BERLIN — As the summer season sets at the European box office, “Hancock” is flying high in Italy in one of the final legs of its boffo world tour; Gauls are turning their noses up at “Mamma Mia!”; and the U.K. is getting a hit of “Pineapple Express.”
In Italy, “Hancock” is the biggest opener in an end-of-run outing for the Will Smith smash hit likely to give it a robust final boost.
Sony, which opted to hold “Hancock” rather than go day-and-day in Italy where summertime moviegoing is still slow, is bowing the innovative superhero pic on 669 amid massive marketing and rave reviews.
Smith “wins his gamble,” enthused La Repubblica, which praised “Hancock” for breaking “away from the conventions of the genre.”
The second-biggest Italo opener is local helmer Pupi Avati’s Venice competish drama “Giovanna’s Father,” starring Silvio Orlando as an overprotective father in a role that scooped Orlando a Lido thesping nod. Medusa is outing on a massive 350, also boosted by critical kudos.
Medusa is also releasing kiddie toon “Everyone’s Hero,” directed by the late Christopher Reeve, who died during its production.
“Hero,” set in the Yank baseball milieu, goes out on 140 with modest exhib expectations.
The Italo arthouse circuit sees Uberto Pasolini’s Sri-Lanka-set feelgood pic “Machan” bow on 47 via Mikado. “Machan” just scooped the top nod at the Venice Days sidebar.
Meanwhile, BIM is outing Turkish helmer Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Cannes best-helmer prizewinner “Three Monkeys” on 38.
Unlike in most other European markets, “Mamma Mia!” was greeted with a collective shrug in Gaul.
An opening day of only $463,460 on 462 for Universal did not even crack the top-30 list of the year’s best bows so far.
Many scribes were more than a tad blasé. “It’s romantic, it’s sappy … and that’s really about it,” said Metro.
Gallic horror helmer Alexandre Aja’s “Mirrors” had Fox feeling fine with a first-day take of almost $235,000 on 246. “It was a very good opening, the best for an Aja film in France,” said sales topper Frederic Monnereau.
“Get Smart” got a good start for Warners: $202,810 on 447. The crix were generally fairly impressed. “Steve Carell has become one of Hollywood’s indispensable comics,” thought Le Parisien.
In the U.K., two stoners, a couple who find their romantic getaway ruined by vicious youths and the unlikely friendship between the son of a Nazi officer and a Jewish boy in WWII Germany go head to head at the box office this weekend.
Widest release of the weekend is Sony’s “Pineapple Express,” the latest offering from the Judd Apatow factory, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, on 300 prints. Studio has high hopes for the raunchy laffer based on the previous strong performances of “Knocked Up” and “Superbad.”
U.K. distrib Optimum is releasing horror pic “Eden Lake,” starring rising stars Kelly Reilly and Michael Fassbender, on 180 prints.
Distrib is hoping theatrical returns for the James Watkins-helmed pic, about a couple who find themselves terrorized during a romantic break by a gang of thugs, outstrip those of fellow Brit chiller “Donkey Punch.” Latter pic, helmed by Oliver Blackburn, was a disappointment for Optimum, bringing in less than $500,000 following its July 22 release.
Disney’s holocaust drama “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” is the weekend’s other big release. Disney is hoping to reap the benefits of generally positive reviews as it opens the pic on 100 screens, with a view to expanding if Monday’s holdovers show strong numbers. “Despite moments of improbable whimsy, this is a hugely affecting film,” wrote The Times’ James Christopher. “It engages with the complexity of the Holocaust in a language that can move children as profoundly as adults.”
Elsewhere, distrib Entertainment Films will be trying to replicate the success of “Sex and the City” with femme-oriented laffer “The Women,” starring Meg Ryan and Eva Mendes.
The long-awaited “Wanted” finally opens in Spain on a confident 430 via Universal. The furiously paced actioner is expected to snatch first place from Fox’s “The Argentine.”
Spain became the first territory to release the first installment in Steven Soderbergh’s Che Guevara project, attracting plenty of attention to its performance there.
Local crix were largely cool to “Wanted.” “Timur Bekmambetov reaches a new high mark in the scale of excess,” said El Pais, while monthly Fotogramas was more enthusiastic: “The movie painstakingly seeks to satisfy the greed of most frenzied action fans.”
One booker warned, however: “To postpone an opening — as in the case of ‘Wanted’ — means a terrible risk for Internet piracy. Nowadays, movies spoil like fruit.”
Family auds are served with Manga’s eco-inspired animated feature “Spirit of the Forest,” about creatures and trees who seek to thwart the construction of a highway through their forest, which bows on a brave 202. Pic is a sequel to European breakout toonpic “The Living Forest” and is produced by Spain’s Dygra Films.
” ‘Spirit’ is first-rate. It deserves a long run,” said an exhibber.
Domestic wilderness thriller “King of the Hill” has also enjoyed strong reviews; pic, which preemed last year in Toronto, bows on 80 via BVI.
“The Dark Knight” and “Wanted” are likely to continue their domination of the German box office with little in the way competition this weekend.
Concorde rolls out Vin Diesel sci-fi thriller “Babylon A.D.,” which some local critics have described as a throwback to 1980s actioners. German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung says the pic borrows extensively from such “dystopian works as ‘Brazil,’ ‘The Fifth Element’ and ‘Children of Men’ and ends up feeling very second-hand.”
Sony is hoping to attract comedy-loving Teutons with “Step Brothers.”
Ulla Wagner’s local drama “Die Entdeckung der Currywurst“ (The Discovery of the Currywurst), going out via Schwarz-Weiss/Central, may enjoy crossover appeal with its story about an older woman who hides a young sailor in her Hamburg flat in order to save him from certain death toward the end of World War II.
With plenty of press surrounding Naple’s garbage woes, Matteo Garrone’s Italian mob pic “Gomorrah” is generating strong buzz and critical acclaim in Germany; pic goes out via Prokino/Fox.
Additional reporting by David Hayhurst (France), Emilio Mayorga (Spain), Nick Vivarelli (Italy) and Ali Jaafar (U.K.).