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Euro geeks welcome ‘Avatar Day’

Fans flock to special presentation

Mission accomplished. Europe’s geekdom was blown away by James Cameron’s 16-minute special presentation of his 3-D pic “Avatar” on Friday.

In its drive to drum up an avid fan base ahead of pic’s December release, Fox Filmed Entertainment scored a home run.

In the U.K., large crowds waited in line hours before the curtain went up at London’s BFI Imax, which added two shows to the four skedded to deal with the demand.

Producer Joel Silver and helmer Guy Ritchie, presumably taking a break from post-production on Warner Bros.’ “Sherlock Holmes,” were among the auds eager to catch a glimpse of Cameron’s much-anticipated extravaganza.

According to Justin Johnson, head of operations at BFI Imax, “After last year’s phenomenal takings for ‘The Dark Knight,’ we never believed that another film could possibly take so much at the box office. ‘Avatar’ looks as if it might just take things a stage further.”

In Spain, where “Avatar” unspooled at 11 cinemas, one per region, geeky website Las Horas Perdidas announced the presentation as the “most-awaited minutes of the year.”

Fans’ reactions on the site ran the gamut from “mind-boggling,” “magic” and “perfect” to “Thanks James for being born.”

However, turnout was somewhat crimped by the holidays in Spain, where the August recess is sacred.

In Italy, the “Avatar” sneak peek got the thumbs up, dispelling doubts that had been previously cast by the reception of the trailer on the Web.

The promo unspooled at a packed free event amid high-security in Le Befane multiplex in Rimini, the seaside resort that is Federico Fellini’s birthplace.

Fans leaving the preview interviewed by Sky Italia’s TG-24 news waxed ecstatic, as did comments on popular movie website Badtaste.it.

“I went in fearing that I would be disappointed and walked out almost in tears with my girlfriend, both of us blown away by its beauty,” went one Badtaste post.

In Germany, Oliver Fock, CineStar Group’s managing director said, “The reaction at ‘Avatar Day’ was, as expected, enormous. Despite the summer weather, we had full houses and enthusiastic viewers in all of our eight cinemas that participated.”

In France, Pathe-Gaumont Theaters said some 10,000 fans attended “Avatar Day” at 12 theaters.

While geeks were overjoyed, critics demonstrated the danger of the sneak peek — that, when offered much more than a trailer, they will second guess a whole movie.

“It was highly spectacular, not necessarily new and a little disturbing on an aesthetic level,” wrote Telerama’s senior film critic Aurelien Ferenczi on his blog.

“But storyline — a soldier fighting for the oppressed — has been seen and done,” wrote Le Monde’s Thomas Sotinel on his blog.

Critics’ reactions may, however, be neither here nor there for “Avatar’s” core demos.

With a $180 million-plus budget, Fox execs will be hoping not.

(Nick Vivarelli in Rome, Elsa Keslassy in Paris, Ed Meza in Berlin and Patrick Waismann in London contributed to this report.)

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