious for “Play.”

Also looking to lure the key Italo youth crowd, albeit a bit older, is blood-and-guts Gallic horror flick “Frontier(s),” by Xavier Gens, going out on 108 via Moviemax with strong prospects, despite its “under 18 not admitted” rating.

In Germany, “Solace” is undoubtedly the key opener. Pic bows supported by a massive promo push from Sony and local crix’s praise for Craig in his second outing as the Brit superspy. However, some reviews have expressed disappointment at the thin story and lack of fulfilled expectations, with Allesfilm.com asking the question, “Where’s the sex?”

Bond hits Teutonic screens in a weekend devoid of any competing major openings. Last weekend’s number one, holdover “HSM3″ provides the main competish.

On the German arthouse circuit, genre-busting animated documentary “Waltz With Bashir” (Pandora) is expected to go well. Zitty magazine called it “one of the most stylistically noteworthy films of the year.”

The French dance comedy “Rumba,” from X Verleih/Warner, also got the thumbs up, with Treffpunkt Kino calling it “an unusually stylized bitter sweet tragicomedy.”

Also attracting some interest is political drama “My Mother’s Tears” (Farbfilm), lauded by the Tagespiegel for “strong performances and its intimate style of storytelling.”

Korean serial killer thriller, “The Chaser” hunts down the Asian-slasher movie niche crowd.

In the U.K., all eyes are on how “Solace” holds up in its second weekend. After its record-breaking three-day bow last weekend, the Bondpic has a lot to live up to but industryites are fairly confident it can hold well.

Midweek biz has been strong and bookers are hoping for a drop-off of 50%.

“Anything less than a 50% drop would be heavenly,” said a London-based exhib.

Bookers report that word-of-mouth is that “Solace” does not quite match up to “Casino Royale,” but audiences still want to find out for themselves.

The three most notable openers — “W” (Lionsgate U.K.), “Pride and Glory” (Pathe) and “Easy Virtue” (Pathe) — face an uphill struggle to lure auds given that “Solace” and “HSM3” are still front-of-mind for Brit auds.

Oliver Stone’s latest political pic “W” has an opportunity to gain some traction thanks to its high-profile gala screening at the recent Times BFI London Film Festival and Brit’s current fascination with American politics (Barack Obama’s win has undoubtedly been the big media story this week).

Ealing Studios’ Noel Coward adaptation “Easy Virtue” also received a London gala and is boosted by the strong Brit cast, which includes Ben Barnes, Colin Firth and Kristin Scott-Thomas. Pic should play well with upmarket auds turned off by muscular actioner “Solace.”

New York cop drama “Pride and Glory” hasn’t been generating much excitement and is expected to pull $1 million tops.

In Spain, a whopping 14 films unspool at theaters this weekend, including seven local pics. But only Ridley Scott’s “Body of Lies” seems capable of challenging “HSM3” — all other releases opening with only modest P&A behind them.

Leonardo DiCaprio/Russell Crowe starrer “Body of Lies” goes out on 302 screens via Warner to mostly supportive reviews: “‘Body’ doesn’t give you time to catch your breath, it’s pure entertainment with no other pretension,” rejoices popular website cineyteatro.com. “Its big gun cast is powerful weaponry,” said El Pais. “’Body’ apparently hasn’t lived up to expectations Stateside, but the numbers don’t always translate,” said one optimistic booker.

Alejandro Gomez Monteverde’s “Bella” bows on 103 via European Dreams Factory, a new Spanish indie distrib. “A trashy movie, which tries to rouse audiences sensibility by the most despicable means,” railed El Pais.

Wanda’s “The Fox & the Child” opens on 136. Pic flaunts “nature’s incredible playful, contemplative and sensitive beauty,” said El Periodico.

Local pic “Ashes from the Sky,” a green comedy about the impact of a nuclear power station on local rural environment, opens on 70 via Universal.

Other smaller Spanish bows include Manga toon “Mision en Mocland: una aventura superespecial” and Barton Films doc “Nadar.”

In France, “Saw V” saw off its only real rival, “Body of Lies,” on opening day Wednesday. A take of $424,900 on 181 — representing over 10,000 more ticket sales on fewer screens than for “Saw 4” a year ago, marked a more than decent return for Metropolitan. Since its launch, the gory horror franchise has generated no small amount of political and cultural controversy.

While not quite red hot, “Body of Lies” bowed warmly for Warners, at $386,290 on 428. The DiCaprio/Crowe combo wowed a fair few scribes. “You sense that (helmer Ridley Scott) understands his subject and the Arab world perfectly,” enthused Le Monde. “An excellent thriller” thought Metro.

Local black laffer “Bouquet Final” looks a goner for Gaumont, opening at a paltry $142,150 on 350. French crix were less than enthralled by helmer Michel Delgado’s examination of the funnier side of funeral parlor management — a subject Le Figaroscope thought was “really more of a British specialty.”

“Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa,” the big U.S. release this weekend, continues its staggered Euro release this weekend as it debuts in Hungary. The toon opened socko in Russia and the Ukraine last weekend.

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

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