China, Japan embrace Oscar-winning pic

Oscar winner “Slumdog Millionaire” — one of the most successful indie pics of all time — is winding down its worldwide tour with strong showings in China and Japan.

Only 20 foreign films are allowed entry into China per year. For the most part, the China Film Group Corp. favors big Hollywood franchises and animated family pics, so “Slumdog” scored a big win when clearing the group’s censors. The pic’s Oscar wins no doubt played a part.

China Film Group spokesman Weng Li told reporters that “Slumdog” was important for its artistic value, as well as for its inspirational and positive storyline.

“Slumdog” opened in China over the March 27-29 weekend, grossing $2.2 million. That’s on par with openings for such successes as “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” ($2.3 million) and “Wanted” ($3.2 million).

China Film Group has not updated the gross past opening weekend.

For the weekend of April 17-19, “Slumdog” placed No. 11 in its 23rd frame, grossing $4.4 million from 2,103 playdates in 35 markets for a foreign cume of $188.1 million. Film launched in Japan to a dazzling $12 million from 116 playdates. Exhibs say many shows were standing-room only.

“Slumdog’s” domestic gross was $141 million through April 19 for a worldwide tally of $329.1 million.

After the U.S., “Slumdog” has grossed the most in the U.K. ($46.8 million), followed by France ($20.2 million), Australia ($14.5 million), Spain ($13.4 million) and Germany ($11.6 million).

The weekend crown went to Universal’s “Fast and Furious,” which fast approached the $300 million mark at the worldwide box office. For the frame, the actioner grossed $34.7 million from 6,361 playdates in 57 territories for an international cume of $143.8 million, slightly ahead of the domestic cume of $137 million.

The film opened in an additional six territories, led by Australia, at $7.5 million from 227 dates, the biggest opening of 2009 and the biggest in U’s history.

“Fast and Furious” also opened No. 1 in Italy, grossing $5 million from 414 locations. Pic single-handedly drove the B.O. up 34% over the previous weekend.

U also struck it rich in Italy with DreamWorks Animation-Paramount’s 3-D toon “Monsters vs. Aliens,” which slid a mere 25% to gross $1.2 million from 291 for a solid cume of $7.6 million. U is distributing the family pic in only a few territories; Paramount is primarily handling overseas.

“Monsters” placed No. 2 overall at the international box office for the frame, grossing $20 million from 7,058 runs in 58 markets for an international cume of $126 million. Pic’s domestic cume is $163.1 million, for a worldwide haul of $289.1 million.

The toon held well in a number of territories, including the U.K., where it declined only 19% to $3.3 million for a cume of $24.2 million. It saw biz increase in several markets, including France (up 34% to $2.7 million) and Australia (up 12% to $2.3 million). Higher-priced 3-D shows continued to be particularly popular. The location average for a 3-D theater in the U.K. was $9,000, compared with $3,000 for a conventional showing.

New entry “Crank: High Voltage” fared better in its international debut in 12 territories than it did in the U.S. The sequel, reteaming Jason Statham and Amy Smart, grossed $9.1 million at the foreign B.O. to land at No. 3. Pic grossed $7 million in its domestic launch for a worldwide total of $16.1 million. The male-oriented actioner grossed $3.6 million in its Russian launch, and in Germany soared to the top of the charts with an opening take of $3.14 million from 405.

Summit Entertainment’s sci-fi pic “Knowing” also continued to strike a chord, placing No. 4 overall with $8.4 million from 3,685 playdates in 31 markets for a foreign cume of $54.5 million. Domestic cume was $73.8 million for a worldwide tally of $128.3 million.

French comedy “OSS 117: No Response From Rio” did well enough in its debut in only three territories to land at No. 5 on the international B.O. chart. Film, a sequel to spy spoof “OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies,” grossed $8.1 million from 627 runs. In France alone, it brought in north of $7.2 million.

Placing No. 6 was “Detective Conan,” the 13th installment in the Japanese toon series. The film grossed $5.9 million from 314 playdates, the best showing yet for the series.

Continuing to make headlines at the Japanese B.O. was John Woo’s “Red Cliff 2,” which earned $5.7 million in Japan for a foreign cume of $43.2 million. (Pic opened in China and several other Asian territories in January and February).

Among other local fare, Italo laffer “Una Questione di cuore” bested expectations by earning $1 million from 264 via 01 Distribuzione, marking a transition toward more mainstream fare for arthouse helmer Francesca Archibugi.

In the U.K., Gallic helmer Bertrand Tavernier’s English-language “In the Electric Mist” had a decent bow on 219 for TFM, charging up almost $2.1 million after five days. The Tommy Lee Jones-starrer went straight to DVD in the U.S.

U’s Brit comedy “The Boat that Rocked” earned $3.8 million at 1,635 in a dozen markets for a $12.8 cume.

David Hayhurst in Paris, Emilio Mayorga in Madrid, Ed Meza in Berlin, Mark Schilling in Tokyo and Nick Vivarelli in Rome contributed to this report.

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