ROME — While “Ratatouille” got gobbled up in Germany this weekend, European B.O. remained mostly anemic in a mixed-fare frame, which saw “Michael Clayton” and “Eastern Promises” open on top in Italy and Spain respectively — segueing from Venice and San Sebastian launches — and raunchy laffer “The Heartbreak Kid” finish first in Blighty.
Disney’s foodie rat toon debuted with a boffo $12.2 million on Teutonic screens, making mincemeat of the competish and providing confirmation that staggered releases can still be a smart strategy for blockbusters, following big “Ratatouille” scores in past weeks in France and Spain.
In Italy, George Clooney starrer “Clayton” easily won the flat frame, pulling $1.9 million off 380 via Medusa, a bow in line with expectations for the legal thriller denouncing corporate greed, which launched from the Lido in September.
Second biggest Italo opener was Sony’s animated “Surf’s Up,” which rode in at number four, doing a decent $870,000 off 246, playing well enough with Italian families.
Surfing penguins greatly outperformed “Cemento Armato,” a gritty homegrown actioner toplining local heartthrob Nicolas Vaporipidis, which didn’t deliver despite good buzz, opening in the sixth slot with a mere $576,000 from a too wide 328 via 01 Distribuzione.
Italos were more taken with Kevin Costner as a serial killer in “Mr. Brooks,” which did decent biz bowing at $420,000 on just 116 screens via Buena Vista.
The biggest dud in Italy was “Rush Hour 3,” which marked the first foray outside the arthouse arena for Lucky Red. Jackie Chan actioner, a megahit Stateside, got minimal Italo action, ringing up a mere $272,000 from 132, opening at number 12.
Overall, biz was down 6% compared with previous frame in both Italy and Blighty, where Ben Stiller laffer “The Heartbreak Kids” barely broke a sweat as it opened in the top U.K. spot, grossing a modest $2.4 million.
U.K. auds were distracted from hardtops by a sports-packed weekend, with an incident-packed Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix, featuring Brit contender Lewis Hamilton, a surprise victory in the Rugby World Cup for England against arch-rivals Australia, as well as a championship bout for Brit boxing superstar Aamir Khan.
Political actioner “The Kingdom” failed to meet Universal expectations in its opening bow, despite generally positive reviews and a U.K. preem that saw stars Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Garner charm press and public alike. Pic took in $1.8 million at 393 playdates.
Modest “The Kingdom” bows at both the U.K. and U.S. box office are raising questions about how the upcoming slew of war-related pics, such as “In the Valley of Elah,” “Rendition” and “Lions for Lambs,” will fare in the coming weeks. Helmer Peter Berg’s pic, about an elite F.B.I team who journey to Saudi Arabia to investigate a terror attack against a U.S. compound, was widely seen as the most commercially viable and accessible of the plethora of political pics.
Universal execs could at least take comfort from the continuing strong performance of “Atonement,” which banked another $1.1 million, in fourth place, to raise its cume to $19.6 million. Also, U’s “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” grossed just over $1 million in fifth place, taking its total to $7 million.
Only other opener in Blighty to break into the top 10 was Momentum’s critically acclaimed “Control,” Anton Corbjin’s black-and-white biopic of doomed Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis. Pic boasted highest per-screen average of all films in the top 10 — $7,212 — en route to a cume of $511,000 off 71 playdates.
Universal fared nicely in Spain, where David Cronenberg’s Russian mob pic “Eastern Promises,” toplining Viggo Mortensen, grabbed the top slot, grossing $1.2 million with a per screen average of $5,054 on the strength of strong San Sebastian fest press.
“It’s not a bad average,” said one booker. “But I hope word of mouth will give legs to ‘Promises.”
Helmer Philip G. Atwell’s “War,” a crimer with martial arts elements, opened at $901,747 via Aurum in second place, in a soft Spanish sesh.
Michael Radford’s “Flawless,” starring Michael Caine and Demi Moore, debuted at $764,141 for an acceptable $3,899 screen average via DeAPlaneta,
“It didn’t go too badly; but some of us thought that the Caine-Moore tandem would work better,” lamented an exhibber.
Spanish helmer Gracia Querejeta’s “Seven Billiards Tables” took a satisfactory $409,931 for UIP, for a $3,533 per screen average.
In the arthouse arena, Argentine thesp Ricardo Darin’s directorial debut “La senal,” a violent detective yarn set during Eva Peron’s last days, bowed so-so at $107,128 off 56, via Wanda.
In Gaul, UGC is one of few distibberies with reason to cheer this week as “Un Secret,” helmer Claude Miller’s tragic tale of a World War II family’s dark secrets, starring Cecile de France, Patrick Bruel and Ludivine Sagnier, took in $2.9 million on 331 after five days.
Fellow opener “Resident Evil: Extinction” reps a disappointment for Metropolitan. Third “Resident” installment made $2.24 million on 408, just over half the biz scared up in the first week in Gaul by both previous flicks in the franchise.
Likewise, “Intimate Enemies,” helmer Florent-Emilio Siri’s take on French special forces hunting guerillas during the Algerian conflict, is proving a bit of a disappointment for SND, taking in around $2 million on 362 in its first five days.
Additional reporting by Ali Jaafar (U.K.), Emilio Mayorga (Spain) and David Hayhurst (France) .