'Yes Man,' 'Bedtime' performing well in U.K.

LONDON — Animated sequel “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa,” a festive fave with families over Christmas, dominated European box office biz over the first weekend of 2009, as overall biz remained upbeat.

In the U.K., Jim Carrey laffer “Yes Man” dropped just 5% in its soph sesh to hold top spot comfortably with $3.2 million at 434 screens. The pic, the top B.O. performer for all of its 10 days on release, has now scooped $9.7 million at U.K. wickets via Warner Bros.

Overall Brit weekend biz was very upbeat — a remarkable six films topped £1 million ($1.48) for the first time in a year — as Brits looked for indoor entertainment away from the icy cold. A cheering trip to the cinema toward the end of the Christmas hols is traditional in Blighty.

Disney’s “Bedtime Stories” placed second with $2.7 million at 461. The Adam Sandler starrer rose 20% from its opening frame. Paramount release “Madagascar 2” leapt up 40% in its fifth frame to a third-placed $2.4 million at 502. The sequel has proved a solid earner over the holiday season and boasts a running cume of $29.1 million. The original took $40.7 million in the U.K., according to Rentrak.

Top U.K. opener was comicbook adaptation “The Spirit,” which landed sixth spot with $2 million at 422 via Lionsgate. Result met exhib’s fairly modest expectations.

A duo of upmarket newbies — “Che: Part One” and “The Reader” — bowed brightly, scoring impressive screen averages of $6,519 and $4,911 at 96 and 199, respectively. Bookers attribute the success of “Che” to a level of cinematic interest in Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara drummed up by “The Motorcycle Diaries” and a bullish campaign from Optimum Releasing. The indie distrib successfully played parts one and two as a back-to-back double-bill on New Year’s Day.

In Germany, long-legged boffo hit “Madagascar 2” led the field for the fifth-week running as high-profile local pics competed against top Hollywood fare for box office euros.

Universal’s critter pic added $3.2 million to its hefty total of $40.1 million, followed by Fox’s “Australia,” which dropped a slight 21% to $3.2 million for a running cume of $8.7 million.

Kinowelt’s “Righteous Kill,” pairing Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, was the only new entry in the top 10, pulling in $1.3 million from 211 for the number six spot.

Warners’ local laffer “1 ½ Knights: In Search of the Ravishing Herzelinde” dropped 29% to $2.5 million, putting it in third with an $11.5 million total. Disney’s “Bedtime Stories” took in $2.1 million toward a $6.1 million cume, ahead of Warners’ epic German drama “Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family,” which dropped 37% to $1.7 million for fifth.

In France, “Madagascar 2” has more legs than a millipede. Down by only 12% on 931 (same number as opening day), it is about to pass five million ticket sales for a socko cume of almost $36 million for Par. That was enough to make it the third biggest earner of 2008, and still going strong.

French auds have largely disregarded local critics’ negative reaction to “Australia.” The Oz epic dipped a respectable 22% in its second frame toward a $9.8 million cume for Fox. “We are very happy. We took second spot for the second weekend in a row, which is great at this time of year,” said Fox sales topper Frederic Monnereau. “French audiences tend to show love for a good, audience-oriented director like Baz Luhrmann.”

“Largo Winch” still packed a punch after three frames. The cult comic-based thriller has cumed almost $10.5 million for Wild Bunch. “Burn After Reading” is showing that the Coen brothers’ touch remains golden in Gaul. Off a mere 12% after four frames, the off-kilter dark laffer’s cume stands at $10.2 million for StudioCanal.

Sony’s “The Spirit,” the only new entry in Gaul’s box office top five, took $1.3 million on 354 after five days.

In Spain, Fox’s “Australia” took the B.O laurels for the second week in a row. The Kidman-Jackman romancer has definitely seduced Spanish auds. “The Antipodes have always been exotic and appealing to Spaniards. Add in the love-story, and you have the makings of an appealing, passionate cocktail,” said a local booker. Luhrmann’s epic romance — down just 25% in its soph sesh — is doing better biz than predicted, with $8.9 million so far banked.

Tripictures’ “Pride and Glory” took $1.8 million from Wednesday through Sunday for third place. It also boasted the second-best playdate average with $4,974, not including the 3-D screenings of “Bolt,” which took a remarkable $7,288 per site in its fifth frame.

OnPictures’ “City of Ember” bowed to $790,837 on 215, while DeAPlaneta’s “Easy Virtue” stole $661,303 from 121, and Warner’s Brit crimer “RocknRolla” strummed up $560,403 from 179. Best performing Spanish holdovers are “Madagascar 2” and “Changeling.”

Overall Spanish biz was sluggish this weekend compared with the previous two bumper frames, but local exhibs aren’t overly concerned, pointing out that shopping for Spain’s Jan. 6 Three Kings Day (when Christmas presents are traditionally exchanged) was top priority this weekend.

In Italy, box office fell back from its Christmas peak, but business remained O.K. “Madagascar 2″ took top spot in its third outing, even though its take fell 60% to $3.8 million. The cume now stands at $28.8 million for Universal.

At number two, festive local laffer “Natale A Rio” (Christmas in Rio) slid by 66% to $3.7 million for distributor Filmauro. Total box office stands at an impressive $29.6 million.

Takings for another Italo comedy, Marcello Cesena’s “Il Cosmo sul Como,” also fell by two thirds to $1.8 million in week three toward a $16 million cume-to-date.

Ed Meza (Germany), David Hayhurst (France), Emilio Mayorga (Spain) and Michael Day (Italy) contributed to this report.

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