LONDON — Europeans demonstrated their enduring affection for Hollywood A-lister Will Smith this weekend, making his superhero pic “Hancock” a big hit at the box office.
Blockbusting arrival of Smith vehicle “Hancock” and CGI animation “Kung-Fu Panda” reignited Euro box office trade which flagged in June due to European Championships soccer tourney fever.
In the U.K., Sony release “Hancock” raced to the top of the charts in its opening frame, taking a hearty $18.9 million at 450 screens. Opening weekend figure was swelled by previews of $6 million. Even so, the result confirms Smith’s massive popularity with Brit auds who ignored largely poor reviews and flocked to the multiplexes.
“Will Smith is still the man, there’s no doubt about that,” commented a very satisfied London-based booker. Recent Smith vehicle “I Am Legend,” which grossed $324 internationally, was a boffo hit in Blighty.
“Kung-Fu Panda” opened in second with $12 million (including $3.4 million in previews) at 446. Result met upbeat expectations for the Par release. Exhibs delightedly report that “Panda” is managing to attract adult auds in the weekday evenings.
Rainy weekend weather — which disrupted Sunday’s epic televised Wimbledon tennis final — helped “Hancock” and “Panda” clock up big numbers.
The previous weekend’s successful openers — “Wanted” and “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” — felt the force, dropping 67% and 50%, respectively. Neither drop-off overly concerns bizzers given both pics opened strong. “Wanted” was always expected to drop fairly heavily as is tradition with ‘18’ certificated fare in Blighty.
Unfazed by negative reviews, an invincible Will Smith wiped the floor with “Kung-Fu Panda” and single-handedly lifted the German box office to stratospheric heights.
Clearly illustrating that Teutonic viewers prefer their superheroes down and out, “Hancock” garnered an eye-opening $12.8 million from 723 locations via Sony.
It was the best start of any film so far this year, surpassing Smith’s January opener, “I Am Legend,” which took in $11.4 million on its first weekend, as well as “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” which pulled in $12 million.
“The film’s success underscores Will Smith’s great popularity here — people love him. And the film is a very amusing spoof with plenty of great effects and action — what more could you want in a summer movie?” noted one happy exhib.
After weeks in the doldrums, due in large part to the massive popularity of the European soccer championships, the box office soared a whopping 271% — much of that on Smith’s muscular shoulders.
Universal’s “Kung-Fu Panda” delivered a strong performance, pulling in $4.5 million from 831, but was still behind other recent animated pics such as “Shrek the Third” and 2006’s “Over the Hedge.”
The two chart-toppers wolfed down most of the box office pie. Mike Leigh’s Berlinale screener “Happy-Go-Lucky” was the only other new entry in the top 10, garnering $466,672 from 92 via Tobis for fifth place.
In Italy, Universal’s “Wanted” easily ousted local laffer “Un Estate al Mare” (A Summer at the Sea) from the numero uno spot, pulling $2.2 million off 393 screens in a sunny frame which saw Italians in big cities start their summer exodus towards the nation’s beaches.
The Angelina Jolie-James McAvoy actioner mustered a $3,850 per-screen average, considered almost satisfactory by Italo exhibs considering the competish from seaside and other outdoor activities.
But the Italo frame’s real winner was Japanese manga pic “Fist of the North Star: New Saviour Legend,” helmed by Takahiro Imamura, which managed a $5,183 per screen average, albeit on just 34 locations, for a $175,000 take via Mikado.
“Boogeyman 2,” the country’s second-widest opener, by contrast scared up a mere $1,067 per-screen average for a paltry $199,000 from 187. The Jeff Betancourt-helmed horror sequel went out in Italy via Eagle Pictures.
“Un Estate al Mare” dropped 34% in its second frame for $1.3 million from 569 via Medusa and a $4.7 million running cume.
In Spain, “Prince Caspian” opened top with a decent enough opening of $4.1 million at 625 for a five-day cume of $5.8 million. The family fantasy registered a copy average of $6,405.
“Results aren’t bad, but they are short of what we needed to re-establish a good rhythm to cinema trade,” assessed a booker. Overall weekend biz was not helped by potential auds heading for the beaches and Spaniard Rafa Nadal playing (and winning) Sunday’s Wimbledon final.
Warner opener “Funny Games” took a not so funny $285,433 off 107, placing seventh. Notro’s “O Jerusalem,” bowing on just 33 copies, got the second best copy average of the frame — $4,250.
In France, “Prince Caspian” was down only 8% in its second frame, after enjoying the fifth best opening week of the year in Gaul. It had cumed $15.3 million for Disney up to and including July 6.
“London Mon Amour” is looking a winner for Pathe. The odd couple tale of recently divorced French flatmates making a go of it in London took in $2.1 million on 349 in its first five days.
Dropping 29% in its second frame, cops and robbers comic caper “Seuls Two” is going steady for Warners. Cume stands at a healthy $6.8 million.
A sleeper success in Gaul for Fox, “The Happening” tailed off a mere 15% on the week in its fourth frame for a cume of $11 million.
“Crystal Skull” is a proving an indefatigable box office warhorse. Only off by 3% in its seventh frame, it has met, if not quite exceeded Paramount’s expectations with a cume of $37.7 million.
Additional reporting by Ed Meza (Germany), Emilio Mayorga (Spain), Nick Vivarelli (Italy) and David Hayhurst (France)