×

LONDON — The combination of Will Smith’s box office muscle in Blighty and France and the popularity of local laffers in Italy and Germany made for an upbeat final frame in 2007 for European box office.

Post apocalyptic zombie thriller “I Am Legend” got off to a flying start in Blighty, taking $21.8 million at 440 screens in its first five days on release. Launching Dec. 26, the Will Smith vehicle ended the year with a bang for Warner Bros. with a boffo screen average of $49,456.

The big “Legend” opening and some strong holdover biz from family friendly fantasy fare helped push overall U.K. B.O. for Dec. 28-30 up 96% on the previous frame and up 39% on the same weekend last year.

In second, Entertainment’s fantasy epic “The Golden Compass” showed impressive staying power, dipping just 4% in its fourth frame to $4.33 million at 458 and a running cume of $40.4 million.

Popular on Variety

Also holding impressively was Disney’s third placed fairytale fantasy “Enchanted,” which dipped 6% in its third weekend to $4.25 million at 498 and a $20.5 million cume.

Local offering “St Trinian’s” is trundling along nicely for Entertainment. The Ealing Studios pic slipped just 3% in its soph sesh to a fourth-placed $3.5 million at 382. Female-skewed pic has banked $9.4 million over Yule period.

Top opener after “Legend” was Yank comedy “Balls of Fury,” which managed a decent $1.3 million at 228 via Universal.

Arthouse hit of the frame in the U.K. was Paramount’s “The Kite Runner.” Boosted by very positive reviews from the Brit crix, the awards season contender opened to $926,226 at 130 for a strong $7,125 screen average.

“Forster’s film is a rare canvas among Hollywood studio productions. It is an exemplary piece of storytelling, ripped quite beautifully from Khaled Hosseini’s famous book. But what distinguishes the film is a backdrop of raw and ruinous cultural events,” praised James Christopher in the Times.

Paramount’s Bob Dylan biopic “I’m Not There” is also drawing upmarket auds in the U.K. Cate Blanchett starrer rose 18% in its soph sesh from 5% more screens to take $136,534 at just 21 ($6,501 screen average).

The Italo B.O. stayed bubbly over the New Year’s with local laffers “Natale in Crociera” (Christmas on a Cruiseship) and “Una Moglie Bellissima” (A Very Beautiful Wife) still going strong, trailed by “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” and “The Golden Compass.”

“Cruiseship,” toplining comic Cristian De Sica, has now sailed past the $30 million mark, with a $31 million cume, currently on 473 playdates via Filmauro.

“Wife,” helmed and starring rival funnyman Leonardo Pieraccioni, has scored $24 million so far. It is now playing on 487 via Medusa.

By contrast, Hollywood pics are getting the crumbs.

“National Treasure” is at a distant number three with $9 million, now on 313, via Buena Vista Intl., while “Compass,” an earlier release, has pulled $11 million, at number four on 312 via 01 Distribuzione.

One U.S. pic outperforming expectations is Robert Redford’s political thriller “Lions for Lambs,” at number six with a roaring $4.5 million from 168, via Fox.

But the Italo holiday period’s real success story is Marianne Faithfull starrer “Irina Palm,” in which the former rock star plays a widow working in a brothel. Pic is solidly ensconced at number 10 with a $1.3 million take off 50 via Teodora Films.

The holiday weekend provided plenty of good cheer for the German box office as Teutons crowded into cinemas and increased ticket sales by a whopping 73% over the previous week.

Moviegoers flocked to see Til Schweiger’s local comedy “Keinohrhasen,” boosting it by an impressive 63% in its second session for a $7.2 million take from 495 and a running total of $13.7 million.

“Keinohrhasen’s” sophomore success resulted in the best weekend box office for a German film in 2007 and pic looks likely to become the most successful film of last year — a feat achieved twice before by Schweiger pics — “Maybe… Maybe Not” in 1994 and “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” in 1997.

Warner’s romantic comedy, helmed by and starring Schweiger, easily squashed “Aliens vs. Predator — Requiem,” which opened a day earlier than the week’s other releases, taking in $4.7 million from 553 in its first five days.

In its second frame, Disney’s “Enchanted” was up 31% after conjuring up a $3 million take, putting it in third with a total $6.35 million, followed by “The Golden Compass,” which was up 15% to $2.95 million on its way to a $17 million cume.

In fifth was “Alvin and the Chipmunks” with $2.9 million, up a remarkable 120% for a running total of $4 million.

While not exactly the most sought after family fare, David Cronenberg’s Russian mafia thriller “Eastern Promises” boasted a strong $8,700 per location average; the Tobis release opened in a limited but nevertheless crowded 121 locations, garnering just north of $1 million for the number nine spot.

In Spain, UPI’s “American Gangster” made a strong though not spectacular bow on 443 over Dec. 28-30 taking $3.5 million, placing first with a $8,000 copy average.

“That’s a very good gross if you take into account that it’s three hours long and we can only manage two screenings a day,” said one exhib, “but I haven’t really got any idea about how it will play out.” Another exhibitor said he was multi-screening “Gangster” to compensate for its length.

It still faced tough competition in a bullish late year B.O. rally in Spain.

Dropping 39%, Warner’s “I Am Legend” took $3 million in its sophomore sesh for a $12.8 million cume through Dec. 30. Decent result was in line with exhibitors expectations, but nothing like the standout perfs in France or the U.K.

With a similar print run of 433 to “Legend” but a less powerful bow to follow up on, BVI’s “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” took $2.5 million for a $7.3 million cume. Nicolas Cage- starrer edged down just 1% in its second frame, compared with “Legend’s” fall.

In France, “I Am Legend” is doing boffo biz for Warners. Dropping off 16% in its second frame, it’s cumed $17.9 million on 623.

After initially disappointing returns, “The Golden Compass” shot up 58% in its fourth frame for Metropolitan for a cume of $20.2 million.

“The Fox and the Child,” Luc Jacquet’s follow-up to “March of the Penguins,” was up a nifty 43% in its third frame for Disney, for a tasty cume of $13.1 million.

“Enchanted” — also from Disney — was up 52% on the week in its fifth frame for a cume of $19.4 million.

Meanwhile, “Gone Baby Gone” is a critical and commercial hit, albeit on still quite limited release. Drama pulled a first frame of $1.17 million on 87.

Gallic helmer Xavier Gens’s futuristic shoot ‘em up “Hitman” is bringing delight to EuropaCorp. Pic took $2.86 million on 420 in its first week.

In the more arty arena, thesp-turned-helmer Valeria Bruni Tedeschi’s laffer “Actrices” (Actresses) earned $898,000 on 165 in its first frame.

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