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New arrivals lift European box office

'Step Brothers,' 'Panda,' 'Hellboy II' peform well

LONDON — Summer ended pleasantly at the European box office with three new arrivals — “Step Brothers” in U.K., “Kung Fu Panda” in Italy and “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” in Spain — all meeting expectations and opening top.

As European beach bars emptied, overall cinema biz was once again bolstered by socko holdovers from feelgood musical “Mamma Mia!” and more solid innings’ from Batpic “The Dark Knight.” Already the biggest-grossing tuner overseas, “Mamma Mia!” continues to show long, lithe legs at the European box office.

In the U.K., Judd Apatow-produced laffer “Step Brothers” opened in top spot with $3 million at 362 screens for Sony. The Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly starring comedy also posted the best screen average of any pic in the top 15 — $8,366. Perf was in line with upbeat pre-release expectations, which were chiefly founded on the popularity of Apatow fare in Blighty.

U.K. box office sensation “Mamma Mia!” once again held incredibly well. Tuner dipped only 16% in its eighth frame, pushing the running cume to $98.2 million. The Universal release, which world premiered in London and stars Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Julie Walters, has been one of the biggest hits of the summer and is still going like the clappers. Exhibs attribute ongoing success to still-hot word of mouth, repeat visits and the success of recently introduced sing-along screenings.

Home invasion horror “The Strangers” — also from Universal — opened in third with $2.3 million at 280.

As expected, Mathieu Kassovitz’s sci-fi pic “Babylon A.D” opened meekly with $967,217 at 311. Prospects for the Vin Diesel starrer from Fox were not helped by Kassovitz’s widely reported public criticism of the project.

U.S. indie “The Wackness” did not excite Brit auds. Despite a bullish 94-screen opening weekend release from indie distrib Revolver, it managed just $145,097 — only good enough for 15th spot.

In Italy, DreamWorks’ “Kung Fu Panda,” distributed by Universal, mopped up most of the cinema-goers returning from their summer vacation and wiped the floor with its rivals. Pic bowed with $6.5 million off 666 screens at a feisty $9,732 average.

Disney’s “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” fell 41% but comfortably held the number two spot in its third outing, taking $912,815 from 522 screens. Cume now stands at $9 million.

Neil Marshall’s Brit horror “Doomsday” opened in third with an unremarkable $512,543 from 203 screens.

Marcel Langenegger’s sex thriller “Deception,” starring Ewan McGregor and Hugh Jackman, was less impressive in its first outing. It managed just from $277,764 from 208 with a feeble $1,335 average, for distributor Mikado.

“The Dark Knight” dominated the German box office in its soph sesh.

While ticket sales saw an overall drop of 44%, the Batman movie took in $4.5 million for a boffo $17.5 million cume.

New openers faired poorly in what was likely the last sunny weekend of the summer season. Kinowelt’s Eddie Murphy comedy “Meet Dave” sputtered at number five with only $551,576 from 326, while Gurinder Chadha’s “Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging” garnered $377,084 from 219 via Universal for sixth place.

In second, “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan” took in $1.4 million in its third frame for a total $11.5 million, followed by “Mamma Mia!,” which continued its long-legged run with $1.2 million toward a $28.6 million cume. The Abba musical has become the fourth highest-grossing pic of the year so far in Germany, behind “Hancock,” Earth” and “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”

Guillermo del Toro and his troupe of heroes didn’t disappoint at Spain’s B.O. Exactly in line with optimistic predictions, Universal’s “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” opened top, grossing $3 million at a fine copy-average of $6,950.

As elsewhere in Europe, “Mamma Mia!” is showing great traction in Spain. Pic slid a mere 23% in its fourth frame, moving the cume to $12 million. Warner’s “The Dark Knight” slipped 45% in its third frame, edging cume up to $13.7 million. Batpic may not be doing gangbusters biz in Spain but local bookers are more than satisfied with its perf.

Despite a cool reaction from locals, Spanish civil war drama “Los girasoles ciegos,” released by Alta, managed $962,285 with the second best copy average of the weekend: $5,101. Warner’s animated “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” took a modest $739,773 on 330.

In France, “The Dark Knight” held top spot, earning $3 million on 783 for a cume of $19.8 million.

Disney’s animated robot tale “Wall-E” fell a very respectable 24% in its fifth frame, allowing it to climb up the charts with $1.7 million at 737. Family fave has now banked $21.6 million in Gaul.

Perhaps affected by a public disavowal of the film by Kassovitz, “Babylon A.D.” slipped 46% to $1.5 million on 530 and a $5 million in the first two weeks.

“Clone Wars” saw an unremarkable first week, taking in $1.4 million on 483. Although auds in Gaul are not known followers of the franchise, negative reviews did not help the buzz.

Nic Cage starrer “Bangkok Dangerous” earned $1.3 million on 278 in the first frame. Result was respectable given the dismal reviews.

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

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