‘Day’ lands smoothly in Europe

Sci-fi film meets expectations

LONDON — Sci-fi remake “The Day the Earth Stood Still” kept the box office lines moving with a very solid if not spectacular opening frame at the European box office this weekend.

The Keanu Reeves starrer met or bettered expectations in its launch in Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the U.K. and came in over projections in actioner-hungry Russia where it bagged $5.6 million, an overseas best. The upbeat results were impressive given the fact that Europeans flocked to the shops en masse this weekend to buy Christmas presents.

Holdover “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa,” top in France and Germany, continues to lure in Euro auds and looks set for a strong festive run.

In the U.K., “Day” opened in top place with $4.2 million (including $800,000 in previews) at 465 screens via Fox. Result was north of exhib’s cautious expectations but overall box office still slipped 21% as Brits either stayed home to watch the televised “X-Factor” final or dragged round the shops getting presents.

“Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” slipped 61% in its soph sesh but still took second spot in the charts. The Par release has taken $15.2 million and should play well over Christmas (school hols kick off this Friday).

Festive laffer “Four Christmases” again showed excellent traction, slipping just 25% in its third frame to move the cume to $10.2 million. The Entertainment release has been a big early December overperformer in Blighty. However, Entertainment did not have much luck with opener “Inkheart.” The book based fantasy managed only $1.1 million at 410 for a pretty lousy $2,601 screen average.

In Germany, “Day” and Warners’ Teutonic tome adaptation “Inkheart” were no match for holdover “Escape 2 Africa.”

Universal’s zany zoological CGI adventure easily defended its territory and remained king of the jungle in its second frame as the week’s new entries offered little oomph: overall, the German box office dropped 10% compared with the previous weekend.

Dropping nearly 66%, “Escape to Africa” took in $7.5 million toward a $22 million cume but is certain to keep running on long furry legs.

The best performing new release, “Day,” was far from being astronomical, or even stratospheric: with $2.8 million from 804, the sci-fi remake did just O.K.

In third, “Inkheart” took in $1.9 million from 497. Based on the bestselling kids’ book by Cornelia Funke, pic bested the opening weekend performances of the last two adaptations of the author’s popular novels, “The Thief Lord” and “The Wild Chicks,” both from 2006.

In Italy, “Day” easily took the top spot with $2.4 million from 448, in line with expectations, in a flat frame. All told, the Italo frame’s $9 million take was down 20% compared with the previous weekend due to floods and heavy holiday shopping.

Local Oscar-winner Gabriele Salvatores’ dark father-and-son drama “As God Commands” also had a commanding bow, at number two, with $1.1 million from 247 via 01 Distribuzione.

Meanwhile, Disney’s “Bolt” held on to number three, sliding 46% in its third frame for $835,000 off 416 and a $6.3 million running cume. “Saw V” dropped 62% in its soph sesh to $606,000 from 272 via 01 Distribuzione and $2.8 million take to date.

After a soft bow, Danny Boyle’s Mumbai-set “Slumdog Millionaire” slid just 11% in its second weekend, pulling a solid $317,000 off 103 via Lucky Red for a $905,000 cume to date. But the Italo arthouse arena’s standout was Israeli drama “The Lemon Tree,” which pulled the frame’s highest per screen average — $5,400 — albeit off just 10 — for $54,000 via Teodora Film.

In France, “Escape 2 Africa” dropped 34% in its soph sesh but held top spot. Its healthy cume stands at $16.2 million with holiday biz still to come.

Generally poor reviews bounced off “Day,” which netted a decent $3.3 million for Fox. Meanwhile, huzzahs from the crix helped StudioCanal release “Burn After Reading” to earn a handsome $2.8 million.

Down 52% in its third frame, EuropaCorp is well pleased with the perf for “Transporter 3” both home and abroad. Approaching 1.2 million admissions domestically, the shoot ‘em up looks a dead cert to outgun its two predecessors on home turf.

In Spain, “Day” bowed top of the pile with a solid $3.1 million from 465 at an average of $6,833. Stocky bow was in line with projections.

Something of a surprise was the steep soph sesh drop-off for vampire romancer “Twilight,” which took it in the neck with a 58% drop. “Somebody put a stake in its heart,” kidded one booker.

Feverish Christmas shopping dominated the weekend. In addition, the massively popular live televized Barcelona vs. Real Madrid “Super Classico” soccer derby on Saturday tore a hole in the weekend gross.

Tooners failed to excite auds. Filmax’s “The Hairy Tooth Fairy 2” took $318,964 from 285, and Warners’ German hit “Lissi and the Wild Emperor” grossed $298,425 from 199 screens. BVI’s “Bolt” — down 50% in its soph sesh — and Paramount’s “Escape 2 Africa” — down 62% in its third frame — also fell heavily.

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

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