LONDON — Feel-good tuner “High School Musical 3: Senior Year” sung up boffo biz at the European box office, opening top in the U.K., Germany and Spain.
In France, local crime biopic “Mesrine: L’Instinct de mort” (Public Enemy Number One, Part 1), toplining Vincent Cassel, outmuscled “HSM3” even though French auds also fell head over heels for the Disney musical.
In the U.K., Disney’s “HSM3” delivered on the considerable pre-release hype, pulling $13.1 million (including $3.8 million in previews) at 493 screens. Although not at the top end of some bookers’ forecasts, the “HSM” formula still produced a big splash in its Blighty bigscreen bow.
“HSM3” dominated biz, pulling well over three times that of the nearest challenger, fellow opener “Saw V,” which bagged $3.8 million at 367 for Lionsgate U.K. Scarefest result met upbeat expectations.
Ricky Gervais topliner “Ghost Town” was also a good performer, taking fourth spot with an opening of $2.1 million at 343 for Par. Result was north of industry expectations and underlines English funnyman Gervais’ enduring appeal on home turf.
Of the holdovers, the Coen Brothers’ “Burn After Reading” held particularly well. The Brad Pitt/George Clooney starrer slipped only 30% in its soph sesh for a healthy $7.2 million running cume.
In Germany, “HSM3” took the country by storm, enjoying the biggest opening since “The Dark Knight” and catching local exhibs somewhat by surprise.
“We knew it would do well, but we didn’t expect it would this well,” stressed one booker.
With terrorists, demons, evil sorcerers and the extinction of humanity recently dominating the multiplexes, a happy, care-free, feel-good, foot-tapping teen musical appears to be just what young moviegoers have been waiting for.
Pic soared to number one with $5.7 million from 529, leaving recent hits “The Baader Meinhof Complex” and “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” in its dust.
With little to compare it to, exhibs were not entirely sure just how successful it would be. In April, Disney’s big-screen reworking of another hugely popular TV teen franchise, “Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour,” failed to generate any interest at the Teuton box office.
“The popularity of the ‘High School Musical’ movies and of Zac Efron has really become a global phenomena,” a booker added. “It’s a formula and a star that have really clicked with kids, with girls, and elevated this entire franchise onto a whole other level.”
Indeed, “HSM 3’s” opening even surpassed that of “Mamma Mia!,” which took in $4.5 million on its first weekend in July.
A slew of German films continue to do impressively well on home turf. Constantin’s “Baader Meinhof” held on at number two in its fifth frame, with $1.3 million and an $18.4 million cume. In third, Concorde’s fantasy-laffer “Die Geschichte vom Brandner Kaspar,” starring the hugely popular Michael Herbig and based on a classic tale of an old man who cheats death, remained nearly unchanged from the previous week with a solid $1.27 million on its way toward a $3 million total in its soph session.
Fantasy epic “Krabat,” the third Teutonic title in the top five, dropped just 17% in its third frame to $1.25 million for a total of $5.8 million via Fox.
In France, local crime biopic “Mesrine: L’Instinct de mort” had a splendid start for Pathe and even outcumed “HSM3.” The first in a two-part biopic of Jacques Mesrine, the murderous crook who became one of modern France’s most notorious anti-heroes, raked in more than $4.4 million on 489 in its first five days — the fifth best opening week for a Gallic film — and 14th best overall for a film this year. Many critics raved about the perf of Vincent Cassel as the gangster turned prison diarist, whose status as a counter-culture martyr is still going great guns, nearly 30 years after his demise. “HSM3” also had a strong first five days for Disney, taking $3.7 million on 391.
“Vicky Cristina Barcelona” is an unqualified hit for Warners in Gaul, which feels it is very likely to enjoy the best perf ever for a Woody Allen film in France — no mean feat considering the status the helmer has long enjoyed in Gaul. Down 26% in its third frame, it’s cumed more than $9.8 million on 442 — up 30 prints from opening day.
“Crime Is Our Business” has done decent biz for StudioCanal. The laffer, based on an Agatha Christie classic, was off by only 16% in its second frame for a cume of $4.2 million on 360.
Toon “Space Chimps” earned $1.27 million on 572 in its first five days for SND, which are hoping it will play well through the school holidays.
In line with expectations, BVI’s “HSM3” opened boffo in Spain, taking $5 million at 402. Big bow makes it the most successful opening for a musical ever in Spain and the fourth biggest debut of any pic in 2008 behind “Hancock,” “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” and “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.”
“One of the key factors in this success has been that demo targets have widened at both ends,” assessed a distribber.
Suggesting that Richard Gere still has some appeal to Spanish auds, Warner’s “Nights in Rodanthe” placed second with a respectable $1.1 million off 225.
“Wall-E” held on to the top spot in Italy, where both “Tropic Thunder” and “Babylon A.D.” bowed solidly in a crowded but somewhat flat frame lacking the box office power of “HSM3.”
Pixar tentpole “Wall-E” dropped just 29% to pull $2.3 million off 563, toward a running cume of $6.5 million via Buena Vista International.
“Tropic Thunder” took the weekend’s highest per-screen average — $5,500 — opening in second with $1.6 million off 297 via Universal, marking a flashy Italo outing for the Ben Stiller-directed war pic satire.
Vin Diesel starrer “Babylon A.D.” debuted in fourth place with a perfectly fine $1.3 million for the Gallic sci-fi thriller directed by Mathieu Kassovitz, out on 254 via Moviemax.
Meanwhile, Woody Allen’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” slid just 28% for a $1.5 million sophomore frame, off 383, and a 4.3 million running cume via Medusa at number three.
Rome Film Festival opener “The Man Who Loves,” a Monica Bellucci starring meller, bowed only passably, pulling $568,000 off 184, also via Medusa.
Local teen thriller “Albakiara” failed to fly with $563,000 off an overly wide 278, via Mikado.
All told, the sunny Italo frame was worth $10 million, down 6% from the previous weekend.
Additional reporting by Ed Meza (Germany), Emilio Mayorga (Spain), Nick Vivarelli (Italy) and David Hayhurst (France).