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Niche, local titles surface at Euro B.O.

'Suicides' opens in Spain, '3 Amis' in France

ROME — With Hollywood’s summer tentpole stampede now subsided, European auds are getting a wider range of goods this weekend, which will see “Sicko” make its first major offshore outing, in Italy, and “Knocked Up” bow in Blighty and Germany.

Michael Moore’s Yank health system indictment is going out relatively wide, on 250 Italo screens, via 01 Distribuzione, while in Gaul, Gaumont’s local laffer “3 Amis” got off to robust $504,000 day-one biz, amid strong blockbuster holdovers.

Meanwhile, Spain’s industryites are rooting for Julio Medem’s feminist fable “Chaotic Ana” and Roberto Santiago’s black comedy “El Club de los suicidas” (“Suicides’ Club”) hoping to prove that Spanish cinema can still fire up the home crowd.

“Sicko” is spearheading the Italo industry’s drive to snap the country out of its late summer slump. The frame’s most prominent release, the hot docu is being vigorously marketed in this socialized medicine stronghold.

Moore, currently tubthumping in Rome, is on many Italo mag covers, including La Repubblica’s weekly supplement. Exhibitors are upbeat about the prospects for “Sicko,” despite mixed reviews. “It lacks the biting satire of ‘Bowling for Columbine’ and ‘Fahrenheit 9/11,” lamented L’Espresso.

Curiously, while Judd Apatow’s teenage pregnancy laffer “Knocked Up” bows amid high expectations for Brit and Teutonic auds, Italos are getting similarly themed local title “Prova a volare” (“Try to Fly”), in which a 16-year-old contends with having a bun in the oven. Romancer toplining local heartthrob Riccardo Scamarcio as the adolescent femme’s savior is going out on 200 via Istituto Luce with some exhibs skeptical it will fly.

Cannes Palme d’Or winner “4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days,” centered around a young woman having an abortion in Communist Romania, is getting a solid sendoff via Lucky Red in Catholic Italy on 126 in a gamble exhibs are confident will pay off.

On the lighter side, Universal is releasing hot Brit laffer “Hot Fuzz” in Italy on 100.

“Knocked Up” has a good chance to open big in the U.K. where news of its boffo U.S. perf has traveled, and reviews have been mostly positive.

Working against it is the fact that leads Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogan are not well known in Blighty. And the weather is expected to be sunny and dry, which will see theaters empty as Brits look for outdoor pursuits after a rainy summer.

Bookers report that advance ticket sales are fairly flat but are not overly concerned as they feel “Knocked Up” is “more of a walk-in audience movie.” An opening weekend approaching $5 million is projected.

Pascale Ferran’s “Lady Chatterley,” a French-language screen adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s “John Thomas and Lady Jane,” has received rave reviews from the Brit critics and should go well at upmarket sites.

London listings mag Timeout, said “Chatterly” “revives the novel’s progressive vision of sex as an ecstatic, guiltless communion of souls.”

Gallic pic released by Artificial Eye should appeal to arthouse auds who have recently embraced French cinema ranging from Edith Piaf biopic “La Vie en rose” to thriller “Tell No One.”

Brit indie “Sugarhouse” from distributor Slingshot is not generating much positive buzz. The Ashley Walters starrer, which reps Gary Love’s feature directorial debut, has had poor reviews. “Dominic Leyton’s script from his play starts as a flicker of fancy words and ends as a verbose fireball consuming all reality,” sniped Nigel Andrews in the Financial Times.

Bookers however say urban thriller about a drug deal gone sour should play well in select urban sites with large Afro-Caribbean communities nearby.

In Germany, there is some doubt as to whether “Knocked Up” will knock Jackie Chan from the top, given that the second frame of “Rush Hour 3” is expected to be strong.

In the Teutonic arthouse arena the bow of Berlin Golden Bear winner “Tuya’s Wedding” is seen as having positive prospects.

This is a crucial weekend for Spanish cinema, which has had no big B.O. hit this year.

“Chaotic Ana” follows Medem’s 2001 “Lucia y el Sexo.” Charlotte Rampling starrer has been described by the helmer as a “feminist fable against the tyranny of white men.”

Bow on 154 via Fox has mucho marketing muscle, with “Ana” stills on covers or spreads in most Spanish leisure guides and Sunday supplements.

Local critics emphasize Medem’s talent, but some have reservations about the film.

“Medem is a highly gifted helmer capable of making us accept with pleasure his exotic worlds, his grandiloquent characters and his script’s arbitrary twists, only because of his colossal visual power,” said El Pais.

“El Club de los suicidas” bows on an impressive 321 prints via Alta, a bold move to conquer Spain’s mainstream audiences, and one of the biggest Spanish releases of the year. Current Spanish box office champ, “Cafe solo o con ellas,” went out on 299.

“I have pinned all my hopes on ‘Club’ and on its strong launch and advertising campaign,” declared an optimistic exhibitor.

Bloggers were getting excited about pic’s reportedly stunning Lucia Jimenez (“The Kovac Box”) and hilarious TV megastar Fernando Tejero in a tragic comic role.

Loosely based on a Robert Louis Stevenson yarn, “Club” is the third feature from Roberto Santiago (“The Longest Penalty in the World”).

It portrays the mishaps of a group of frustrated attempted suiciders who meet for group therapy.

Reviews for “Suicides’ Club” are mixed. “It has some really witty remarks, but sometimes loses its plot,” said daily ABC.

Local hopefuls will have to contend with “Evan Almighty,” which bows on 329 via Universal, while Doug Lefler’s epic “The Last Legion” is going out on 299 via DeAPlaneta, and Sean McNamara’s “Bratz: The Movie,” is bowing on 225 via Aurum.

In Gaul, summer blockbusters are showing staying power with “Ratatouille” down a mere 2% after three frames. Disney culinary toon has now cumed more than $37 million.

Still, helmer Michel Boujenah’s laffer “3 Amis” has bowed better than expected, pulling $504,000 on day one for Gaumont despite largely lukewarm reviews.

“Nice, but conventional,” ho-hummed Tele 7 Jours.

“Hairspray” had a so-so bow with $417,000 on its first day via Metropolitan, while chiller “Disturbia” debuted at $341,000 via Paramount.

Archie Thomas, Emilio Mayorga, David Hayhurst, and Christian Koehl contributed to this report.

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