European markets take separate routes

'Ch'tis' becomes B.O. champion in France

LONDON — Europe had no overall box office champ this weekend as distribs held back their big releases in the traditionally quiet post-Easter frame. The top five territories all had different pics in the number one spot.

The frame’s most notable event was the crowning of “Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis” as the biggest ever grosser in French B.O. history.

Down 42% in its fifth frame, the Pathe release has banked $154 million as of Sunday, with nearly 16.5 million admissions. Only “Titanic,” “Gone With the Wind” and 1966 local laffer “La Grande vadrouille” have moved more tickets in France.

Gallic toon “Dragon Hunters” earned BAC $1.8 million on 406 in its first five days. Fellow French film, “I’ve Loved You So Long,” toplining Kristin Scott Thomas, tailed off 23% in its second frame. The Philippe Claudel-helmed tragedy has cumed over $4.1 million for a pleased UGC.

“The Oxford Murders” enjoyed a particularly satisfying first five days in Paris, averaging 1,563 viewers a screen and enriching La Fabrique de Films by over $1.1 million on 193 nationwide.

But a 52% drop in its second frame for “Vantage Point” further signals a somewhat blah Gallic perf for Sony. Political assassination thriller has cumed $3.4 million.

Katherine Heigl starrer “27 Dresses” opened top in the U.K. with $3.5 million at 428 locations per Rentrak. The romantic comedy released by Fox also posted the weekend’s best location average: $8,126. Result met or exceeded bookers’ reasonably upbeat pre-release expectations.

Poor reviews did not seem to negatively impact on pic’s B.O. haul.

The only other opener to penetrate the U.K. top 10 was Owen Wilson laffer “Drillbit Taylor,” which mined an okay $1.4 million at 302 for Par. Result placed the pic fifth in the charts.

As expected most holdovers fell away significantly given the previous weekend was Easter weekend.

Showing good traction was Universal’s “Step Up 2 the Streets,” which dipped 42% in its soph sesh to dance its way to $11.3 million in 10 days.

Upmarket Spanish chiller “The Orphanage” followed up on its strong limited release debut with a solid second frame. The Optimum Releasing release increased its locations by 29% to 103 and dropped off just 15% as a result. Juan Antonio Bayona’s pic has now scared up $1.7 million in its first 10 days at U.K. wickets.

Animated family pic “Horton Hears a Who!” nosedived a considerable 68% in its second U.K. frame for a $10.7 million running cume.

Paris Hilton comedy “The Hottie and the Nottie” totally failed to titillate U.K. auds. The Pathe opener placed a miserable 31st in the charts with $34,061 at 28. Savage reviews from local crix did not help.

In Italy, “The Kite Runner” turned out to be a real high-flier with a boffo $3 million bow on 365 in the numero uno spot, double the take of local comedy “Tutta la vita davanti,” which most exhibbers had seen as the frontrunner.

The Afghanistan-set epic helmed by Marc Forster reaped the rewards of being based on a best-selling book plus a massive marketing campaign by distributor Filmauro, which outweighed largely negative Italo reviews.

Paolo Virzi’s “Tutta la vita davanti” (‘Your Whole Life Ahead of You’), about the lives, loves and struggles of folks working in an Italo call center, came in a distant second with $1.5 million from 368 via Medusa. “Life” debut reps a letdown considering the social comedy’s massive talk-show exposure and starry cast, including Elio Germano, Valerio Mastandrea and Sabrina Ferilli.

The sunny Italo frame’s other outings were all quite flat. Wong Kar Wai’s “My Blueberry Nights” bowed at $254,000 from 133 via BIM Distribuzione, while Yank romancer “Dan in Real Life” did even worse with $201,000 from 125 via Eagle Pictures.

In Germany, Kinowelt’s sci-fi actioner “Jumper,” starring Hayden Christensen and Jamie Bell, teleported to the top of the charts, displacing local hit “The Wave.”

Yet sunny spring weather contributed to a dramatic 18% drop at the box office over the weekend as Teutons enjoyed the outdoors.

Doug Liman’s “Jumper” took in $2.5 million from 405, ahead of Constantin’s “The Wave,” which added $2.2 million to its $12.1 million cume in its third session.

“With such warm temperatures, people were much more eager to enjoy the outdoors,” noted one exhib. “But for the moviegoers who did go to the cinema, it was either to see escapist fun or strong critically acclaimed films. ‘The Wave’ and ‘Juno’ have both benefited from strong word of mouth.”

In third, Disney’s “The Game Plan” pulled in $2.1 million from 404, followed by Fox’s “Horton Hears a Who!,” which garnered $1.6 million on its way to a $10.8 million total.

Rounding out the top five was Fox’s “Juno” with $1.5 million in its second frame for a $5 million cume.

The only other new entry in the top 10, Universal’s romantic comedy “Definitely, Maybe,” opened in seventh with $723,920 from 247.

Despite its opening at number 14, Julian Schnabel’s critically acclaimed “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” about the courageous life of journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby following a massive stroke, enjoyed an impressive per-location average of $6,209.

In Spain, “Meet the Spartans” battled to some kind of glory at the B.O., but holdovers struck out.

“Spartans” plundered a pleasing $2.9 million booty from 314, establishing the best screen average of the frame ($9,282). These figures turned Spain into the highest-grossing territory for Fox’s anarchic spoof.

BVI’s “The Game Plan” bagged $1.4 million off 247, placing second. Third spot went to UPI’s “We Own the Night.” James Gray’s noirish thriller nabbed $1.4 million on 222, which gave it frame’s second-highest screen average — $6,132.

Wooly mammoth pic “Horton” collapsed in its third sesh with a 64% drop. “10,000 B.C.” also got thumped — 65% down — in its fourth frame. Ditto “The Spiderwick Chronicles,” which slid 63%.

Only Wanda’s “The Counterfeiters” showed legs with just a 37% fall, for a $2.3 million cume after three weeks.

“Auds were eager for renewal, so most holdovers’ crashed,” noted a booker. “A kooky comedy (‘Spartans’) reaped the benefit of auds’ desire for something new, and, by tapping into adult demo, which have been forgotten for weeks, UPI made respectable figures with ‘Night’,” added a second exhibber.

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

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