Midrange pics come to the fore

European B.O. cools

LONDON — A quiet frame at the European box office this weekend sees the expansion of midrange studio pics contesting local pics for auds.

A soft frame is expected in Blighty where none of the fresh fare is likely to post big B.O. numbers.

Universal saddles up gay-themed Yank laffer “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” and exhibs are hoping for a reasonable $2 million opening take.

The Adam Sandler vehicle has done modest biz overseas thus far. Reviews have been savage: “You’d be excused for thinking no one involved in this had ever actually met a real, live homo,” slammed Ben Walters in London listings mag Time Out.

Quentin Tarantino has a firm following in the U.K. and has been doing the U.K. talkshow rounds but exhibs do not have high hopes for his fifth feature “Death Proof.” The B-movie homage has received mostly negative reviews from Brit crix. “This reproduction cinema feels like a let-down from the man who began his career with ‘Reservoir Dogs’ and ‘Pulp Fiction’,” sniped Anthony Quinn in the Independent.

Bizzers are hoping for $1.5 million opening but feel $1 million is a more realistic expectation.

Paramount sends out Angelina Jolie starrer “A Mighty Heart” on 155 screens amid strong reviews. But bookers do not feel the Pakistan-set drama from English helmer Michael Winterbottom has much commercial potential. “It should work well in London’s West End and key city sites but the depressing subjectmatter makes it a tough sell elsewhere,” said one booker. The kidnapping and beheading of U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl, which the pic is based on, was covered in depth by the Brit press at the time.

In Italy, local teen pic “Scrivilo sui muri” (“Write It on the Walls”) is the biggest opener where “Superbad” and “Atonement” also debut. But the soph sesh of “The Simpsons Movie” is expected to dominate after its bumper bow.

Graffiti-themed “Write It,” toplining hot young actress Cristiana Capotondi (“Night Before Exams”), is going out relatively wide on 310 via Eagle Pictures, but is expected to suffer from some scathing reviews — La Repubblica called it “a scrawl.”

Italo teen crowd is instead expected to be taken by “Superbad,” which got glowing write-ups praising “its testoterone fueled humor with a touch of tenderness,” as website Kataweb put it.

Sony is outing the Greg Mottola adolescent sex comedy on 235.

“Atonement,” out on 220 via Universal, will be a harder sell in Italy than in Blighty. Press out of Venice, where it opened the fest, has been mixed, with La Repubblica calling the Ian McEwan adaptation “convoluted.”

The Keira Knightley starrer opened solidly in Blighty and has since shown good legs. Italo bow reps its second market.

Also going out on 220 is Frank Oz comedy “Death at a Funeral,” released by Mikado, for which exhibbers have high hopes.

Other new entries are Italo drama “Piano, Solo,” in which Kim Rossi Stewart (“Crime Novel”) plays a tormented jazz pianist — out on 130 via 01 Distribuzione — and satirical slasher “Severance,” which Medusa is outing on 125.

In Gaul, Laurent Bouhnik’s light laffer “L’invite” bowed solidly at $365,000 on 460 for EuropaCorp on its first day, Wednesday. The houseguest from hell tale, toplining Daniel Auteuil and Valerie Lemercier, left the critics underwhelmed.

“Lazy, lymphatic and unappealing,” yawned aVoir-aLire.

Scribes seemed to see more life in the walking, stalking dead. Helmer Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s “28 Weeks Later” had a first-day take of $213,200 on 248. “Between heart attacks, you can salute the director’s virtuosity,” said Le Parisien. Fox is well pleased, noting a 70% better opening perf than for the original “28 Days Later” in 2003.

Of the holdovers, Paramount’s “The Bourne Ultimatum” is going great guns. With a first-week take of $4.8 million on 509, it should outperform the first two films in the “Bourne” franchise.

“Ratatouille” is now the box office king of 2007, and still going strong. Down only 20% on the week after seven frames, it has cumed nearly $57 million for Disney. It enters the weekend on 736 — 15 more prints than on opening day.

The fall is high season for Spanish releases, which attempt to avoid Hollywood’s summer and Christmas juggernauts. Two new local pics, both with some B.O. potential, go out this weekend.

Alvaro-Fernandez-Armero’s “Blinkers,” produced by Morena Films, sees a large copy spread for a local pic — 325 prints — via Sony, and a powerful marketing push from co-producer Telecinco Cinema, the production company of Spanish commercial network Tele5, and a producer on “Pan’s Labyrinth.”

Antonio Mercero’s Alzheimers drama “Y tu quien eres?” bows on a mid-range 150 prints via BVI. It’s been drubbing up some expectations, given that it features two of the grand old men of Spanish cinema, thesps Manuel Aleixandre and Jose Luis Lopez Vazquez.

“People have been waiting for this one. Let’s see what Mercero is capable of after ‘4th Floor,’ which really made some money,” said a booker. Kids cancer drama, “4th Floor” pulled in an extraordinary $7.3 million in 2003.

However, critics’ reactions have been mixed: “It’s too affected, and too much of a grossout comedy,” said El Pais.

This weekend also sees the bow of three studio pics — Par’s “Disturbia,” Fox’s “Day Watch” and WB’s “No Reservations.”

Scott Hicks’ remake of German-language “Mostly Martha,” “No Reservations,” goes out on 298 via Warner. A “fresh comedy for which we have very good expectations,” commented an upbeat booker.

But the pic is not to the liking of local crix highly demanding palates.

D.J. Caruso-directed thriller” Disturbia” goes out on 202 and Timur Bekmambetov’s “Day Watch” goes out on 250.

The German marketplace is set for another deluge of releases (10 this weekend), none of which boast much long-term B.O. potential.

“Ultimatum” is expected to retain top spot despite the arrival of “Disturbia” (Universal), “Shoot ‘Em Up” (Warner), “Brothers Solomon” (Sony), “Day Watch” (Twentieth Century Fox) and “Ein fliehendes Pferd” (“A Runaway Horse”) (Concorde).

The latter pic is an adaptation of a German 1970s novel, a humorous account of a marriage crisis, suitable for broader auds, starting on 120.

“I don’t see any of these films having the whisper of a chance to scratch one million,” said one exhib.

On the arthouse front comes French-produced oriental fairytale drama “Bab Aziz” (Kairos); a German docu about Islamic hatred preachers, “Hamburger Lektionen” (Farbfilm-verleih/Barnsteiner-film); and Haitian rapper doc “Ghosts of Cite Soleil” (MFA).

Additional reporting by Christian Koehl (Cologne), Nick Vivarelli (Rome), David Hayhurst (Paris) and Emilio Mayorga (Barcelona)

More Film

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content