Brad Pitt epic holds on to top spot overseas

LONDON — “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” may have missed out on some of the major Academy Awards, but it did boffo biz at the European box office this weekend, securing top place holds in Italy and Spain.

As is often the case, local fare perfed best in Gaul where “Le Code a change” (Change of Plans) opened top, “District 13: Ultimatum”  bowed brightly and “LOL (Laughing Out Loud)” showed good traction.

In the U.K., “Bolt” bounded in to top spot in its second weekend, taking $4.3 million at 494. The animated dog pic, which was goosed by school holidays, has now bitten off $19.7 million for Disney. Trailing hot of the heels of “Bolt” was newbie “Confessions of a Shopaholic” — also from Disney — which bagged a handsome bow of $4.1 million. The female-skewed pic posted the weekend’s best screen average at $9,687.

Eight-time Oscar winner “Slumdog Millionaire” fell only 14% in its seventh frame to take third spot with $2.3 million at 427. Helmer Danny Boyle’s Mumbai-set thriller has now taken a boffo $33.1 million in Blighty via Pathe.

Overall, U.K. box office remains upbeat with five films passing the £1 million ($1.44 million) mark this weekend.

In Germany, Warner’s “Yes Man” and Disney’s local tyke fantasy “Hexe Lilli — Der Drache und das magische Buch” (Lilly the Witch) topped the box office without generating much excitement. Overall box office dropped more than 5%, resulting in the lowest number of admissions so far this year.

“Yes Man” took in $2.06 million from 588 while “Hexe Lilli” helmed by Stefan Ruzowitzky (2007 Oscar-winning drama “The Counterfeiters”) conjured up just $1.9 million.

Still holding well in its fourth frame was “Button,” with $1.7 million towards a $16 million cume. Sony’s “The International” followed with $1.2 million on its way to a $3.8 million total. Close behind in fifth, Fox’s Liam Neeson actioner “Taken” grossed nearly $1.2 million from 353.

Opening in just 73 locations, the Oscar-winning “Milk” garnered $318,252 at a strong per-location average of $4,360 for 15th place.

In Italy, “Button” sewed up the top spot scoring a hot soph sesh in an otherwise flat frame that saw “Inkheart” bow ahead of “Bride Wars” and “The Reader” debut decently.

The Brad Pitt time traveler pulled a boffo $3 million on 502, sliding a mere 22% after opening No. 1 last weekend, for a solid $8.6 million running cume via Warner Bros.

Another holdover, local romancer “Ex,” stayed put in the No. 2 spot, pulling $1.5 million from 391 playdates in its third weekend via 01 Distribuzione for a remarkable $11.2 million cume to date.

“Inkheart” outed at No. 3 for a satisfactory if not stellar $1.2 million from 269 via Eagle Pictures, proving that family fantasies have traction in Italy.

“Bride Wars” defied the conventional wisdom that customarily sees chick flicks fly in Italy despite bad reviews. The Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway catfight laffer, which was the weekend’s biggest opener, took a modest $865,000 off 285 via Fox.

“The Reader” launched well with $687,000 off 161 via 01 Distribuzione, and hopes to capitalize further on Kate Winslet’s Oscar win for actress.

Vampire-werewolf saga “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans” (Sony) rose to the occasion, reaping a remarkable $622,447 off  119 at a strong  $5,233  per-screen average, the Italo frame’s second highest per-screen average after “Button.”

In Spain, “Button” topped the charts for the third week as most promising newcomer “Push” (Aurum) opened to a disappointing $1.1 million on 276 prints, some 25% below some exhibitor’s pre-release expectations. In only 17 days “Button” has cumed $11.6 million.

“Slumdog” came in second in its soph sesh, pushing its cume to $3 million. The buzz pic recorded the best playdate average of the weekend at $6,593.

“The Reader” is also showing good traction; it fell only 16% in its second outing towards a $2.3 million running take.

In France, bittersweet satire “Le Code a change” (Change of Plans) lived up to expectations by taking $4.7 million on 523 in its first five days, the best bow for a French film so far this year. The pic about the artsy chattering classes stars an ensemble cast of top local thesps including Dany Boon and Emmanuelle Seigner, and looks a winner for StudioCanal.

Gritty Gallic actioner “District 13: Ultimatum” had a slamming first five days for EuropaCorp, earning over $3.4 million on 410.

Down 14% in its third frame, Sophie Marceau comedy “LOL (Laughing Out Loud)” is a runaway smash for Pathe, with a cume of close to $16 million.

Dropping 10% after three frames, “Bolt” has also over-performed, exceeding all expectations with a cume of $14.7 million.

As elsewhere in Europe, “Button” means biz in France. David Fincher’s epic slipped 25% in its third frame to push cume to $14.3 million.

Additional reporting by Ed Meza (Germany), Emilio Mayorga (Spain), Nick Vivarelli (Italy) and David Hayhurst (France).

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