‘Shrek 3’ reigns in Italy, Scandi

'Knocked Up' builds in U.K., Germany

LONDON — “No new tentpole, no problem” was the message at the European box office this weekend, as the staggered release of “Shrek the Third” paid off handsomely in Italy and Scandi, summer franchises like “The Bourne Ultimatum” continued to hold well, and a slew of non-tentpole titles like “Knocked Up” kept tills ringing.

The Italo box office was utterly dominated by “Shrek the Third” as the green giant gobbled up nearly one third of the frame’s total take, scoring $7.8 million on 770. That, on top of its boffo $2.4 million one-day preview draw, brought the total “Shrek 3” haul in Italy to $10.5 million to date — a best opening in the territory for an animated pic.

“Shrek the Third” also opened very impressively in Scandinavia: it pocketed $1.9 million in Norway, $1.8 million in Denmark (biggest animated bow ever in the territory) and $1.4 million in Sweden.

Total overseas cume for the animated three-quel stands at $436 million.

The only other opener in the Italo top 10 was Roland Joffe’s steamy suspenser “Captivity,” which came in a distant second, capturing $585,000 on 260 via Filmauro.

In the arthouse arena, Kim Ki-duk’s Cannes competish pic “Breath” drew a mere $47,000 on 35 via Mikado, despite the cult helmer’s strong Italo following.

In Blighty, overall trade was up 2% on the previous frame and up 11% on the same weekend last year, even though the summer tentpoles are winding down. Strong holdovers boosted biz.

“The Bourne Ultimatum” slipped just 22% in its third frame to $2.5 million and a $35.8 million running take.

Showing even better legs, second-placed Yank laffer “Knocked Up” dropped off just 10% in its soph sesh for $2.9 million and a $9.6 million ten-day haul.

Both “Ultimatum” and “Knocked Up” were warmly received by the Brit critics.

As predicted by bookers, hotel-set horror “1408” proved the best performer of the many midrange newcomers. The Paramount release took $2.2 million at 406 screens — in line with positive industry expectations.

Horror rival “Death Sentence” died a death with an underwhelming $525,492 at 288 via Entertainment. Ryan Philippe starrer “Breach” also struggled for auds in a competitive frame for midrange pics. The Fox release opened in 12th spot with just $314,623 at 196.

Jamie Bell starrer “Hallam Foe” failed to make much of an impression, despite lots of press thanks to the pic opening the Edinburgh Intl. Film Festival. An opening of $267,745 at 98 was only good enough for 14th position.

Although there were no major hits over the weekend, Germany’s box office climbed 28% as local and Hollywood comedies drew Teutonic crowds looking for laughs.

U’s “Knocked Up” remained in the top spot, dipping just 9% to $1.9 million for a running cume of $4.9 million. Exhibs report that the Judd Apatow laffer is benefiting from strong word of mouth.

Constantin Film’s “Kein Bund fuers Leben,” a wacky military comedy about reluctant army recruits from director Granz Henman, proved a hit with the youth demo, garnering $1.6 million from 301.

“Rush Hour 3” followed in third with $1.3 million toward a $9 million total, ahead of newcomer “28 Weeks Later,” which nabbed $917,722 from 302. “Later” result was below upbeat expectations. The original “28 Days Later” posted a $1.3 million opening weekend in 2003 and was also a homevid hit in Germany.

Opening at number nine, Tobis’ historical adventure “The Last Legion” took in $353,828 from 164. Bookers attribute soft bow to a lack of marketing and poor reviews.

In Spain, “Ultimatum” held top spot but faced strong competition from Universal’s local acquisition “La carta esferica.”

Despite downbeat predictions, Imanol Uribe’s seafaring treasure tale “Carta” plundered a handsome booty. Based on a best selling novel by Arturo Perez Reverte, “Carta” nabbed $884,015 from 211 copies — the best opening weekend for any Spanish film this year. The “Carta” copy average of $4,333 was also better than all the top 10 competish.

Following the recent solid openings by comedy “El Club de los suicidas” and lyrical crossover item “Chaotic Ana,” Spanish cinema is seeing a slight upturn.

“It’s been kind of a surprise. But we can’t extrapolate anything from ‘Carta’. Reverte is Reverte. He’s the key to its success,” said a booker. Reverte also penned the source material for 2006 Spanish B.O. hit “Alatriste.”

“Spanish cinema is not going to recover in one weekend, and ‘Suicidas’’ and ‘Ana’ are going under fast,” he added.

“Suicidas” and “Ana” registered drops of 54% and 49%, respectively. Bookers report poor word of mouth is hurting the homegrown pics.

“Ultimatum,” in contrast, is holding well. It dropped just 34% in its third weekend for a chart-topping $1.1 million, moving the cume to $10.6 million.

“‘Bourne’ is a great movie that is working pretty well at the box office. It has been the only summer pic targeting adult auds,” said one Spanish booker.

Tarantino’s B-movie homage “Death Proof” nabbed $783,718 at 265 for a $3,025 average. For comparison, Aug. 3 release “Planet Terror” — the other half of the planned double-bill — took $755,405 off 321 for an average of $2,397.

Disney’s “Ratatouille” continued its tremendous run at Gallic wickets. The Paris-set Pixar toon dipped just 7% in its fifth frame to $5.2 million and a $51 million cume.

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

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