Europe welcomes ‘Dark Knight’

Christopher Nolan film makes impressive debut

LONDON — Christopher Nolan’s brooding Batpic “The Dark Knight” lived up to the monster hype in Europe, bowing boffo in the U.K. and Italy.

With openings still to come in major Euro markets France, Germany and Spain, “Dark Knight” should comfortably eclipse the international cume of $166 million managed by “Batman Begins.”

But it wasn’t all plain sailing for Hollywood fare: TV show spinoff “The X-Files: I Want to Believe” did not excite Euro auds, opening meekly in Spain and Germany.

In the U.K., comicbook actioner “The Dark Knight” opening top with a massive $22.3 million (including $5 million in July 25 previews) at 502 screens via Warner Bros.

As reported in VarietyJuly 28, U.K. box office trade enjoyed its best weekend this year July 25-27, thanks largely to the arrival of caped crusader “The Dark Knight.”

Bumper results were particularly impressive given weekend weather was sweltering hot — traditionally not conducive to a rush on indoor entertainment.

Local helmer Gurinder Chadha’s “Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging” opened in fourth, with a bow of $1.9 million at 372.

Of the holdovers, “Mamma Mia!” was the standout performer. The Abba musical dipped just 38% in its third frame to move the cume to $49 million. Holdover was all the more impressive as “Perfect Snogging” moved in on its teen girl demo.

In Italy, “The Dark Knight” swooped solidly, scoring $5 million in five days, leaving the crumbs to the competish, and almost single-handedly giving local B.O. a 31% boost over the previous frame.

The Warner Bros. Batman pic, out on 616 screens, pulled a relatively soft $5,000 per-screen average, but considering its deep summer outing in a thin strip of land almost entirely surrounded by beaches, exhibs are more than satisfied.

By contrast Universal’s “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” dropped 62% in its second frame for a $1,500 per-screen average and a $3.1 million two-week cume.

The only other Italo opener in the top 10 was Summit scarer “P2,” helmed by Franck Khalfoun, which did a decent $51,000 off 23 via Eagle Pictures.

In the Italo arthouse trenches, the standout performer was ultra-indie title “I Killed Berlusconi,” which actually managed a higher per-screen average than “Knight” ($6,000), albeit on just one screen. Self-produced fantasy item has made for $80,000 in six weeks.

German biz suffered due to no new major openers, with “The Dark Knight” not due in theaters until Aug. 21 and hot summer weather throughout the country. German box office trade plunged 45.5% from the previous frame.

Facing little in the way of competition, “Mamma Mia!” remained high in the charts despite a 49% drop, pulling in a healthy $2.9 million in its soph sesh.

“Hancock” was still going strong in its fourth frame, pulling $1.7 million.

With its total of $33.6 million, the Will Smith starrer is poised to surpass Universum/Disney’s hit docu “Earth” as the year’s most successful film.

Debuting at number three, Senator Film’s “Superhero Movie” garnered $1.3 million, making it the best weekend start of the year for the distrib.

Fans of Chris Carter’s once hugely popular series didn’t show much faith in “The X-Files: I Want to Believe,” which was largely panned by local critics. The Fox pic took in just over $1 million from 587, compared with an equivalent $5.8 million (Euros 3.7 million) weekend gross for the 1998 film.

The summer doldrums has German exhibs salivating for the arrival of the Batman sequel. If a chaotic Monday night press screening of Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster in Berlin was any sign, Teutonic auds look certain to go batty over “The Dark Knight.” The CineStar multiplex at Potsdamer Platz descended into mayhem as massive crowds of frantic journos and fanatical fanboys sought to elbow their way in with or without invitations for the German-dubbed screening.

Gallic biz continues to be dominated by Hollywood summer tentpoles. “The Incredible Hulk” had a good, though not earth-shattering first five days for SND with a take of $3.9 million on 679. Down 38% in its third frame, “Kung Fu Panda” has cumed slightly over $17 million for a satisfied Paramount. “Hancock” has earned Sony a tidy $20 million over the same period.

Dropping by a hefty 50% in its second frame, “Wanted” is an underperformer for Paramount in Gaul with a cume of nearly $6.3 million.

“Journey to the Center of the Earth,” however, has done well for Metropolitan, especially at theaters screening it in 3-D. Down 37% in its second frame, it has cumed $4.3 million. “We had 86,905 viewers last week on the 33 prints” showing in 3-D nationwide, said Olivia Malka of Metropolitan’s PR reps, Kinema Film. “The exhibitors are pretty happy with that. It could provide a big boost for getting more 3-D theaters in France.”

In Spain, Sony’s “Hancock” held top spot in its soph sesh but with a significant 57% drop to $4 million on 588 screens. “Kung Fu Panda,” now in its third week, came in second with $1.9 million at 565.

Exhibitors expressed disappointment at the returns for the weekends newbies — “Get Smart” and “The X Files: I Want to Believe” — which came in third and fourth with weekend grosses of $1.5 million on 350 screens and $1.2 million on 400 screens, respectively. Expectations for the summer box office nonetheless remain high with “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” due to bow this weekend and “The Dark Knight” on August 13.

Additional reporting by Ed Meza (Germany), Martin Dale (Spain), Nick Vivarelli (Italy) and David Hayhurst (France).

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