LONDON — Festive period favorites such as “I Am Legend” and “The Golden Compass” should continue their good runs at the European box office this weekend, where there are few big new releases.
In Germany, Warner’s local romantic comedy “Keinohrhasen,” starring and directed by Til Schweiger, looks set to continue its hugely successful run in its third week in view of this week’s dearth of strong competition.
The favorite among the week’s new entries could turn out be Warner’s local animated feature “Kleiner Dodo,” about a young orangutan with an ear for music who finds a discarded violin in the jungle and quickly becomes a natural talent.
“Kleiner Dodo” has benefited from a two-day head-start on the week’s other openers.
Also hitting screens is Marcus H. Rosenmueller’s “Beste Gegend,” a sequel to last year’s “Beste Zeit” and the second instalment in his trilogy about teenage friends growing up in rural Bavaria, which goes out via Constantin.
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Pic faces off against Fox’s “The Darjeeling Limited” and Kenneth Branagh’s “The Magic Flute,” which goes out via Salzgeber.
Sony rolls out Lindsay Lohan starrer “I Know Who Killed Me,” while Kairos releases Jose Corbacho and Juan Cruz’s Spanish drama “Tapas.”
There are few big releases in the U.K., where Universal’s “Love, Caution” and Momentum Pictures’ “P.S. I Love You” are the most significant newcomers.
Lack of big openers should see post-apocalyptic zombie thriller “I Am Legend” comfortably hold top spot in its soph sesh.
Ang Lee’s Shanghai-set “Love, Caution” is boosted by largely positive reviews. “A pleasure to watch, a film as visually stylish as it is psychologically demanding,” wrote Sukhdev Sandhu in the Daily Telegraph. Lee did his bit to tubthump, attending a screening and Q&A at London’s Gate cinema which was simulcast on the upmarket Picturehouse circuit.
Romantic comedy “P.S. I Love You” goes out amid very poor reviews. “P.P.S. I hate this. A bereavement chick flick of egregious ickiness,” sniped Anthony Quinn in the Independent.
In Italy, it’s slim pickings in terms of new outings with “I Am Legend” not opening until Jan. 11.
Only a handful of specialized titles, including “Lust, Caution” and Rob Zombie’s “Halloween,” are going out as counterprogramming to local holdover juggernauts “Natale in crociera” (Christmas on a Cruiseship) and “Una Moglie Bellissima” (A Very Beautiful Wife).
Zombie’s “Halloween” remake, via Lucky Red, on about 200, should play well with the young, mostly male, demographic, and taps into the supernatural spirit of the country’s epiphany weekend, which according to Italo folklore is when witches punish bad juveniles.
“Lust, Caution” will be on about 150, via BIM Distribuzione, in a relatively wide release including a few metropolitan plexes. “Lust” is boosted by its Venice Golden Lion nod, some titillation over the naturalistic sex, and exotic ambiance, and mostly upbeat reviews.
“Stylistically impeccable, if a bit rambling narratively,” said La Stampa. The downside is “Brokeback Mountain,” which also took the Venice Lion, didn’t really click with Italo auds.
Spain sees a low-key weekend before big mid-January bows — “Aliens versus Predator: Requiem” on Jan. 11 and Alex de la Iglesia’s “Oxford Murders” on Jan. 18.
The major questions are whether Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” will gain major B.O. traction in a country that loves horror and whether lauded edgier bows “This Is England,” “Interview” and “Across the Universe” will turn upbeat reviews into B.O. coin.
“Halloween” bows on 252 via UPI and is expected to challenge for top spot by local bookers.
There are also middling bows for “The Last Mimzy,” on 157 via Tripictures, and Richard Shepard’s “The Hunting Party,” on 174 via Aurum.
“Party,” starring Richard Gere, who was mobbed at last September’s San Sebastian fest, should perform much better in Spain than the U.S.
Of artier pics, Wes Anderson’s “The Darjeeling Limited,” which Fox brings out on 150, has received mixed reviews.
Julie Taymor’s “Across the Universe,” a 30-print Sony release, fared better, making “exquisite caviar from kitsch in a Jacques Demy style,” according to film monthly Fotogramas.
Crix warmed to “Interview,” selected as film of the week by El Pais.
And with Shane Meadows’ “This Is England,” bowing on 38 via Festival Films, Spanish reviewers discovered a new trend: Brit-grit regional realism, comparing “England” to “Control,” and “Hallam Foe.”
“It’s a splendid, tough pic, but the question is: will it make money?” said an exhibitor.
It was generally a quiet week for new releases in Gaul, although “Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem” roared out of the gate for Fox, with a first-day take of $827,000 on 426. Savaged by most scribes Stateside, curiously few French crits have even bothered to see it yet. “An illogical new chapter in a tired franchise; one that won’t even draw out the geeks and other social outcasts that haven’t seen any of the other films over the last 30 years,” thought aVoir-aLire.
Helmer Ken Loach’s latest “It’s a Free World…” bowed very well for Diaphana with a first day of $177,850 on 116. Winner of the Palme d’Or in 2006, Loach has long been a critical fave in France. “Radical in its darkness. Absolutely indispensable,” gushed TeleCineObs. “Without a doubt his greatest film,” stated Le Monde.
No such hurrahs for local helmer Marc Caro’s sci-fi effort “Dante 01”: a bit of a non-starter for Wild Bunch with a bow of $52,575 on 119. “The psychodramatic effects are unconvincing,” shrugged L’Humanite.
Helmer Mike Barker’s thriller “Shattered,” toplining Pierce Brosnan, also failed on lift-off for TFM, taking in a piddling $41,240 on 83. “Easily consumed, easily forgotten,” felt Le Journal du Dimanche.
Additional reporting by Ed Meza (Germany), David Hayhurst (France), Emilio Mayorga (Spain) and Nick Vivarelli (Italy).