'Ch'tis' takes $40 million in first week

Gallic laffer “Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis” has broken the record for first-week box office in France.

Its first seven days saw an audience of 4,378,720, giving a gross to distribber Pathe of $39.7 million on 793 screens.

The Dany Boon-helmed pic, starring Boon and fellow comic Kad Merad, had preview screenings in the Northeastern region of France, where it is set. It took in more than $4.9 million on only 61 screens in its first six days. Smaller previews in other locales accounted for a further $725,795.

The national cume now stands at 5,014,229 tickets sold, for a box office of $45.4 million.

The former record holder, 2006 laffer “Les Bronzes 3: Amis pour la vie” (Friends Forever), came in at $27.8 million on 950 in its first week in Gaul for Warners, going on to gross nearly $81 million nationally.

The film toplines Merad as a senior postal staffer forced to relocate to the rain-sodden North, who falls for the charms of the uncouth locals — including real native son Boon — even learning to understand their bizarre provincial jargon.

Meanwhile, “Asterix at the Olympic Games” tailed off 44% on the week in its fifth frame for a cume of $58.6 million on 1,003, also for Pathe.

Down 48% in its second frame, helmer Cederic Klapisch’s “Paris” has cumed $9.9 million on 482 for Mars.

French helmer Pierre Morel’s “Taken” had a half-decent bow in such a take-no-prisoners market, raking in $2.4 million on 350 after five days for EuropaCorp.

Flying the flag for Hollywood fare, Disney’s “National Treasure: The Book of Secrets” was down 44% in frame three, for a cume of $14.4 million on 624.

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