Local pics debut in Spain, Italy

LONDON — A bloodthirsty “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” slashes into U.K. theaters this weekend. Meanwhile, in Italy and Spain auds witness the launch of two local pics, “Scusa se ti chiamo amore” and “Mortadelo & Filemon. Mission: Save the Planet.”

Tim Burton’s blood-splattered musical “Sweeney Todd” opens in Blighty on 436 boosted by an innovative marketing campaign from Warner Bros. and mostly pro reviews from the crix.

“Burton was born to film this strange and spooky chamber piece,” wrote James Christopher in the Times. A delighted Financial Times reviewer Nigel Andrews was moved to write an ode to the demon barber, which kicks off: “Lord, Mr Burton, If there’s one thing simply certain, It’s you’ve got Old London licked, So ornately derelict.”

London-set “Sweeney Todd” has been firmly in the U.K. media spotlight since the Jan. 10 premiere attended by Helena Bonham-Carter and self-confessed Anglophiles Tim Burton and Johnny Depp.

To promote the pic, temporary wet-shave barber’s stands have been set up this week at some of London’s busiest rail stations offering weary commuters free professional shaves. The experimental outdoor campaign has helped raise awareness.

Exhibs predict a bumper three-day opening around the $5 million mark. Upbeat prediction is partly based on pic’s strong preview performance. Warner Bros. reports “Todd” has taken $2.7 million in three days (Jan. 19, 20 and 24). “Todd” did $340,228 on day one (Jan. 23) in Gaul.

Iraq War themed “In the Valley of Elah” goes out on a very bullish 216 screens via Optimum Releasing. Tommy Lee Jones’ Oscar nom — considering something of a surprise by Brit kudofest watchers — for his lead role in the pic has helped give pic a late awareness boost.

Bookers expect a bow of between $1 million and $1.5 million and suggest fact that “No Country for Old Men” is yet to expand significantly gives “Elah” a decent opportunity to open well.

“Elah” is boosted by strong reviews: “It is a powerful, muscular film, and there is real anger and fear at its heart,” wrote Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian. “It’s an acrid watch, as it probably should be, and Jones turns in a driven, sorrowful masterclass, easily earning his best actor Oscar nod,” wrote Tim Robey in the Daily Telegraph.

Fox release “The Savages” also goes into the weekend hoping the Oscar noms for Laura Linney and for writer-director Tamara Jenkins in the original screenplay category will help draw upmarket auds. Pic debuts on a limited release of 34 amid more positive reviews: “Jenkins’s solemn comedy may be 389 jokes short of a Woody Allen classic, but there is a tenderness about these flawed heroes that is profoundly touching,” praised Christopher.

In Italy, the biggest opener is local teen-romancer “Scusa se ti chiamo amore” (Sorry If I Call You Love), toplining hunky Raoul Bova (Under The Tuscan Sun) as a thirtysomething ad man who becomes entangled with a 17-year-old brunette brat played by newcomer Michela Quattrociocche.

Prurient Italo pic, based on a bestseller, is going out on 575 via Medusa amid high expectations despite critical drubbings. Popular Italo film site castlerock.it slammed “Sorry” for featuring “the worst love scene in recent memory.”

Going for the older demographic, “The Bucket List” opens in Italy on 245 via Warner Bros. Again, Italo exhibbers are confident that thumbs- down reviews — La Repubblica said helmer Rob Reiner should have given the script a better read before signing on — won’t do much damage. In this case thanks to Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman being big draws.

Fox is hoping to scare up decent biz with sequel “Alien vs. Predator — Requiem” landing in Italy on 200.

In the arthouse arena, Sean Penn-directed “Into the Wild” is going out relatively wide on 179 via BIM Distribuzione boosted by rave Italian reviews.

Italo family auds are being catered for by Dustin Hoffman starrer “Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium,” out on 170 via local distribbery Moviemax amid only moderate prospects.

In Spain, Miguel Bardem’s $13 million-budgeted “Mortadelo & Filemon. Mission: Save the Planet” is the main release of the weekend. The movie, which is co-produced by commercial broadcaster Antena 3 and On Pictures, goes out on a large 490 via On Pictures.

“Mortadelo” is a live-action adaptation of Spaniard Francisco Ibanez’s popular comicbook characters and a follow-up to Javier Fesser’s “Mortadelo & Filemon: The Big Adventure,” which grossed an impressive $24.8 million in 2003.

After the successful first frame last weekend from the Telecinco co-produced “The Oxford Murders,” “Mortadelo” is another test for big-hitting movies backed by Spanish broadcasters. According to Warners Bros., “Murders” banked a seven-day $4 million cume.

Booker’s forecasts for “Mortadelo” vary. “ ‘Mortadelo’ will definitely be one of the big bows of the season,” said one exhib. “I am not sure about ‘Mortadelo’s’ performance. It will do well in its first week, but I don’t expect great things in successive frames. The same will happen to ‘The Oxford Murders’,” countered another exhibber.

Sean Penn’s “Into the Wild” bows on a cautious 81 via UPI. Crix reaction has been positive but not over the moon.

The pic that has received unanimous praise is Romanian helmer Cristian Mungiu’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner “4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days,” which Golem releases on 36.

In Germany, Disney’s “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” goes up against “The Bucket List,” with the Nicolas Cage actioner pegged as the favorite to top the weekend charts.

Pic is sure to profit from the success of the original “National Treasure,” which pulled in a respectable $15.7 million at the Teutonic box office in 2004 and went on to become a major DVD hit.

Warner’s “The Bucket List,” however, should benefit from strong reviews, which have praised Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman’s performances.

“This mix of hilarious comedy and human drama is the best that could have happened to us at the movies in the new year,” applauded local trade mag Treffpunkt Kino.

Universal’s local kidpic “Die rote Zora” (The Red Zora), based on Kurt Klaeber’s (aka Kurt Held) 1941 children’s book, goes out on 300 and is sure to attract sizeable auds due to its name recognition and nostalgic factor — book also served as the basis for a popular 1970s TV series.

Directed by Peter Kahane, the adventure follows a 12-year-old boy who, while searching for his missing father on the Croatian coast, meets the mysterious red-headed girl known as the Red Zora and her motley gang.

Wong Kar Wai’s “My Blueberry Nights,” going out via Prokino/Fox, may excite local arthouse auds, while Rois Pictures releases local comedy-drama “Der Letzte macht das Licht aus!,” about three jobless Berliners who make plans to move to Norway in search of a better life.

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

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