Big businees in first week for critical darling

Even before Oscar nominations were announced Jan. 22, Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire” had the trappings of becoming a global pleaser after hitting the jackpot in the U.K. and North America.

U.K. ticket sales for “Slumdog” over the Jan. 16-18 frame jumped a record-breaking 47% in the film’s second weekend. Boosted by its four Golden Globe wins, 11 BAFTA noms and word-of-mouth, the Oscar hopeful bit off $3.7 million at 330 screens. According to distrib Pathe, the uptick is the biggest ever rise for a film that didn’t substantially increase its print run.

Bookers report that Brits who only occasionally go to the cinema are turning out for “Slumdog.”

Pic grossed an impressive $6.8 million from 624 runs at the international box office for a cume of $17 million. Film’s domestic take through Jan. 18 was $43.9 million, for a worldwide total of $60.9 million.

“Slumdog,” which is rolling out slowly overseas, took in roughly $3 million in France for the weekend. Its prospects in India, where it opened Jan. 23, are unclear, since Indians usually throw their support behind local titles.

Elsewhere at the European box office, Sony’s “Seven Pounds” did strong overall trade, underlining the enduring appeal of Will Smith to international auds. The drama managed good-to-great bows in Spain, France and the U.K., and gritty holds in Italy and Germany.

Interest was enough for “Seven Pounds” to finish No. 1 at the international B.O. for the weekend, grossing $20.6 million from 3,505 playdates for a cume of $41.6 million in its fourth sesh.

Worldwide total was $111 million through Jan. 18. While a respectable number, drama is performing below Smith’s usual levels.

In Spain, Smith’s rapport with Spanish auds paid off, with “Seven Pounds” opening to $4.2 million from 316 for a boffo screen average of $13,218 — the best showing since “High School Musical 3: Senior Year” ($13,396).

Smith has a rock solid track record in Spain. Last year, “Hancock” pulled $21.5 million; “I Am Legend,” $17 million.

In the U.K., “Slumdog” and “Seven Pounds” weren’t the only films making headlines.

Demonstrating the growing appetite for 3-D fare among Brits, Lionsgate’s “My Bloody Valentine 3-D” grossed $1.45 million at 86 3-D screens, the best ever for the 3-D bow. Previous highest 3-D opener was “Beowulf,” which dragged home $740,000 from 51 3-D wickets.

“Bloody Valentine” also bowed at 101 conventional screens, where it pulled a more modest but still solid $460,420.

And Mickey Rourke starrer “The Wrestler” bench-pressed a hefty $1.1 million from 277 for Optimum. Pic benefited from a bullish campaign, awards season buzz for comeback kid Rourke and strong reviews from the Brit crix.

Best holdover was Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes starrer “The Reader,” which dipped just 9% in its third frame to move the cume to $3.7 million.

David Hayhurst in Paris, Emilio Mayorga in Madrid, Dave McNary in Hollywood, Ed Meza in Berlin and Nick Vivarelli in Rome contributed to this report.

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