Europe Box Office: 'Marigold 2,' Local Comedies Chasing 'Furious 7'

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - H 2015
Courtesy of Fox Searchlight

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - H 2015

Homegrown titles look to counterprogram as Universal's actioner races toward a record-breaking Easter weekend across Europe.

The box-office race for Easter in Europe — a long holiday weekend across most of the continent — is already over. Universal's Furious 7 got off to a huge lead, opening No. 1 in Germany and France on Wednesday with a $2.6 million and $2.5 million take, respectively. Furious 7 also raced past the competition in smaller European territories, taking $416,000 in Switzerland, $412,000 in Austria and $392,000 in Belgium. The action blockbuster is all but certain to finish in pole position across Europe and will likely set records for the franchise.

But chasing behind Furious 7 are a pack of homegrown hopefuls, local-language features looking to successfully counterprogram.

Chief among these is The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, John Madden's sequel to the 2011 Brit comedy hit. Dame Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Bill Nighy return for Marigold 2, which has already earned north of $40 million and will go head-to-head with Furious 7 in Germany, France and Belgium over Easter, with Fox releasing.

In Germany, local comedy The Nanny, the fourth feature from writer-director-actor Matthias Schweighofer, will be Warner Bros. prime contender. The rom-com about a workaholic single dad who accidentally hires a homeless man to be his kids' nanny topped the German box office last weekend and has grossed around $3.5 million in the territory so far. Another holdover, British claymation comedy Shaun the Sheep, is likely to fleece a few more moviegoers over Easter, traditionally a family-friendly weekend. The StudioCanal release, which has earned close to $5 million in Germany and more than $20 million in the U.K., goes wide in France this weekend.

Targeting an entirely different demographic is Wim Wenders' Every Thing Will Be Fine, a 3D drama starring James Franco, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Rachel McAdams, which Warner Bros. is bowing in Germany this weekend ahead of its international rollout. Warners earned some $5 million in Germany with the theatrical release of Pina, Wenders' 3D documentary about German choreographer Pina Bauch. It remains to be seen if Every Thing Will Be Fine can come close to matching that.

In the U.K. and France, distributors have largely gotten out of the way of Furious 7, with few major releases trying to compete with Universal's action juggernaut. In Britain, only Russell Crowe's directorial debut, The Water Diviner, released by eOne, and Noah Baumbach's While We're Young starring Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts, are entering the weekend race with Furious 7 and both are obvious counterprogramming efforts.

In France, the handful of smaller new releases includes Saul Dibb's Suite Francaise, a romantic drama set during the Nazi occupation of Paris and starring Michelle Williams, Kristin Scott Thomas and Matthias Schoenaerts, and Diary of a Chambermaid from director Benoit Jacquot starring Lea Seydoux. One local-language rom-com, Arnaud fait son 2e film, from director and star Arnaud Viard, is also hoping to appeal to non-Furious fans.

Closer to the back of the pack are Italian comedy Ma che Bella Sopresa from Alessandro Genovesi, a holdover from last weekend, which has earned a respectable $5 million locally; and Spanish laffer Perdiendo el norte from director Nacho G. Velilla. The fish-out-of-water comedy, about two Spanish men who head to Germany to find work, has already grossed more than $7 million for Warner Bros. in Spain.

Rhonda Richford in Paris contributed to this report.