Europe oozes money, money, money

'Mama Mia!,' 'Hancock' lead pack

LONDON — European weekend box office biz sizzled as feel-good musical “Mamma Mia!” and Will Smith superhero pic “Hancock” both drew big auds. In an upbeat overall frame, there were also strong openings for other Hollywood fare including “Wall-E” (U.K.), “Wanted” (France) and “Hellboy II” (Italy).

European summer blockbuster season is upped another level this coming weekend when Batman actioner “The Dark Knight” swoops into theaters. Pic received its Euro premiere Monday in London.

In the U.K., “Mamma Mia!” topped the charts in its soph sesh. The Abba musical dipped just 31% to $9.1 million at 495 screens for a $33.8 million running take for Universal. The feel-good counterprogrammer hasn’t hit a dud note since its star-studded June 30 world premiere in London.

Disney’s “Wall-E” opened in second with $8.5 million at 501. The Pixar toon, which has been heavily promoted in Blighty, scored an impressive screen average of $16,990.

Overall weekend U.K. biz was upbeat with all of the top six pics in the charts clearing $1 million. “Hancock” and “Kung Fu Panda” both put in decent showings in their third outings. Third-placed “Hancock” dipped 45% to $4 million and a $41.6 million. “Panda” dropped 46% to $3 million and a cume of $27.7 million.

Racy teen horror “Donkey Punch” failed to knock-out Brit cinema auds. Local sexually charged scarer directed by Olly Blackburn and starring rising local thesp Jaime Winstone banked just $290,080 at 155 per Optimum Releasing.

“Mamma Mia!” soared to the top of the charts in Germany, enjoying the biggest opening ever for a musical. The Universal pic pulled in $5.7 million from 611, well ahead of recent tuners like “Hairspray,” “Dreamgirls” and “Chicago,” which had led the pack with its opening take of $1.2 million in 2003. The Meryl Streep starrer was on par with the star’s last major hit, “The Devil Wears Prada,” which made $5.4 million in its opening weekend in 2006.

“Abba is cult here, and with Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan, it was a guaranteed hit. They are both hugely popular actors in Germany,” noted one exhib.

In second, “Hancock” garnered $4.3 million in its third frame for a running total of $31 million, surpassing “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” as the most successful Hollywood film so far this year — but still behind Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield’s German-British nature documentary “Earth,” which has cumed $34.3 million since its February release.

Opening in fourth, Warners’ “Get Smart” grossed $2.2 million from 548, followed by Constantin Film’s teen comedy “Freche Maedchen,” which took in $1.9 million from 392. Cedric Klapisch’s Juliette Binoche starrer “Paris” opened at number seven with $469,085 from 72 for a respectable per-location average of $6,515 for Prokino/Fox.

In France, Hollywood fare nabbed the top five spots as the holiday season truly got underway. Despite a tail-off of 54% in the second frame, “Hancock” narrowly bested its nearest rival “Kung Fu Panda” for top spot. The Will Smith action-laffer has cumed over $16.3 million for Sony. “Panda,” off by 41% in its soph sesh, has cumed $13.2 million for Par.

Best-placed opener was Angelina Jolie-James McAvoy actioner “Wanted,” which collected $3.6 million at 497 in its first five days for Par. Fellow newbie “Journey to the Center of the Earth” took in $2.2 million on 363 for Metropolitan. Down 37% on the week after four frames, “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” has cumed $22.5 million for Disney.

The top local contender, coming-of-age laffer “Nos 18 ans” (When We Were 18) opened stoutly, taking $1.2 million on 266 in its first five days for TFM. “We almost reached our target of 180,000 viewers in the first week,” said TFM distribution topper Henri Ernst, adding, “We’re hoping good word of mouth will see us reaching 550,000 to 600,000.”

In Spain, Sony’s “Hancock” took a juicy $9.3 million on 577. Copy average of $16,080 is the best of the year in Spain, besting “Crystal Skull” ($15,124.) Result was north of Sony execs’ upbeat expectations, who attribute the success partly to Smith’s star power.

“Another contributory factor to the success of ‘Hancock’ could be Spanish cinemagoers appetite for the combo of action and humor,” suggested an exhib.

Whammo success of “Hancock” left little room for the competish, although local offering “Eskalofrio” (Shiver) took a roundly respectable $474,445. “Not too bad,” said an exhibber. “Unsatisfactory,” stated another.

In Italy, Universal’s fantasy sequel “Hellboy: The Golden Army” met with little resistance, marching straight into the numero uno spot in desolate Italo cinemas, as audiences continued their drift to the seaside.

But critics and enough action fans succumbed to helmer Guillermo del Toro’s wit and imagination to give “Hellboy” a $2 million cume in its first weekend, with a $3,849 average from 345 screens.

Peter Segal-helmed spy spoofer “Get Smart” stayed at two in its second frame. But weekend takings for the Steve Carell romp fell 46% to $459,244. And the $1,486 average from 309 was little to laugh about. In its third outing, takings for Universal’s “Wanted” fell 52% to $447,783, giving it a running cume of $4.9 million.

Davis Guggenheim’s family drama “Il Mio Sogno Piu Grande” (Gracie) entered the charts with a whimper, grossing $124,748 from 119 screens. Medusa’s juvenile local laffer “Un’ Estate al Mare” (A Summer at the Sea) slid 56% in its fourth frame to $355,425, giving a $7 million running cume.

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

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