'Old Men' finds new countries

LONDON — Dark, blood-soaked fare with awards season buzz fared well at the European box office this weekend.

Horror musical “Sweeney Todd” slaughtered the competition in its U.K. and Gallic openings, and the Coen brothers’ violent thriller “No Country for Old Men” also did solid Euro trade powered by its French debut.

Local hit of the Euro weekend was Italo romancer “Scusa se ti chiamo amore” (Sorry If I Call You Love), which opened comfortably top.

In the U.K., “Todd” carved its way to a boffo $9 million at 436 screens, according to Rentrak figs. The pic dominated weekend cinema biz with a screen average of $20,617.

No other pic cleared the $2 million bar. “Alien Vs. Predator — Requiem” (down 51% in its soph sesh) placed second.

Bookers attribute the bumper “Sweeney Todd” haul to a built-in fanbase for Burton and Depp, and excellent campaign by Warner Bros. and excellent reviews.

“January is an excellent trading period. It’s dark, cold and miserable and everyone is at work. No one is going to the beach or barbecues, so cinema benefits,” commented an exhib on the current sunny state of the marketplace.

Exhibs report “Todd” has performed exceptionally well in towns with well-established Goth groups such as Leeds.

But “Todd” is expected to fall away significantly in its second weekend. Pic was sold as a horror but word is not out at the regional plexes that it is a musical. “Todd” should hold better in London’s West End and key sites where auds were fully aware that pic is a musical prior to opening weekend.

Tommy Lee Jones starrer “In the Valley of Elah” opened a disappointing 10th with $685,675 at an ambitious 216. The bullish launch from Optimum Releasing did not pay off. No other opener cracked the top 15.

The arrival of the Demon Barber saw most holdovers plummet apart from Momentum release “P.S. I Love You” and Paramount’s awards season contender “No Country for Old Men.”

Femme-skewed romantic comedy “P.S. I Love You,” based on a bestselling debut novel by Cecelia Ahern, slipped a respectable 22% in its sixth frame for an impressive $17.5 million cume.

“Old Men” dropped 23% in its second weekend to $1.6 million at 164 and a $5.5 million running cume. Pic is expected to have long legs in Blighty due to the awards season exposure and strong word of mouth.

Some bookers feel Par could have given “Old Men” a saturation opening given the upbeat state of biz, but others praise the distrib for a measured release designed to cash in on awards season buzz. “Old Men” widens by approximately 100 prints this coming weekend.

In Italy, local teen-romancer “Sorry If I Call You Love” scored a lovely $7 million off 491, confirming the pull Cinema Italiano has these days with the homecrowd.

Prurient pic, based on a bestseller and toplining hunky Raoul Bova (“Under the Tuscan Sun”) as a thirty-something ad man who becomes entangled with a 17-year-old brunette brat, tallied a boffo $14,000 per-screen average via Medusa.

Italo frame’s other big winner was “Into the Wild,” which opened at number five, scoring $1.1 million from 176 via BIM Distribuzione.

The Sean Penn-directed drama debuted better than “The Bucket List,” which did a disappointing $1.08 million off 243 via Warner Bros.

Fox’s “Alien Vs. Predator — Requiem” scared up a moderate Italo opening, pulling $717,000 off 190, in the number eight position.

As expected, Dustin Hoffman starrer “Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium” didn’t click much, debuting at $598,000 off 160 via Moviemax in the 10th spot.

Of the holdovers, “American Gangster” had a solid second frame, dropping 32% for $3 million from 453 and a $9 million running cume via Universal.

“I Am Legend” dropped 59% in its third frame for a $1.8 million take and an $18.5 million Italo cume to date via Warner Bros.

A slew of new pics and the return of Nicolas Cage in adventure mode boded well for the German box office, where “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” opened at the top of the charts.

Jon Turteltaub’s actioner garnered $5.5 million from 641, surpassing the opening take of the first “National Treasure” in 2004, despite lukewarm to chilly reviews.

Pic also marked the best start for a Cage film here since 2000’s “Gone in 60 Seconds.”

Holding on to the second slot, “P.S. I Love You” dropped 35% to $3.14 million in its sophomore frame for a running cume of $9.4 million.

Local laffer “Keinohrhasen” followed in third, still going remarkably strongly in its sixth session with $3.1 million toward an outstanding $37.6 million total.

Down 57% in its third frame, “I Am Legend” garnered $2.17 million for a cume of $21.2 million.

Rounding out the top five was Warner’s “The Bucket List,” which took in $1.86 million from 362, giving it a robust $5,158-per-location average.

Universal’s local kidpic “Die rote Zora” (The Red Zora), based on Kurt Klaeber’s 1941 children’s book, opened in sixth with $969,401 from 297, while Wong Kar Wai’s “My Blueberry Nights” opened in ninth with $488,963 from 125 via Prokino/Fox.

In Spain, Miguel Bardem’s “Mortadelo & Filemon. Mission: Save the Planet” took top spot, grossing $4.2 million off 481 copies. Fairly strong result met most expectations.

That said, some local industryites expected “Mortadelo” to garner between $5 million and $5.5 million in its first frame. Sequel pic is now unlikely to match the $24.8 million cume managed by franchise original “Mortadelo & Filemon: The Big Adventure.”

Next week, “Mortadelo” will battle against Sylvester Stallone’s “Rambo” and “Cloverfield” for similar demos.

Alex de la Iglesia’s second-placed “The Oxford Murders” fell 23% for a $6.5 million cume after two frames. “Murders” scared up a best copy-average of $9,005.

In its third frame, Joe Wright’s “Atonement” dipped just 16% for a $4.2 million running cume.

In spite of bad reviews and poor expectations, Mike Newell’s “Love in the Time of Cholera” is doing handy biz in Spain. This weekend it banked $886,996 on 259 prints for a gratifying $2.4 million cume. Exhibbers attribute that to the Javier Bardem factor. Spanish auds want to see any movie with him in it, even if it isn’t Oscar-nominated.

Penn’s “Into the Wild” underperformed, taking $248,548 off 80 prints. But Cristian Mungiu’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner “4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days” proved an arthouse hit, posting a $4,572 copy-average off 36 prints.

In France, Depp’s adopted land, “Todd” notched a monster bow. The musical took in $4 million in its first five days on 365 for Warners.

“No Country for Old Men” also did the biz on opening weekend with $2.3 million on 356 after five days.

Down 20% in its second frame “A Widow at Last” is a winner for Gaumont. It has cumed more than $8.9 million on 528, an addition of 49 prints from opening day.

“Survivre avec les loups” managed a 2% jump in admissions in its second frame, for a cume of $2.6 million for BAC, which increased the print run to 235 from 192, due especially to its success in smaller markets all around Gaul.

Gallic hit “Into the Wild” was down 30% for Pathe in its third frame, for a satisfying cume of $6.1 million on 231.

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

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