Almodovar’s ‘Excited’ Posts Helmer’s Best-ever Bow

Helmer’s first comedy in years will not play Cannes

MADRID — Pedro power: Bucking recession and a drastic hike in Spain’s cinema ticket sales tax, Pedro Almodovar’s airplane-set comedy “I’m So Excited,” which is distribbed by Warner Bros., world preemed in Spain Friday to his best opening ever in his homeland: a first weekend Euros 1.93 million ($2.5 million).

Screen count was also Almodovar’s highest-ever: 298.

Almodovar’s previous first-sesh high was 2006’s “Volver,” which grossed $2.27 million. Almodovar’s biggest hometurf hit, cuming $13.2 million, “Volver’s” out-of-the-gate admissions-trawl bested “Excited’s” –- 335,875 plays 250,000. But last weekend’s gross was still a powerful opening for Almodovar’s first comedy since 1988’s “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.”

Per-screen-average, $8,407, suggests strong legs for “Excited,” which opens in Italy (March 21), France (March 27) and the U.S. (June 27), via Sony Pictures Classics.

“This was mostly a comedy, but Pedro’s films never stick to just one genre, so ‘Excited’ is a drama in its plot and characters, which is original but also Pedro’s brand, which works,” said producer Agustin Almodovar at El Deseo, who confirmed “Excited” would not be playing major European festivals -– scotching any prospect of a Cannes slot -– though it would grace local festivals, also outside Europe, which didn’t demand a degree of exclusivity.

“We’ll have a bit of a rest from what we’ve done recently, not going to a very major European festival,” Agustin Almodovar said.

Results are just slightly above expectations reflecting Almodovar’s return to comedy and his status as most probably Europe’s most important film director of modern times, and director-driven films work in Spain, argued Pablo Nogueroles, Warner Bros. Spain’s managing director.

Like “Volver,” a drama exploring the bedrock importance of maternity in Spain over generations, laced by social and political innuendos about Spain’s fallible ruling classes, was always seen as a possible play for the home-crowd.

Aiding its boffo bow was a campaign orchestrated by El Deseo with Warner Bros. and RTVE that mixed conventional but inspired media spend — a virtual plane zooming over the transmission of a crunch Real Madrid-Barcelona soccer match last Tuesday — with Almodovar’s innate new media sensibility.

Latter was seen in a flash-mob dance to pic’s title song last Saturday in central Madrid and Almodovar’s highly-Twitter-able artisanal drip-flow of blog-lets, clips, revelations, confessions and photos from when “I’m So Excited” was at project stage.

Inadvertently, one of the most negative reviews in the annals of Spanish film criticism — from El Pais’ Carlos Boyero, claiming “Excited” is an embarrassment –- helped goose attendance, turning “Excited” into a must-see-to-comment-on pic for anyone with a social or Internet life in Spain.

“The reviews -– good and bad — have been rejuvenating. It’s just like the old days in the early ‘80s, like we’re beginning again,” said Agustin Almodovar.

Emilio Mayorga and Emiliano de Pablos contributed to this article.

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