LONDON — Will Smith starrer “I Am Legend” continued its strong run at the European box office this weekend. Pic had little opposition with few heavyweights opening in the frame. In Italy and Germany, local comedy holdovers once again topped the charts.
In the U.K., WB’s “I Am Legend” dropped 43% in its soph sesh but comfortably retained top spot with $7.4 million at 458 screens. Result moved the Smith vehicle to an impressive $36.5 million running cume.
Bookers attribute the standout success primarily to the huge and growing B.O. appeal of Smith.
“Warner was originally planning a Jan. 4 release but I’m delighted they changed it to Boxing Day (Dec. 26),” said a London-based exhib. “After Christmas, 15 to 35 year olds are itching for an excuse to get out of the house for some mindless entertainment and ‘I Am Legend’ fitted the bill perfectly.”
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Best result of the frame must go to second-placed “P.S. I Love You.” The romantic comedy banked $3.5 million at 365, a best ever opening weekend result for Momentum Pictures.
Pic, based on a bestselling debut novel by Cecelia Ahern, the twentysomething daughter of Ireland’s Prime Minister, has been on release in Ireland since Dec. 21 and boasts a $5.4 million cume.
“It is a great start to the year for the company,” said Xavier Marchand, Alliance Films’ president of distribution. “With such a clear date and strong proposition — if you didn’t believe everything the national reviews said — it is just the result we were aiming for.”
Reviews had been very negative for Richard LaCravenese’s chick flick.
Fellow femme-skewed pic “St. Trinian’s” dipped a very respectable 23% in its third frame for a $15.2 million cume via Entertainment.
Ang Lee’s steamy thriller “Lust, Caution” got off to a racy start for Universal, opening to $475,454 at 49. The $9,704 screen average was bettered only by “Legend” ($16,132).
Paramount’s “Kite Runner,” another upmarket awards season contender, was up 41% in its second weekend taking $923,025 from 194 screens for a $2.4 million cume. Overall perf has pleased local bookers.
In Italy, local Christmas comedies are still laughing their way to the banca, the only difference being that “Una moglie bellissima” (A Beautiful Wife) has now knocked Christian De Sica’s “Natale in crociera” (Christmas on a Cruiseship) from the top spot.
Thesp/helmer Leonardo Pieraccioni’s “Wife” took $2.5 million off 489 over the Epiphany holiday, dropping just 43% in its fourth frame. The lusty feelgood pic has cumed $27 million via Medusa.
“Cruiseship,” toplining Italy’s customary Christmas king Christian De Sica, is now in the number two spot previously held by “Wife,” having dropped 55% for a $2.1 million fourth frame. But this juggernaut remains the holiday B.O. champ with a $33.2 million haul so far for the Aurelio De Laurentiis stable.
Disney’s “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” remains ensconced in third place with a mere 22% drop in its third frame with $1.88 million off 348 for an $11 million cume.
The biggest Italo opener was Rob Zombie’s “Halloween,” which scared up a boffo $1.85 million off 236, for the frame’s best per screen average — $7,868 — via Lucky Red.
Ang Lee’s “Lust, Caution” opened with a modest $741,000 from 160 via BIM Distribuzione.
Post-holiday weariness kept Germany’s box office tepid after the big-bang boffo returns of the New Year weekend. The dearth of any new pic to perk local auds did not help.
Til Schweiger’s local comedy “Keinohrhasen” continued its winning streak through its third frame, taking in an impressive $5.9 million — down 18% from the previous week — toward a running total of $21.5 million via Warner Bros.
Again at number two in its third frame was Disney’s “Enchanted,” which dropped 37% to $1.9 million for a $9.1 cume, followed by “The Golden Compass,” which conjured up an additional $1.8 million on its way to a total $19.5 million.
Moving up to number four despite a 48% drop, “Alvin and the Chipmunks” collected $1.5 million in its third week for a running cume of $6.3 million via Fox.
Dangling at number five after plunging 72% in its sophomore outing, “Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem” managed $1.3 million toward a $6.5 million total.
The week’s only new entry into the top 10 was Warner’s local animated pic “Kleiner Dodo,” about a musically gifted orangutan who takes up the violin much to the annoyance of his jungle neighbors. Pic, which enjoyed a two-day head start over the week’s other new releases, pulled in $1.3 million from 503 locations in its first six days.
Bowing in a traditionally bad weekend for Spanish B.O., UPI’s “Halloween” pulled in $993,384 on 252, registering a $4,000 copy average.
Exhibs were split on the perf. Some had predicted a first place finish for “Halloween” but it ended up No. 4. Others thought it matched moderate expectations.
Aurum’s Richard Gere starrer “The Hunting Party” took a decent first-frame $581,830 considering its underwhelming U.S. reception.
Spain’s early January B.O. always takes a sharp tumble as Spaniards celebrate Christmas over Epiphany feverishly shopping for presents, watching processions and attending family get-togethers.
But this year, with Epiphany falling over a weekend, the plunge was sharper than expected, given the films on offer. Even so, biz was up on last year, when only “Babel” and a falling “Eragon” gained any traction.
Although keeping top position, UPI’s “American Gangster” plummeted 44% in its soph sesh, taking $2 million off 440 for a $7.5 million cume. Warner’s “I Am Legend” plunged 57% in its third frame for a $15.6 million cume.
One brightish spot was Shane Meadows’ Brit pic “This Is England,” which chalked up a $3,949 copy average, the third best of the frame, for a first three-day $150,031 off 38.
With one exception, the top five earners in Gaul over the weekend have been around for a few frames. “I Am Legend” is still going great guns for Warners. Down 37% in the third frame, it has cumed $21.8 million on 625.
Local heart-warmer “The Fox and the Child” has proved another winner for “March of the Penguins” helmer Luc Jacquet and Disney. Dropping only 11% in its fourth frame, it’s cumed a handsome $16.6 million on 700.
After a disappointing bow, “The Golden Compass” has emerged as a sleeper hit for Metropolitan. Down 28% in its fifth frame, it has cumed $23.6 million on 767 — 17 screens more than on opening day.
Newcomer “Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem” is a pleasant surprise for Fox France, with a first frame take of just under $3 million on 426.
“We were the top opener in the Paris area on Wednesday, and were second over the weekend here. That’s not too common for a sci-fi/horror film, so we’re very happy,” said national sales manager Marc Maeder.
In fifth place, “Enchanted” marks another recent success for Disney in Gaul, down only 17% in its sixth frame for a cume of more than $22.4 million on 634.
Additional reporting by Ed Meza (Germany), Emilio Mayorga (Spain), Nick Vivarelli (Italy) and David Hayhurst (France) .