Batman sequel opens strong in France, Spain

LONDON — “The Dark Knight” continued to light up the European box office with punchy bows in France and Spain this weekend.

Christopher Nolan’s brooding Batpic actioner may be one of the biggest hits of the summer but Euro auds are also showing an appetite for lightweight laffers and feelgood musicals. Adam Sandler comedy “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan” did boffo biz in its German opening this weekend and “Mamma Mia!” refuses to bow to box office gravity in Blighty.

But is wasn’t all good news for Hollywood fare at Euro wickets. “Star Wars: the Clone Wars” lost the opening battle for auds in its day-and-date release.

“Mamma Mia!” dropped just 21% in its sixth frame in the U.K. to $4.1 million at 523 screens, taking the cume to $84.2 million for Universal. Bookers attribute the continued success to the enduring popularity of Abba, strong word of mouth and lots of repeat visits.

“ ‘Mamma Mia!’ is a true phenomenon and, in terms of breakout success, deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as ‘Titanic’ and ‘The Full Monty,’ ” said an ecstatic London-based booker, predicting it will top $100 million by the end of its U.K. run.

Batpic “The Dark Knight” just pipped “Mamma Mia!” to the top spot, raking in $4.3 million at 499 toward a $74.8 million cume for Warner Bros. Although not holding quite so tenaciously as “Mamma Mia!” (it dipped 44% in its fourth sesh), “Dark Knight” is still a boffo box office hit in Blighty.

“You Don’t Mess With the Zohan” shrugged off poor reviews from the Brit crix to take $2.8 million at 367. Result made it the best performing opener of the weekend and landed it in third spot.

Working Title’s local teen comedy “Wild Child” opened nicely for Universal, netting $2.2 million at 359. Pic, which targets teen female demo, posted an impressive $6,106 screen average. Result was particularly impressive given the continued appeal of femme-skewed “Mamma Mia!”.

“Star Wars: The Clone Wars” tanked on its U.K. debut, taking a sickly $1.7 million at 419 for WB. The perf was less than half bookers’ pre-release expectations, who had expected “Star Wars” fanboys to at least make it a decent opening weekend performer.

Germans were more than eager to mess with “Zohan,” making the laffer Adam Sandler’s biggest hit ever in Germany and dethroning “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” from the top spot. Taking in $5.1 million from 579, the Sony comedy not only outperformed last year’s hit “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” but also 1999’s “Big Daddy,” until now Sandler’s biggest hit in Germany, where it grossed the current equivalent of $4.1 million (E2.8 million) in its opening weekend.

“The camp antics and international storyline made it very accessible here,” said one local booker. “After so much action and fantasy, moviegoers were eager for laughs.”

“Dragon Emperor” plunged 56% to $2.8 million in its sophomore session for a running cume of $10.9 million, while “Mamma Mia!” continued to exhibit long legs in its fifth frame, garnering $2.3 million on its way toward a boffo $23.5 million.

Opening in fifth, Warner Bros.’ “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” made $885,634. While squarely aimed at tyke auds, the latest installment in George Lucas’ franchise was hurt by an age 12 rating for excessive violence, too high for the pic’s intended target group, according to the exhib.

In Italy, “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” easily bowed at numero uno, ousting “The Dark Knight” in its fourth frame from the top spot, and leaving the crumbs to a handful of other newcomers.

The Disney sequel bowed solidly at $3.5 million off 537 on a scorching holiday weekend. “Dark Knight” dropped 16% to $700,000 (from 412) and an $11.5 million to date for Warner Bros.

Luc Besson-produced Liam Neeson thriller “Taken” bowed with a so-so $614,000 take from 194 via Fox. Other outings in Italy’s customarily soft summer frame were Yank teen romancer “Heavy Petting,” which opened at number four with a lustless $230,000 from 139 via Eagle Pictures and Hong Kong helmer Andrew Lau’s thriller “The Flock,” toplining Avril Lavigne and Richard Gere, which bowed at number five with a more satisfactory $200,000 off a mere 69 screens via 01 Distribuzione.

In France, Warner Bros.’ “The Dark Knight” overshadowed the competition, earning $6.1 million at 820 theaters in its opening five days. As elsewhere in Europe, pic was boosted by lots of buzz and strong reviews.

Futuristic family pic “WALL-E” continues to draw auds. Second-placed pic dipped just 26% in its third frame, earning $1.8 million on 743 for Disney toward a $10.9 cume.

Fuelled by strong reviews, local offering “L’Empreinte de l’ange” (Mark of an Angel) took fourth with $1 million on 286 via Diaphana.

Italo Mafia pic “Gomorra,” winner of the grand jury prize at Cannes, did a highly credible $571,919 at 121. Positive reviews, some of which suggested it deserved the Palme d’Or at Cannes, helped it on its way to a strong bow.

Going less well at Gallic wickets is “Dragon Emperor,” which dropped 51% in its soph sesh to $1.6 million on 551 and a $5.7 million cume. Eddie Murphy vehicle “Meet Dave,” saw disappointing action in its debut. The film, predicted by many critics to be a signal of the decline in the star’s comic cred, took in $715,821 on 320 screens.

In Spain, “The Dark Knight” took a decent $7 million opening at a good if unspectacular $7,323 copy average. ” ‘Knight’ performed in line with expectations, even a bit better,” said a booker. “We know that Batman isn’t Spaniards’ favorite comicbook hero, so takings are more than satisfactory,” added a second.

Universal’s “Mamma Mia!” confounded naysayers who complained about its platform release in Spain by cuming $4.9 million as it expanded to 404 from 127 the previous weekend.

Of the holdovers, Universal’s “Dragon Emperor” dropped 44% for a cume of $14.7 million after three frames. Sony’s “Hancock” slid 33% in its fifth frame, pushing the cume to $22.9 million.

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

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