‘Evan’ not so mighty in U.K.

'Ratatouille' bows big in France

LONDON — Family-friendly fare cooked up in Hollywood, from “Ratatouille” to “The Simpsons Movie,” once again bossed biz at the European box office this weekend but “Evan Almighty” got off to a shaky Euro start in its U.K. launch.

In the U.K., summery weather had sun-starved Brits looking to get a tan rather than head indoors to catch a pic.

The sun sent the overall box office take down 67% on last weekend’s monster frame but the product was still strong enough to send biz up 13% on the same weekend in 2006.

In its first outing at a major Euro market, Universal’s laffer “Evan Almighty” opened in fourth spot with a modest $2.3 million at 422 screens.

“The opening was below expectations,” said one London-based exhib, adding that “it is the first summer event movie to disappoint.”

But Brit bookers remain generally upbeat about trade. “The industry was not relying on ‘Evan Almighty’ to deliver. The many other successes have more than compensated.”

“Evan Almighty” received poor reviews from the Brit crix and was dealt another blow by the severe recent flooding in England. Bookers speculate that some auds might have not had the stomach for a pic about a flood — “a bit too close to home,” said one.

Universal looked to attract religious auds to the $175 million-budgeted comedy by organising pre-release screenings for Brit clergymen but the modern-day Noah tale did not connect at the multiplexes. Although “40 Year Old Virgin” did solid biz, “Evan Almighty” topliner Steve Carrell is not a household name in Blighty.

“Simpsons” dipped 56% in its soph sesh to take $8.2 million and top spot comfortably. The running cume now stands at $49 million. “Transformers” held fine, dipping 52% in its second weekend to $4.7 million and a $29.4 million total.

“Hairspray” continues to show good legs at the U.K. B.O. The Broadway tuner adaptation slipped just 38% in its third weekend for an upbeat total of $15.9 million for Entertainment. Female-skewed pic is playing well against testosterone-charged franchise movie fare such as “Transformers.” Pic is expected to dance its way to over $22 million in total.

In Gaul, “Ratatouille” enjoyed a phenomenal bow, gobbling up a very impressive $11.4 million on 721 in its first five days. The Paris-set pic benefited from excellent reviews.

Down 58% in its second frame, “Simpsons” has cumed over $15 million for Fox. Dropping 46% in its fourth frame, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” has cumed $41.5 million for Warners.

“Transformers” dipped a considerable 63%, moving its total to $10.1 million for Paramount.

Still showing remarkable staying power is Fox’s actioner “Live Free and Die Hard,” which was down 43% in its fifth frame for a $16 million cume.

Local Gallic fare is largely being overpowered by the Hollywood summer fare. But helmer Olivier de Plas’s laffer “Tel pere telle fille” had a pleasing first five days for SND, making $505,000 on 237.

In Spain, “Ratatouille” took $3.6 million at 523 in its first weekend. That result was below expectations and exactly half of the “Simpsons” take the previous weekend ($7.2 million on 672.)

“Simpsons” dipped 56% in its second weekend, to $3.3 million for a boffo cume of $17.6 million.

“‘Ratatouille’ definitely performed under what was expected,” lamented a Spanish exhib. “We had hopes for $6 million or, at the very worst, $5 million.”

Local bookers are hoping “Ratatouille” will prove a slow digestion delicacy.

Weaker hopes for Robert Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror” were also dashed. The “Grindhouse” project nabbed a modest $766,735 at 321. Bookers feel the below-par result could make it harder for the launch of Tarantino’s “Death Proof.”

In Germany, the return of summer temperatures and clear skies also took a heavy toll on the box office as ticket sales fell 32%.

“Transformers” managed to edge out “Simpsons” in the race for the top spot.

“Transformers” pulled $5.9 million from 763 locations, ahead of “Simpsons,” which plunged 64% in its second frame to $5.1 million on its way to a $25 million cume.

Local exhibs had predicted a close fight between the two pics, and while “Simpsons” sold more overall tickets, “Transformers” pulled in more adult-admission-paying viewers.

“‘The Simpsons’ is attracting more families and has more cross-generational appeal,” said one exhib. “It’s definitely a film for the whole family that can be enjoyed by the kids as well as their parents. ‘Transformers’ is aimed much more at young males and is much less family orientated.”

At number three, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” saw its overall tally climb $2.9 million to $52.8 million.

Benefiting from its counter-programming against autobots, toons and boy wizards, Warner Bros.’ “Because I Said So,” starring Diane Keaton and Mandy Moore, bowed in fourth with $990,177 from 219.

Marcus H. Rosenmueller’s local pic “Beste Zeit,” from Constantin Film, held remarkably well in its second frame, dipping just 12% to $212,327. Pic has now banked $585,912 on home turf.

At number nine was Kinowelt’s Handball Championship documentary “Project Gold,” which managed $160,506 in its second week for a $248,896 total.

Unlike Kinowelt’s 2006 hit doc “Deutschland: A Summer Fairytale,” which chronicled last year’s soccer World Cup, “Project Gold” has failed to generate much box office interest in the Teutonic team’s victorious performance at this year’s handball tournament in Germany.

With no new titles like “Ratatouille” to chow on, the Italo B.O. took its usual August dive.

“Phoenix” remains in the number one spot, having pulled $746,000 on 529 in its fourth weekend, for a $22.7 million running cume, followed by Thai kickboxing pic “The Protector,” which weighed in at number two overtaking “Transformers” in its sixth frame.

Thai actioner, centered around a warrior whose beloved elephants are stolen, scored a tidy $261,000 on 147, proving a winning outing for Italo distribbery Eagle Pictures.

“Transformers,” in third place, took $188,000 on 164, for a $10 million cume to date.

Sunny frame in which most Italos were beach-bound saw teen comedy “Material Girls,” toplining Hilary and Haylie Duff, pull the highest per-screen average — a mere $1,800 — on 63, for an 113,000 take via DNC.

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

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