Midrange pics flood Europe

'No Reservations,' 'Chuck and Larry' arrive

LONDON — Midrange titles such as “No Reservations” and “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” and awards-season hopefuls such as “A Mighty Heart” arrive at the European box office this weekend.

In the most significant expansion, “The Simpsons Movie” gets to Italy as locals return home from their summer sojourns to the coast.

Four promising pics enter the fray in Blighty with Sony’s “Superbad” expected to post bigger numbers than Par’s “Disturbia,” Entertainment’s “Shoot Em’ Up” and Lionsgate U.K.’s “3.10 to Yuma.”

With the soph sesh of “Atonement” expected to be strong, Brit biz looks likely to remain upbeat after enjoying the biggest summer ever in terms of admissions and grosses.

Following the Brit success of “40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up,” multihyphenates Judd Apatow and Seth Rogan are developing a firm U.K. fanbase, which should help “Superbad” to a good bow.

Exhibs predict the pic will take top spot with a debut as big as $4 million. “Knocked Up” netted $3.2 million on its bow.

Reviews for “Superbad” have been roundly supportive. “It’s pretty crass and pretty silly, but only a puritanical grump would deny it’s funny,” wrote Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian.

Working against “Superbad” is the fact that there is already plenty of comedy fare in the marketplace, including “Knocked Up” and Simon Pegg laffer “Run, Fat Boy, Run” — last weekend’s B.O. champ.

Voyeurism thriller “Disturbia” has been savaged by the crix but bookers still expect it to pull $2 million.

Actioner “Shoot ‘Em Up” is boosted in the U.K. by the popularity of local thesp Clive Owen and bookers expect a $1.5 million bow.

James Mangold’s Western remake “3.10 to Yuma” has been well received by Brit crix and look set to bag up between $1 million and $1.5 million.

“The Simpsons Movie” hits Italy on 700, boosted by a massive marketing push, with upbeat exhibs expecting a $4 million-$6 million opening frame, following the country’s summer lull.

Praising the first “Simpsons” feature, La Repubblica in a Thursday front-page piece called the Matt Groening franchise “one of the all-time masterpieces of planetary pop culture.”

Second biggest Italo opener is Doug Lefler’s sword and sandals epic “Last Legion,” out on 254 via 01 Distribuzione, seen as a tough sell with present day Romans.

Dino De Laurentiis-produced pic toplining Colin Firth as a centurion has zero buzz, having flopped Stateside. Lukewarm local reviews have also pointed out the historical inaccuracy of “Legion,” always a sticking point when trying to sell local history to Italians.

Warner Bros. is outing “No Reservations” on 231 with reservations from exhibs about whether the culinary Catherine Zeta Jones starrer will whet Italo appetites. Italos are wary of Yank fare when it comes to anything food-related.

Meanwhile, in a move the Italo industry has high hopes for, Medusa is taking a big gamble outing local thriller “The Girl by the Lake” on 126. Debut by Nanni Moretti a.d. Andrea Molaioli, unspooled in the Venice crix week where perf by Toni Servillo (“The Consequences of Love”) as a small-town homicide detective drew plenty of praise.

A busy weekend at the German box office sees 12 new releases hit theaters. And that’s too many for the market to handle, according to local exhibs.

“Our theater alone will start six new pics, all of them promoted in TV ads, but will audiences tell them apart?,” questioned the managing director of a multiplex.

Significant releases include animated toon “Surf’s Up,” Michael Winterbottom’s Pakistan-set drama “A Mighty Heart” and “No Reservations.”

The latter has been getting lots of Teuton buzz as it is a Hollywood remake of popular local and overseas arthouse hit “Mostly Martha.”

Vying for similar auds are Concorde’s “Death Sentence,” Senator/Central’s “Room 1408” and BVI’s “The Lookout.”

“All three address similar audiences, and we still have ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’,” noted one booker. The soph sesh of “Ultimatum” is expected to retain top spot overall.

Of the four German pics released this weekend, Christian Petzold’s metaphysical thriller “Yella” is the best hope. The Piffl Medien release is boosted by strong reviews and the fact that thesp Nina Hoss picked up a Silver Bear at Berlin for her lead role.

Also going out are “Salvador — Fight for Freedom,” starring Daniel Bruehl as a rebel in Franco’s Spain; kids detective pic “Paula’s Secret”; and Bavarian crime comedy “Toedliche Verbindungen” (Deadly Connections).

As elsewhere in Europe, a batch of midrange pics — mostly comedies — debut in Spain where last week’s champ “Live Free or Die Hard” is expected to hold top spot.

Most notable of the nine new releases are comedy “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry,” “A Mighty Heart” and Broadway tuner adaptation “Hairspray.”

“Hairspray” opens on a bold 328 via Tripictures. Reviewers are split.

Adam Sandler comedy “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” goes out on 263 via UIP.

Also from UIP is “A Mighty Heart” on 152, amid a mixed bag of reviews. “It has a documentary body and the soul of a thriller,” praised movie mag Fotogramas. “Somewhat cold, in spite of its ending,” declared newspaper El Pais.

Paddy Breathnach’s horror pic “Shrooms” bows on 162 via DeAPlaneta.

Of local films, “La hora fria” (The Dark Hour), a lyrical Spanish sci-fi zombie pic, bows on a discreet 28 via Baditri. Helmer Elio Quiroga sparked controversy 11 years ago with his meller “Photos” at the 1996 Sitges Film Fest and can count Quentin Tarantino as a declared admirer.

Revered Spanish arthouse helmer Jose Luis Guerin debuts “In the City of Sylvia” on 11 via Wanda. Pic world-premiered at Venice and is helped by strong support from local crix.

Additional reporting by Christian Koehl (Germany), Emilio Mayorga (Spain) and Nick Vivarelli (Italy).

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