Pic opens in Germany, Spain

LONDON — Roland Emmerich’s prehistoric actioner “10,000 BC” looks to dig up big B.O. treasure in its European bow in Germany and Spain this weekend.

“BC” is looking to replicate the success of Ancient Greece war epic “300,” which bowed on the same weekend last year.

Most notable local bow in Europe comes in Italy where local comic Carlo Verdone’s “Grande, grosso e Verdone” bowls into wickets virtually unopposed.

Produced and distributed by Aurelio de Laurentiis’ Filmauro, the pic is being massively marketed and will benefit from good press. It gets a saturation release on 815 screens.

The assemblage of skits centers around stock Verdone characters, including a Roman goon and an anal Italo professor.

“Written and acted to really entertain you,” is how La Repubblica praised Verdone’s latest. It is expected to open in the $10-13 million range.

Italy’s second biggest opener is “Happily N’Ever After,” a revisionist Cinderella toon, and a U.S. German co-production being touted as Germany’s first 3-D pic, which is going out on 171 via local distrib DNC.

Meanwhile, in the niche trenches, Warner Bros. is outing Gallic feelgood fantasy “Odette Toulemonde,” by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, on a mere 26, while Lucky Red is launching Salvatore Mereu’s arty Sardinian shepherd saga “Sonetaula,” also on 26.

Local bookers do not expect B.O. fireworks this weekend in the U.K., where the three widest releases are “The Other Boleyn Girl” (Universal), “Vantage Point” (Sony) and “The Game Plan” (Disney).

Political bodice-ripper “The Other Boleyn Girl” goes out on 320 locations with U hoping that the impressive cast spearheaded by Scarlett Johansson, Natalie Portman and Eric Bana, and also sporting Brit thesps Kristin Scott Thomas, David Morrissey, Mark Rylance and Benedict Cumberbatch, will drive strong opening weekend biz.

Also working in its favor are the popularity of Philippa Gregory’s 2002 bestselling book, which the pic is based on, and the seemingly magic touch of screenwriter Peter Morgan (“The Last King of Scotland,” “The Queen”).

“Boleyn Girl” was also made into a British telepic of the same title in 2003, so awareness is not a major problem.

However, the pic has mainly received only two and three star reviews from the Brit crix.

“The movie feels so cliched and lightweight, it could have been written by a Hollywood gossip columnist,” sledged Chris Tookey in the Daily Mail.

Exhibs predict an opening of $1.3 million to $1.5 million.

Political assassination thriller “Vantage Point” arrives in 351 locations via Sony. Bookers expect the crowd pleasing cast of Forest Whitaker, Dennis Quaid, Matthew Fox, Sigourney Weaver and William Hurt to help deliver a decent bow, but do not expect pic to have long legs. A first-placed bow approaching $2 million is projected by exhibs. Reviews have been mixed to negative: “If truly great thrillers are constructed with the elegance of an impeccably tailored jacket, ‘Vantage Point’ is like a badly knitted jumper: full of holes and prone to disintegrate if you follow the wrong thread,” sniped Wendy Ide in the Times.

Bookers have very modest opening weekend expectations for wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson starrer “The Game Plan.”

Irish director Lenny Abrahamson’s fest favorite “Garage” is expected to play well at arthouse locations. The niche release is buoyed by positive reviews. ” ‘Garage’ is beautifully shot and just as beautifully acted; the ravishing, if austere, landscape of the West of Ireland serves as a counterweight to the movie’s gritty-realist idiom,” wrote Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian.

In France, Wednesday’s batch of new releases had to play second fiddle to the phenomenon that is “Bienvenue Chez les Ch’tis.” The local laffer is a first frame record breaker for any film in national history with a take of $39.7 million. Including advance premieres in varied locales, it’s now topped five million in ticket sales.

The best perf of the brave crop of newcomers belonged to “Female Agents” (Les Femmes de l’ombre). Helmer Jean-Paul Salome’s wartime espionage thriller toplining Sophie Marceau and Julie Depardieu bowed at nearly $380,000 on 469 for TFM.

“Fair to middling” might best describe most critical response. “Despite the TV aesthetic, caricatured characters, cliched situations and dialogue that borders on the ridiculous, it’s an effective thriller,” was the verdict from Paris Match.

“L’Heure d’ete” managed $195,000 on 168 for MK2. Starring Juliette Binoche, helmer Olivier Assayas’ tale of a family coping with the sudden death of their matriarch, widow to a famous painter, has been well received by most scribes.

“Be Kind, Rewind” debuted at $190,360 on 190 for EuropaCorp.

Spanish-Mexican horror tale “The Orphanage” earned Wild Bunch $96,220 on 134.

Gory crime caper “Untraceable” may find it hard going in Gaul after bowing to a lowly $65,725 on 117 for Paramount. “A phony crime thriller ripping off the hyper-realistic torture scenes from ‘Saw’,” Telerama wrote.

Despite tepid reviews, the most likely contender for this week’s top spot in Germany is local-boy-made-good Emmerich’s “10,000 BC” (Warners).

Despite signs of the usual wear and tear, holdovers “Planet Earth” and “Meet the Spartans” are holding strong and should retain top three positions.

Constantin’s hip-hop musical “Step Up 2 the Streets” should benefit from the popularity of the 2006 original, web marketing and cross marketing of the music. Appeal to teens and twenty-something date auds should deliver a top 5 finish.

“The Other Boleyn Girl” from Universal looks set for a more modest start, according to local industryites. Portman and Johansson should attract both the girls and the girl watchers, but preliminary outlook puts this one as a squeaker into the top 10 at best.

Domestic pic “Kirschbluten” (Cherry Blossoms) from Fox does seem a good bet for a top 10 entry. Supported by a Berlinale preem and good reviews, the pic brought in a good Thursday crowd boding well for a strong per screen average on a modest roll out.

Bollywooder “Om Shanti Om” (Eros International), which wowed auds at its Berlinale preem, should also post a strong per-screen average and a solid arthouse run.

In Spain, “10,000 BC” is the major new release, going out on 472 copies via Warners.

Upbeat bookers are looking for anything between $4 million-$6 million.

“The spectacular trailer has given everybody a caveman appetite,” said an impatient booker.

“Reviewers haven’t been very enthusiastic, but this is the kind of movie that doesn’t need too much critical support,” pointed out a second booker.

Overall, pic has divided opinions: “Unbearable,” declared newspaper El Pais. “The movie’s spectacular, if you forget about the actor’s neatly groomed hair,” quipped newspaper ABC.

Emmerich’s previous “The Day After Tomorrow” cumed an impressive $22.3 million in Spain. Zack Snyder’s bloodfest “300″ grossed a similar $22.9 million in Spain. “300″ bowed on almost the same date last year.

Family auds, which have not been catered for lately, are the target for Jay Russell’s “The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep,” released on 200 via Sony. Crix reactions have been tepid. Marc Forster’s “The Kite Runner” bows on a controlled 132 via UPI.

In the arthouse arena, Mexican auteur Carlos Reygadas’ “Japan” debuts two weeks after his previous offering “Silent Night.”

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

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