'X-Files' sequel bows in France, U.K.

LONDON — At the European box office this weekend “X-Files: I Want to Believe” and “The Love Guru” look to rebound from modest U.S. openings.

Despite the usual flurry of summer openings, boffo Batpic “The Dark Knight” remains very much the must-see pic at Euro theaters this weekend.

“X-Files: I Want to Believe” widens into the U.K. and France this weekend with Fox hoping it will make more of an impact than it did last weekend in Germany and Spain. Also hoping to make good after a faltering start elsewhere is Paramount release “The Love Guru.” The Mike Myers laffer, which fell flat in its U.S. launch, hits Italo and U.K. wickets this frame hoping for a warmer welcome.

Elsewhere, sequel “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor,” the key domestic release this weekend, gets a staggered Euro release. This weekend, it makes its Euro debut in Russia and Spain.

In the U.K., there are modest commercial expectations for “The Love Guru” and “X-Files: I Want to Believe” partly because underwhelming word of mouth from the U.S. has made it over the pond via the web.

Lightweight openers mean holdovers “The Dark Knight,” “Mamma Mia!” and “Wall-E” are expected to retain their stranglehold on the top three spots.

Prospects for “I Want to Believe” were enhanced by the high-profile July 30 U.K. premiere which was attended by topliners David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. U.K. x-phile nerd herd turned out in force for Fox’s premiere suggesting want-to-see factor is high with core fanboy aud. But bookers expect “I Want to Believe” to do most of its biz on Friday night and then struggle, failing to clear $2 million over the three days. Pic is not helped by some savage reviews: “Duchovny, never the most vigorous of performers, is lethargic to the point of catalepsy,” sniped the Daily Telegraph.

Opening weekend projections for “Love Guru” range between $1.2 and $1.4 million. Reviews have been kinder in the U.K. than they were stateside: “cheerful, silly, crass, and entertaining new comedy,” was the verdict from the Guardian.

Arresting doc “Man on Wire,” about a daredevil Gallic tightrope artist who walked a high wire between the Twin Towers in the 1970s, should go very well at arthouse locations thanks to very strong reviews. “One of the most beautiful and thrilling documentaries ever made,” declared the Daily Telegraph. Icon release on 41 screens looking to expand the following weekend if screen averages are healthy. Previous U.K. box office success of Kevin Macdonald’s extreme mountaineering pic “Touching the Void” demonstrates Brit auds appetite for edge-of-your-seat man versus the elements fare.

In Germany, opener “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” looks set to reign supreme this weekend as it takes on incumbent “Mamma Mia!” for the top spot.

With the summer lull in full swing and countless Germans on holiday, box office turnout for Disney’s fantasy epic may not reach its full potential.

“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” took in more than €5 million ($7.9 million at today’s exchange rate) on its opening weekend in December 2005, usually the ideal month for tentpole productions in Germany.

The latest installment of C.S. Lewis’ fantasy series has largely left local critics cold, but it’s sure to attract plenty of attention from the tykes, teens and young adults who are enjoying summer at home.

Newspaper Der Tagespiegel complained that the director “Andrew Adamson betrays the comedy, psychology, spirit and characters of the book for a dumb fantasy battle.”

“Prince Caspian” may face competition from “Animals in Love,” a French nature doc from first-time helmer Laurent Charbonnier, one of the cinematographers on the 2001 global hit “Winged Migration.” Distrib Universum is hoping pic will follow a similar flight path as recent nature doc blockbusters “Earth” and “March of the Penguins.”

Also hitting German theaters are Warner’s surreal thriller “Surveillance,” from Jennifer Chambers Lynch, Andre Erkau’s local laffer “Selbstgespraeche,” going out via Filmlichter, and Jan Kounen’s French comedy “99 francs.”

In France, “Wall-E” got off to a fast start, opening Wednesday at $1.8 million on 736 for Disney. The toon enjoyed the ninth best bow of the year so far in Gaul.

“The X-Files: I Want to Believe” also had a good launch for Fox at $508,000 on 485. Critical response has been mixed for the big screen treatment of the cult TV series. “A near-classic thriller, offering a terrific mix of fright and fantasy,” praised Tele 7 Jours. But “even if you wanted to, you couldn’t believe it any more,” countered Le Monde.

“Surveillance,” helmer Jennifer Chambers Lynch’s first feature in 15 years, made Wild Bunch $37,075 on 54. Response was generally favorable. “It starts off like an ersatz ‘Twin Peaks,’ but ends more like a frenzied Coen Brothers farce,” said Telerama.

In Spain, the widest release is Universal’s “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor,” which bows on over 500 screens, and is expected to be the box-office champ this week, unseating Sony’s “Hancock” which enters its third weekend.

Spain has a strong fantasy-thriller genre following and the first two films in the “Mummy” franchise proved to be highly popular, both ranking amongst the top five films of the year.

Universal’s “Kung Fu Panda” and Warners’ “Get Smart” — both showing decent legs — look set to compete for third spot.

Independent shingle Vertigo hopes to achieve strong niche business with Stewart Hendler’s supernatural thriller “Whisper,” out on a 100-print release. Smaller European releases include Jean Becker’s existential drama “Deux jours a tuer” (distributed by Golem) and Sherlock Films’ re-issue of Alexander Kluge’s 1973 social drama “Occasional Work of a Female Slave.”

In Italy, “The Dark Knight” has a clear field for a solid second frame, given that the weekend’s biggest opener is serial killer thriller “Untraceable,” out on a mere 55 screens via 01 Distribuzione.

The Warner Bros. Batman pic has so far pulled $7 million in Italy where it continues its run comfortably ensconced on some 650 screens.

Italy’s first August frame is among the nation’s lightest, with millions of Italians heading for beaches and emptying out cities.

Universal is counterprogramming “Knight” with laffer “The Love Guru,” with Jessica Alba, Mike Meyers and Justin Timberlake, out on just 50.

Medusa has taken off the shelf late Russian helmer Eldar Ryazanov’s biopic “Andersen. A Life Without Love,” and is releasing on 20.

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

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