Holdovers shine in modest frame

LONDON — A mild spring frame saw holdovers such as “Step Up 2 the Streets” and “21” show good traction at the European box office in the calm before the summer tentpole storm.

Local fare again drew big auds in Gaul where megahit “Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis” (Welcome to the Sticks), holdover “Disco” and opener “Sans arme, ni haine, ni violence” (Without Weapon, Hatred, or Violence) kept cinema tills ringing.

In Italy, “Step Up 2 the Streets” stepped out at numero uno, trouncing “Horton Hears a Who!” and scoring $2.2 million from 308 for local distribbery Moviemax.

Hip-hop musical magnetized the Italo teen crowd, the biggest moviegoing aud in a flat frame that saw sunshine beam over most of the peninsula. “Step Up 2” also pulled Italy’s highest per-screen average — $7,274.

“Horton” debuted at a modest $1.4 million off a wide 463 screens for Fox, taking second place.

Sony’s gambling thriller “21” opened in third with $1.1 million from 247 for a relatively robust $4,600 per-screen take.

Gallic noir “MR 73” did not make the killing exhibs and distrib Medusa were expecting. Daniel Auteuil starrer bowed at a mere $400,000 from 161 in ninth place, for a $2,460 per-screen average, the lowest among Italy’s top 10.

Italo romancer “L’Amore non basta” (Love Is Not Enough) proved that protag Giovanna Mezzogiorno wasn’t enough, as expected, with a limp $191,000 from 76 via Mediafilm.

In the arthouse arena, Aussie laffer “Introducing the Dwights,” toplining Brenda Blethyn, also didn’t drum up much biz, with $153,000 squeezed from 69 via Lucky Red.

In the U.K., “21” held top spot in its soph sesh. The Kevin Spacey starrer slipped 33% to $2 million at 356 locations, according to Rentrak.

Top opener was second-placed “Fool’s Gold,” which coined $1.9 million at 398 via Warner Bros. The romantic comedy, starring Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson, met local bookers’ expectations.

In third, Colin Farrell starrer “In Bruges” just about met reasonable expectations. The Belgium-set actioner, which has already done very strong biz in Ireland, managed $1.3 million. Running cume (including Irish takings) now stands at $5.6 million.

Performance of the weekend at U.K. wickets goes to Momentum Pictures’ release “Happy-Go-Lucky.” Benefiting from excellent reviews, the Mike Leigh comedy took $761,097 at 77. Pic’s screen average of $9,884 was streets ahead of all the competish and suggests Leigh fans and other sophisticated auds are happy to embrace this mellower work from the revered Brit helmer, best known for his grittier films.

As predicted by exhibs, Daniel Craig starrer “Flashbacks of a Fool” bombed on its debut. The Disney release netted just $486,214 at 272 — only good enough for 11th in the charts.

Of the holdovers, dance sequel “Step Up 2” from Universal continues to show great traction. Pic slipped just 22% in its fifth frame for a bumper $19.4 million total. Paramount’s “The Spiderwick Chronicles” also continues to defy gravity. It slipped 18% in its fifth frame, moving the cume to $19.6 million.

Summer came early to the German box office as Disney’s teen romance “Sommer” (Summer) topped the charts, knocking “21” from number one.

The beach-blanket romp from Munich-based SamFilm has cemented the star appeal of its young star, Jimi Blue Ochsenknecht, who has shot to fame with Disney and SamFilm’s hugely popular “Wild Soccer Bunch” franchise.

Pic took $2.1 million from 407, followed by “21,” which dropped 38% in its sophomore session, garnering $1.3 million on its way to a $2.7 million cume.

Overall box office slipped 8.8% from the previous weekend as there were no significant openers other than “Summer.”

Still going strong in its sixth week, Constantin’s “The Wave” added $1.1 million to its $18.9 million total.

At number four, Fox’s gritty cop drama “Street Kings,” starring Keanu Reeves and Forest Whitaker, opened with $967,185 from 309, followed by “The Game Plan,” which rounded out the top five with $556,809 in its fourth frame for a $6 million cume.

Universal’s local 1980s-set comedy “Fleisch ist mein Gemuese,” the only other new entry to make it into the top 10, garnered $453,671 from 148.

As usual, the school holiday season is setting the cash registers ringing in Gaul for the top cinema draws, especially in and around Paris.

Whammo local laffer “Welcome to the Sticks” — $181.2 million and counting for Pathe — still bosses biz. The Dany Boon comedy retained top spot in its eighth frame, dropping a very respectable 25% on the week.

With more than 19 million Frenchmen having now shelled out to see the laffer phenom, it will surely top Gaul’s all-time attendance record, set by “Titanic” a decade ago, within the next few weeks. “Titanic” sold 20,758,841 tickets in France.

Down 32% on the week in its third frame, StudioCanal release “Disco” has now cumed an impressive $20.3 million.

“Horton Hears a Who!” has Fox feelin’ fine, having easily met expectations. Off 10% after three frames, the cume stands at $11.1 million.

Best opener in France was “The Spiderwick Chronicles,” with a first five-day take of $2.5 million on 451 for Par.

Local thesp Jean-Paul Rouve’s helming bow is also a go for Mars. “Without Weapon, Hatred, or Violence,” a biopic of the man behind a legendary 1970s Riviera bank heist, made $2 million on 285, also after five days.

In Spain, none of the openers placed at any of the top spots, which were held by the previous frame toppers in their soph sesh.

Sony’s “21” dipped a respectable 28% for a $3.7 million cume; Spanish comedy “Chef’s Special,” released by Warner, slid just 16% cuming a first-rate $3.2 million and registering the second best copy average — $5,628; Fox’s “Shutter” fell 33% for a $2.6 million cume.

Best performing opener was Isabel Coixet’s fourth-placed “Elegy,” which took $946,454 at 127 for On Pictures. The Ben Kingsley-Penelope Cruz drama posted a brilliant $7,671 copy average, the highest of the weekend.

“They may have been too cautious with such a low copy spread, considering it received excellent reviews, boasts the Cruz-Kingsley factor, and got lots of press thanks to prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero attended a special screening last Wednesday,” said a booker.

Wayne Wang’s “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers,” which won the Golden Shell at San Sebastian, proved a niche hit. Opening on just 27 via Karma, it bagged an excellent $5,512 copy average.

Aurum’s “Never Back Down” opened to $832,774, while fellow debutante “Rendition,” from Tripictures, got $641,232. Both bows were below expectations in a flattish Spanish frame.

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

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