Sun, weak pics hit European gross

'Sarah Marshall' proves memorable

ROME — Sunny climes and a disparate batch of largely lightweight titles made for a lame frame at the Euro B.O., especially for Hollywood, but there were some exceptions.

Bucking the trend was Gallic big-budget laffer/crimer “Cash,” toplining Jean Reno as a gentleman thief, which scored $3.5 million in its first five days, off 522, via TFM.

Scribe-turned-helmer Eric Besnard’s hit caper is being hailed as “pure champagne escapism” by Tele 7 Jours.

In the U.K., bawdy romantic comedy “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” was the weekend’s lone bright spot.

Warm weather on Saturday had Brits rummaging in the shed for the barbeque rather than rushing to their local cinema. Overall, the sun-scorched frame was the flattest in terms of grosses since October 2007.

But “Sarah Marshall” pulled an impressive $4.3 million at 393 screens via Universal.

Bookers attribute the upbeat debut to the growing following for multihyphenate Judd Apatow’s fare, the blossoming bigscreen popularity of local comic Russell Brand, and a bullish campaign from the distrib.

“Brand testing his mettle in his first big Hollywood movie tweaked the interest of British audiences keen to see their boy do good in Tinseltown,” said a London-based exhib, adding that Brand’s sleazy brand of humor has appeal to date auds.

The “Sarah Marshall” opening figure — around $800,000 — was swelled by significant Wednesday and Thursday previews. A teachers’ strike on Thursday meant kids flocked to the pic during the week.

Jessica Alba starrer “The Eye,” a Hollywood version of the Pang brothers’ 2002 Hong Kong spookfest, placed second with $1.4 million at 370 via Lionsgate U.K.

Opening just about met modest industry expectations for the scarer.

As predicted, Brit comedy “Three and Out,” which toplines Mackenzie Crook as a London Underground train driver scheming to benefit from deaths on the tracks, did not translate the controversy over its subject matter into B.O. coin.

The ambitious Worldwide Bonus Entertainment release took a measly $377,369 at a considerable 380, and placed just 12th.

Below-par result was no big surprise to exhibs. “Much as I hate to say this about any film, this was never a cinematic release,” sniped a booker.

Most holdovers dipped markedly. Sony’s “21” dropped 46% in its third frame, Warner’s “Fool’s Gold” slid 51% in its soph sesh and Optimum’s local pic “Son of Rambow” was down 52% in its fourth weekend.

The most disheartening drop-off was for Mike Leigh’s laffer “Happy-Go-Lucky.” Despite excellent reviews, good word of mouth and more screens added, it nosedived 38% in its second weekend. “Arthouse audiences are the first to stay at home when the sun’s out,” explained an exhib.

In Italy “Meet the Spartans” met expectations bowing at numero uno with $1.7 million from 286 via Fox. But spring rays burned most other outings.

The only other standout was Universal’s “The Other Boleyn Girl,” which opened fifth pulling $557,223 off 102 — pulling $5,461 per engagement, the frame’s second per-screen average after Spartans — proving that Scarlett Johansson still has cachet with Italo auds.

Matthew McConaughey Kate Hudson starrer “Fool’s Gold” failed to lure Italos, bowing in sixth place for a modest $513,000 from 232 for Warner Bros.

Bereavement drama “Evening,” boasting an all-star cast, including Meryl Streep and Vanessa Redgrave, also had a lifeless bow with $494,924 from 180 via Medusa at number seven.

By contrast, Giuliano Montaldo’s Dostoyevsky biopic “I demoni di San Pietroburgo” (The St. Petersburg Demons) did decent biz, bowing at $447,174 off 110 via 01 Distribuzione, a further sign that Italo auds are receptive to local pics, and not just teen romancers.

Supernatural laffer “Over Her Dead Body,” toplining Eva Longoria, bowed decidedly DOA in Italy with 302,000 from 133 via Eagle Pictures.

In Germany, sunny skies also spelled box office doom with grosses dropping more than 31% to their lowest level of the year so far.

Disney’s teen romance “Sommer” (Summer) remained at the top of the charts with $1.1 million — down 48% in its sophomore frame — toward a running cume of $3.6 million.

Warner’s “Fool’s Gold” opened in second with $929,069 from 254, followed by Sony’s “21,” which added $778,467 to its $5 million total.

In fourth, Constantin’s “The Wave” continued its impressive run with $735,395 for a $19.6 million cume in its seventh week.

Rounding out the top five, Fox’s “Street Kings” fell 47% to $510,292 in its second sesh.

The only other new entry in the top 10 was “Dragon Hunters,” Universum/Disney’s CGI-animated fantasy based on the popular toon series, which debuted in sixth with $314,251 from 413.

In Gaul, aside from “Cash,” no other bow had exhibbers popping the bubbly, though other pics did passable biz.

“Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis” (Welcome to the Sticks) grabbed the number two spot even after nine frames and a 54% drop. Pathe added more than $2.2 million off 849 from “Sticks” to its bulging coffers, for a cume of around $183.4 million — and counting.

Fox says it’s pleased with the bow of “27 Dresses” in France: $1.27 million on 230 after five days.

“We certainly think our expectations will be met,” said head of distribution Philippe Fonteix.

Spanish helmer Jaume Balaguero’s spine-tingler “REC” also enjoyed a decent outing via new local distribbery Wild Side. Five-day take for the “Blair Witch”-like “REC” stood at $1.26 million on 170.

In Spain, openers were all limp. Weak perfs were below expectations and holdovers suffered severe drops.

As expected Fox’s “Street Kings” was crowned winner. Takings, however, weren’t great — $1 million.

Warner’s “Fool’s Gold” didn’t get golden booty, either. “Gold” nabbed $979,543. Copy averages were $3,610 for David Ayer’s “Kings,” and $3,637 for “Gold.”

Filmax’s “Cobardes” (Cowards) placed sixth, taking $425,222 with a modest $1761 per copy.

Bookers’ doubts about sci-fi suspenser “Before the Fall” turned out to be justified. The Malaga fest’s bold first work nod winner took $150,160 with a mere $1,191 copy average.

Spanish laffer “Chef’s Special” cooked up $692,355 for a succulent $4.2 million running cume.

However Warner’s “Special” dropped 47% in its third sesh, holding on to its third position.

In their third frames, Sony’s “21” and Fox’s “Shutter” fell 55% and 63% respectively.

“It’s the current climate. I think audiences are already focusing on ‘Indiana Jones’ bowing on May 22,” opined one booker.

“I hope that Spain’s box office will reactivate itself with ‘Iron Man,'” said another booker.

Sony releases “Iron Man” in Spain Wednesday on 557, the widest copy spread in weeks.

Additional reporting by Archie Thomas (U.K.), Ed Meza (Germany), David Hayhurst (France), and Emilio Mayorga (Spain).

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