Disappointing debut for 'Leatherheads' in U.K.

LONDON — Gambling thriller “21” cashed in its chips at the European box office this weekend, taking top spot in the U.K., Germany and Spain.

The force of nature that is Dany Boon’s Gallic megahit “Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis” (‘Welcome to the Sticks’) is showing little signs of letting up its assault on the French box office – laffer regained top spot in its seventh frame and has now pocketed $173 million on home turf.

In the U.K., Las Vegas set blackjack thriller “21” hit the jackpot. The Kevin Spacey gambling pic opened top with $3 million at 358 locations per Rentrak. Result was comfortably ahead of the competish and north of most pre-release expectations.

George Clooney starrer “Leatherheads” did not break the goal line. The gridiron comedy netted $938,118 at 335, only good enough for sixth spot in a fairly open frame. The bow was roughly half industry expectations. Poor perf is attributed to the subject matter’s lack of appeal to Brit auds. Even so, result is a disappointment for Universal given that Clooney and co-star Renee Zellweger are popular in Blighty and both touched down in the U.K. to tub thump at the April 8 premiere.

Of the other significant openers, Martin Scorsese’s concert doc “Shine a Light” opened in ninth for Fox, taking $663,386 at 150.

Local laffer “Son of Rambow” took second spot thanks to a strong hold in its soph sesh. The Optimum release dipped just 16% to move it’s cume to $4.6 million.

There were very good fourth frame holds for “The Spiderwick Chronicles” (down 18% for a $17.5 million cume) and “Step Up 2 The Streets” (down 25% for $17.4 million). Mostly rainy weekend weather helped cinema biz as people looked for indoor entertainment.

In Italy, “Nim’s Island” took the flat frame which saw “Leatherheads” bow in third place behind holdover “The Kite Runner.”

Jodie Foster family fantasy “Island” pulled $1.7 million off 304 via local distribbery Moviemax, trumpeted as the tyro Italo company’s top theatrical take.

“The Kite Runner,” in its third frame, came in a close second with $1.6 million from 370, a mere 33% drop for the Marc Forster adaptation of the best-selling tome via Filmauro.

“Leatherheads,” which did not open widely, obtained a decent $5,600 per screen average for $1.2 million from 218 for Warner Bros.

Meanwhile local romancer “La seconda volta non si scorda mai” (“Never Forget the Second Time”) bowed in fifth place with $988,000 off 217 via Mikado.

“Juno,” in its second frame, dropped just 23% for $675,000 from 236 in seventh place. Fox’s teen pregnancy pic still has modest $1.9 million running cume following a disappointing Italo bow.

Monica Bellucci/Clive Owen actioner “Shoot ‘Em Up” misfired, bowing tenth with $367,000 off 194 via Eagle Pictures, while “The Oxford Murders” did a decent $354,000 from 100 playdates for Warner Bros.

“Shine a Light,” in previews, scored the Italo frame’s highest per screen average – a stellar $12,700 – on just seven via BIM.

In Germany, Warner’s World War I adventure “The Red Baron” was no match for the Las Vegas blackjack tables as “21″ bested the competition and took the week’s winnings.

Sony’s card-counting caper took in $2.1 million from 295 in what was again one of the weakest weekends of the year – overall the box office plummeted nearly 13% from the previous week.

Still surging at number two, Constantin’s “The Wave” brought in $1.4 million in its fifth week for a running total of $17 million.

Pic, about a high school project on autocracy that gets out of control, continues to greatly benefit from school group attendance after having become a must-see for political science classes.

With an opening gross of $990,248 from 407, “The Red Baron” sputtered in third.

“War movies about German military heroes are a tough sell,” noted one exhib, adding that the pic was able to do as well as it did due to its attractive cast, which includes local heartthrobs Til Schweiger and Matthias Schweighoefer.

Negative reviews haven’t helped the pic’s box office prospects. “It’s hard to know what’s more appalling: the desire to transform a war hero from the past into a modern hero of today and, in achieving that aim, whitewashing him to such an extent that there’s nothing left of him, or the clumsiness with which the director approaches his work,” sniped daily newspaper Die Tageszeitung.

In fourth, Disney’s “The Game Plan” continued to attract tykes and their parents in its third session, pulling in $976,771 on its way to a $5.2 million cume.

Rounding out the top five, Fox’s sleeper hit “Juno” added $735,623 to its $7.6 million total.

Whammo local laffer “Welcome to the Sticks” topped the weekend box office in Gaul in its seventh frame. Down only 1% on the week, the Pathe release has now banked around $173 million. As of Sunday, nearly 18.4 million Frenchmen – around 28% of Gaul’s population – have now paid to see the cultural phenomenon.

Back below in the realm of the mortals, “Disco” may be considered a success for StudioCanal. Toplining comic Franck Dubosc as a Travolta wannabe, it dipped 44% in its second frame for a cume of $15.6 million.

Released at the same time and with school hols starting in some areas, “Horton Hears a Who!” has satisfied Fox with a cume of $7.2 million on 708.

“We’re pretty confident of getting over a million entries nationwide,” said head of regional sales Philippe Sonteaix.

As for the also-rans, local laffer “Walkers in St. Tropez” limped to $1.75 million on 520 for TFM, while “Nim’s Island” took in nearly $1.7 million on 399 for SND, both after five days.

There was no real rally at the Spanish B.O., which has hit dire straits early April. But two Spanish films, playing off upbeat reception at Spain’s Malaga Fest, did perform well at local wickets.

Sony’s “21″ placed first, nabbing $1.9 million on 249. Bookers, however, expected a slightly better performance, after results in the U.S. market.

Warner Bros took second position with Spanish laffer “Chef’s Special,” which took a $6,513 copy average. Homegrown laffer garnered actor (Javier Camara) and audience kudos at the Malaga fest. Bookers forecast long legs.

Fox’s horror “Shutter” bagged $1.4 million, placing third.

Manuel Gutierrez Aragon’s “Todos estamos invitados” (Who’s Next”) took a solid $433,998, despite or because of its delicate theme – Basque terrorism.

Overall, exhibbers were left lamenting Spain’s slow trading.

“B.O. always goes down after Easter, but this year’s drop is too steep,” said one booker.

“We’ll have to wait until ‘Iron Man’ and the ‘Indiana Jones” sequel for a B.O. upturn,” forecast a second.

“Iron Man” bows May 2; “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” opens May 22.

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

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