Theaters wait for 'Indy' launch

LONDON — A quiet frame at the European box office should see holdover “Iron Man” fill its coffers again before key summer release “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” rides into town day-and-date on May 22.

With “Indy” just round the corner and action from the Cannes Film Fest dominating European entertainment news, few big releases roll out in Europe this weekend.

Matteo Garrone’s Cannes competish entry “Gomorra” is the biggest opener in Italy, where the bestseller-based Mafia drama goes out on a massive 430 screens via 01 Distribuzione.

Garrone’s gritty five-part pic is expected to be boosted by the huge success of Roberto Saviano’s eponymous expose tome, which has sold more than one million copies in Italy. On top of that, “Gomorra” the movie is getting rave reviews. “It confirms Garrone as one of today’s great directors,” enthused Corriere della Sera. Still, drawing Italo auds into more than 400 locations will be a major feat for an arthouse film like “Gomorra.”

Italy’s second-biggest opener is Superhero sendup “Superhero Movie,” out on 375 via Medusa, amid some doubts it will fly, especially given a lack of star power with local cachet.

Local teen laffer “Gli Ultimi Della Classe” (The School Dropouts), out on 255 via 01 Distribuzione, may capitalize on Italy’s infatuation with school-set romancers, but this time exhibbers are more doubtful, because both star power and marketing are lightweight.

Martin McDonagh’s Belgium-set crimer “In Bruges,” which toplines Colin Farrell, goes out in Italy on 150 via Mikado with moderate prospects.

Meanwhile, Michael Douglas and Evan Rachel Wood laffer “King of California” bows on 107 via Moviemax, while romancer “Definitely, Maybe” goes out on 100 via Universal, both with solid expectations.

In the U.K., there is a box office lull before the “Indiana Jones” storm. No big opener enters the marketplace this weekend, presenting holdovers and smaller releases with the opportunity to flourish. With rainy weather predicted on Saturday and not much televised sport, cinemas should be reasonably busy, despite the lack of anticipated fresh fare.

The widest release is leftfield high school pic “Charlie Bartlett,” which Verve Pictures sends out on 202 prints across the U.K. The fact that U.S. pic stars Robert Downey Jr., topliner of still-hot summer blockbuster “Iron Man,” should help attract auds, but reviews have been tepid. “Confused teenage comedy about confused teenagers … Director John Poll can’t make up his mind whether to be funny or serious,” said the Daily Mail.

J-horror remake “Shutter” and Noam Murro’s dysfunctional family seriocomedy “Smart People” get reasonably wide releases, out on 55 and 73 via Fox and Icon, respectively. Neither film has received much love from the Brit crix. “Really smart people will stay away,” sniped the Daily Mail about the latter pic.

A slew of upmarket niche releases hit U.K. wickets. Best reviewed is French drama “Heartbeat Detector,” which toplines hot Gallic thesp Matthew Amalric. “A dystopian thriller as chilling, atmospheric and relevant as anything French cinema has produced since Godard’s ‘Alphaville,’ ” praised Timeout. Nadine Labaki’s Beirut-set pic “Caramel,” a firm fave on the fest circuit, has also received good reviews. Momentum Pictures releases on 46.

In Germany, expected rain over the weekend may be good news for the box office, although a lack of high-profile pics could again result in sluggish admissions and keep “What Happens in Vegas” and “Iron Man” at the top of the charts.

Tobis rolls out “In Bruges,” which will likely do strong biz on the arthouse circuit, while Universal releases Owen Wilson comedy “Drillbit Taylor.”

Sony is hoping to tap the local predilection for romantic comedies with “Made of Honor” and Fox is going after young adult auds with its horror pic “Shutter.”

Neue Visionen is targeting boxing fans with Nina Pourlak’s “Es geht um alles,” a documentary on current IBF middleweight world champion “King” Arthur Abraham. The Berlin-based Armenian pugilist has amassed legions of local fans, especially after knocking out American Elvin Ayala with a devastating left hook that sent him crashing to the canvas face first in a March 29 bout.

Arthouse aficionados will also have Gus Van Sant’s “Paranoid Park,” which goes out via Peripher. Additional releases in Germany this week include Daniele Luchetti’s award-winning 60s and 70s set drama “Mio fratello e figlio unico” (My Brother Is an Only Child), going out via Kool/Central, and AV Visionen/Barnsteiner’s Japanese anime kid pic “Brave Story.”

In Spain, filmgoers are biting their nails waiting for “Indiana Jones.” As elsewhere in Europe, there are no strong openers daring to compete with the season’s big event. Holdovers “Iron Man” and “What Happens Next” are expected to stay strong.

Sony ‘s “Prom Night” is the most robust bow of the frame on just 228. This first feature by vet TV director Nelson McCormick has received negative or tepid reactions from local crix. A second thriller comes from Tripictures, which releases James Wan’s “Death Sentence” on 140, boosted by a positive response from local crix. Yank laffer “Drillbit Taylor” opens on a moderate 112 via UPI.

Aurum’s local animation aimed at adults “La crisis carnivora” (Animal Crisis) looks to take advantage of the quiet frame by bowing on an optimistic 84. “They have risked everything on this one throw, since it won’t be a long-legged pic,” said a booker.

Other openers include Nikolaj Arcel’s “De Fortabte Sjaeles” (Island of Lost Souls), which bows on 59 via Flins & Piniculas, and Claude Chabrol’s “La Fille Coupee En Deux” (A Girl Cut in Two), opening on 36 via Wanda.

With all eyes on Cannes, it was a very low-key Wednesday indeed for new bows in Gaul. None look likely to cause “Iron Man,” “What Happens in Vegas” or other heavies already in cinemas any undue anxiety.

“Cleaner” managed to take the first-day top spot with $169,420 on 156 for Colilfilms. Toplining Samuel L. Jackson as a crime scene cleaner, critics were generally mildly entertained. “An honorable product, which can be watched with neither boredom, nor any real passion,” thought Le Monde.

Japanese anime chopsocky “Fist of the North Star: New Savior Legend” took $33,740 on 51 for Eurozoom. Will Ferrell’s latest sports laffer “Semi-Pro” looks a dud for Metropolitan, bowing at just $30,575 on 115. “We’d like to forget this one very quickly,” said a distrib exec.

Some good reviews did little to boost the fortunes of “The Nanny Diaries,” which bowed at $30,320 on 40 for TFM.

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

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