BERLIN — The European box office got a boost from Che Guevara’s revolutionary zeal and Guy Ritchie’s tough-guy panache this weekend as Steven Soderbergh’s “The Argentine” made its debut in Spain and “Rocknrolla” hit theaters in the U.K.
“The Dark Knight,” meanwhile, remained at the top of the charts in Germany and France.
Fox’s “The Argentine,” the first part of Soderbergh’s Che biopic, won the box office battle in Spain, the first territory in which the pic bows.
“Argentine” took a non-spectacular but very encouraging $2.5 million with a fine copy average of $7,683.
“It’s substantially more than expected,” said one booker. Che is a popular figure and widely admired in Spain.
“There are maybe diverse factors for the success: the legendary Che character, the star Benicio del Toro and helmer Steven Soderbergh; there are also Spanish actors included; and the forceful marketing campaign by Telecinco and Fox; and well… it’s a Spanish co-production,” explained Alvaro Longoria of Spain’s Morena Films and the pic’s co-producer.
Tripictures’ “Journey to the Center of the Earth” also performed better than expected, playing especially well in 3-D theaters. The Brendan Fraser actioner grossed $2.2 million and enjoyed the best copy-average of the week with $7,938.
Universal’s “Nim’s Island” placed third, taking $1.1 million. Spanish-Italian co-production “The Escorial Conspiracy” earned $1 million on 262, placing seventh.
In the U.K., Ritchie shot himself back to the top of the box office charts with “Rocknrolla,” while auds continued to dance to the tune of “Mamma Mia!”
Going out via Warner Bros., “Rocknrolla” scored a healthy debut of $2.75 million in its opening frame from 362 playdates, beating out “Mamma Mia!” and Keira Knightley starrer “The Duchess” for the number one spot. Pic marks a commercial and critical return to form for Ritchie, off the back of duds “Swept Away” and “Revolver.”
Universal’s “Mamma Mia!” held on to the second spot in its ninth frame with a three-day haul of $2.5 million. Pic, which has shown remarkable durability by only dropping 8% off its previous weekend, has now brought in a show-stopping $101 million in the U.K. alone, grossing more than even Warner Bros.’s “The Dark Knight.” Christopher Nolan’s critically-acclaimed Batman sequel brought in another $1 million over its seventh weekend to bring its cume to $82.7 million.
“The Duchess” scored a solid if un-stirring $2.4 million in its opening bow to take third spot. The fact that the pic, about the 18th century aristocrat Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, failed to dislodge the appeal of “Mamma Mia!” for femme auds may cause some concern for distrib Pathe, which invested substantial coin marketing the film. Their strategy of paralleling Knightley’s character with Princess Diana caused controversy in some circles, although did help raise pic’s profile in the run-up to its opening weekend.
Elsewhere, Momentum spoof “Disaster Movie” brought in $1.6 million from 351 playdates in its opener, while Entertainment’s Nicolas Cage-actioner “Bangkok Dangerous” scraped into the top 10 with a less-than-stellar $541,000 from 281 playdates.
In a tight battle at the German box office, Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy proved no match for the caped crusader, as “The Dark Knight” defended its number one spot from Timur Bekmambetov’s “Wanted.”
In view of a massive ad campaign, not to mention Jolie’s ubiquitous brand recognition, most exhibs were betting on new opener “Wanted” dethroning “The Dark Knight.”
The Batman pic has been getting “excellent word-of-mouth,” said one exhib, adding that the film continues to attract many viewers that wouldn’t normally go to see “typical comic book movies.”
At number two, “Wanted” took in $3.17 million from 444, contributing to the box office’s overall boost of 29%.
In its third frame, “The Dark Knight” dropped only 28%, garnering $3.23 million toward a running cume of $22.17 million, followed by “Mamma Mia,” which made $1.3 million in its eighth frame for a $30 million total.
Italian animated fantasy “Winx Club: The Secret of the Lost Kingdom” opened in fifth with $617,208 from 332 via m4e/24 Bilder.
At number six, Andreas Dresen’s critically acclaimed Cannes screener “Wolke 9” (Cloud 9) was the only other new opener in the top 10; pic took in $559,146 from 76 via Senator/Central, giving it an excellent per-location average of $7,357.
In Italy, “Kung Fu Panda” held on to the top spot in a frame otherwise dominated by local pics launched from the Venice fest.
Universal’s martial arts toon kicked butt to the tune of $4.2 million off 669 in its second weekend, giving it a $14.7 million cume to date.
Ferzan Ozpetek’s dark Rome-set drama “A Perfect Day” bowed at number two with $1.2 million from 403 via 01 Distribuzione, straight from the Lido competish.
“Perfect Day” came in ahead of “The X-Files: I Want to Believe,” which landed at number three for $767,000 off 332 via Fox.
David Leland comic costumer “Virgin Territory,” starring Hayden Christensen and Mischa Barton, got some action with $574,000 from 175 via Eagle Pictures.
Meanwhile, madcap comedy “The Seed of Discord,” by Pappi Corsicato, another Venice competish title, opened at number six with $403,000 from 216 via Medusa.
The Italo frame’s real standout is Fandango’s “Mid-August Lunch,” winner of Venice’s Lion of the Future for first works. A low-budget delicate laffer about ageing directed by 59-year-old first-timer Gianni di Gregorio and produced by “Gomorrah” helmer Matteo Garrone, pic opened in ninth with $154,000 from 39 for a $4,000 per-screen average, the highest after “Panda.”
In France, “The Dark Knight” fell 37% in its fourth frame, with its running cume at $22.7 million on 708, making it only the eighth biggest grosser of the year so far in Gaul.
Local laffer “Comme les Autres” has pleased distribber Mars with a solid first-week perf. Toplining Lambert Wilson and Pascal Elbe, the tale of a gay couple and a surrogate mother made $1.45 million on 251 in its first five days.
“Wall-E” continues to delight Disney. Off only 31% in its sixth frame, it has cumed over $24.7 million in 608, while sci-fi thriller “Babylon A.D.,” by local bad boy Mathieu Kassovitz, performed quite well in Gaul, where the crix have been far kinder than in most other markets. Down 42% in its third frame, it has totaled $6.3 million on 461 for StudioCanal.
“The Girl From Monaco” has been enjoying a strong run for Warners. Helmer/writer Anne Fontaine’s bittersweet story of seduction in the Mediterranean millionaire’s playground has cumed nearly $4.8 million after three frames on 380 — up from 321 on opening day.
Additional reporting by Ali Jaafar (U.K.), Emilio Mayorga (Spain), Nick Vivarelli (Italy) and David Hayhurst (France).