French titles drive home market

'Land of Shtis' takes off with a phenomenal $38 mil bow

As the overseas boxoffice, excepting France, started to taper off, "Jumper" maintained a dominant position for a third straight weekend, raising its international gross to $81.6 million after taking in $12.5 million from 3,774 screens in 44 markets.

An overall gradual drop-off for U.S. films, perhaps most noticeable in the U.K. following the end of mid-term school holidays, is expected to reverse as a batch of new entries enter the market for the Easter holiday period.

Lionsgate's "The Bank Job" opened at No. 1 in the U.K. with $1.8 million from 325 screens, and New Line's "Semi-Pro" came in second with $1.5 million from 345. "Semi-Pro," the Will Ferrell basketball comedy, is being released in the U.K. by leading territorial distributor Entertainment Distributors. Entertainment Distributors may have to give up its franchise as a New Line output partner when Warner Bros. Pictures International takes over the foreign release of all NL product as the mini-major becomes part of Warner Bros., which already handles NL releases in the German-speaking markets, Eastern Europe and parts of Asia.

But the biggest surprise of the weekend was the phenomenal home-country welcome for the French-language "Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis" (Welcome to the Land of Shtis), which opened to an estimated $37.7 million (with previews) from 793 screens, a fantastic $41,500 per-screen average. "Ch'tis," a Pathe release and the second feature directed by actor Dany Boon, is about a postal worker transferred from the south of France to a small northern town where he discovers the unusual customs of the population.

All in all, it was a great weekend for French films. "Asterix at the Olympic Games," now in its fifth weekend, held second place at home with $3 million from 1,003 screens for a market cume of $58.9 million. Overall, the Gallic tentpole sequel, also a Pathe release, is estimated to have taken in $6.1 million over the weekend from 2,900 screens in 26 European markets for a cume of about $123 million. Mars Distribution's "Paris" held third place with $2.9 million from 482 screens for a market cume of almost $10 million. A fourth French offering, Pierre Morel's "Taken," released by Europacorp, came in third with $2.3 million from 350 screens.

Oscar winner "No Country for Old Men" jumped into the limelight with $9.1 million from 1,844 screens in 38 markets to lift its international gross to $50.1 million. Germany, with $1.3 million from 138 screens, led the weekend charge that included nine new openings. This coming weekend will see seven new openings that are expected to continue to benefit from Academy Award laurels.

"There Will be Blood," also carrying Oscar honors, pulled in $5.4 million over the weekend from 1,061 screens in 39 markets to raise its foreign cume to $17.8 million. Holdovers are said to have dropped only 15%, hailed by distributor Disney International as "fantastic." France opened to $1.5 million from 120 screens for a per-screen average of $12,125. In its fourth weekend in the U.K., the Coen brothers' drama advanced 18%, according to Disney International, taking in $1.2 million from 194 screens for a per-screen average of $6,135.

Best-picture nominee "Juno," sans new openings, took in $4 million during the weekend from 1,183 screens in 17 markets to hoist its cume to $42 million. Four weekends in the U.K. furnished $15.9 million, and seven in Australia supplied $9.3 million.

As "Jumper" hit the top for a third straight weekend, it opened No. 1 in Italy ($2 million from 253 screens), Israel ($106,000 from 18), Lithuania ($73,769 from six) and Romania ($65,055 from six). Market totals include $10.2 million from South Korea in three weeks, $14.3 million from the U.K. and $8.2 million from Spain as well as $8.2 million from France in two sessions. "Jumper" has a good chance at holding on to the international lead for a fourth weekend as it prepares to enter Japan and four other markets.

Bolstered by 20 new openings, "Vantage Point," the thriller about an attempted presidential assassination, pulled in $11.9 million from 2,431 screens in 26 markets to provide an early cume of $14.4 million.

Just as New Line is getting ready to merge into Warner Bros., its domestic disappointment "The Golden Compass" continues to flex its muscles overseas, opening at No. 1 in Japan to $7.7 million from 667 screens. Overall, the weekend take from 1,734 screens in 36 markets raised the international cume to $264.3 million.

Fox's "Meet the Spartans," also a domestic dud at $37 million, is trying to make up ground overseas, pulling in almost $8 million over the weekend from 1,638 screens in 22 markets for a cume to date of $13 million.

"Sweeney Todd" took in $4.8 million over the weekend (cume: $89.5 million); "National Treasure: Book of Secrets," $4.3 million (cume: $219.7 million); "27 Dresses," $4.6 million (cume: $34.2 million); "The Bucket List," $4.8 million (cume: $41.8 million); "Fool's Gold," $1 million (cume: $7.2 million); "Charlie Wilson's War," $2.7 million (cume: $40.4 million); and "Atonement," $1.3 million (cume: $72.6 million).

"The Other Boleyn Girl," which Universal Pictures International acquired for 13 territories, opened day-and-date with the U.S. in five markets, grossing $1.7 million from 305 playdates, headed by Spain's $1.6 million from 216 screens.