'Seven Pounds' strong across Europe

LONDON — Goosed by awards season wins and nominations and red-hot word of mouth, “Slumdog Millionaire” hit the jackpot at the U.K. box office, climbing steeply to take top spot in its second weekend.

Elsewhere at the European box office, “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.

In the U.K., “Slumdog” jumped a stunning 47% in its soph sesh from just 2% more screens to claim top spot. Boosted by its four Golden Globe wins, 11 BAFTA noms and sizzling word of mouth, the Oscars hopeful bit off $3.7 million at 330 screens.

According to distrib Pathe, the uptick is the biggest ever rise for a film not substantially increasing its print run.

Bookers report the buzz is so hot that the film has got on the radar of Brits who only very occasionally go to the cinema.

Spearheaded by the powerful “Slumdog” surge, overall Brit biz was once again bouncy with six pics passing £1 million ($1.45 million) — a rare occurrence at the U.K. box office.

Four openers penetrated the top 10 in a competitive frame. “Seven Pounds” came in second with $2.2 million at 402 for Sony. The decent result was toward the bottom end of upbeat pre-release expectations.

Demonstrating Brit auds’ growing appetite for 3-D fare, Lionsgate U.K.’s opener “My Bloody Valentine 3-D” ripped off a record-breaking $1.45 million (£1 million) at 86 3-D screens this weekend. Going out on all available 3-D screens in Blighty, the pic bested previous top 3-D three-day opener “Beowulf,” which dragged home $740,000 (£510,000) at 51 3-D wickets.

“Bloody Valentine” also bowed at 101 2-D screens, where it pulled a more modest but still solid $460,420.

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.

Other key opener “Beverly Hills Chihauhau” also showed box office bite, munching a tasty $1.4 million at 422 for Disney.

Best of the holdovers 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. “It’s holding like a rock,” Harvey Weinstein told Variety.

Also showing good traction at U.K. wicket is femme-skewed “Bride Wars,” which followed up on its impressive debut last weekend with a measly 23% drop-off. The cume now stands at $5.4 million for the Fox release.

In Germany, “Twilight” fever ran rampant as the teen vampire romancer sucked up most of the box office blood, garnering a stupendous $6.6 million from 612 and giving distrib Concorde its best start ever. As elsewhere, the adaptation of Stephanie Meyer’s bestseller has struck a chord with young folks, but also generated crossover appeal among older auds.

“Obviously it’s attracting the teen crowds, but the movie is also a classic gothic love story that speaks to fans of all ages,” noted on exhib.

“Twilight” eclipsed the competish and was well ahead of Jason Statham actioner “Transporter 3,” which took in $2.6 million toward an $8.2 million cume for Universum, followed by Kinowelt’s “Saw 5,” which sawed off $2.3 million in its first weekend.

Paramount’s “Revolutionary Road” rounded out the top five with $1.4 million from 348, putting it behind “Seven Pounds,” which gained $2.1 million toward a $6 million total for Sony.

In Italy, “Seven Pounds” held on to the top spot in a strong frame, which saw “Journey to the Center of the Earth” upset “Australia.” All told, the Italo frame was up 9% compared with the previous weekend, with $16 million.

“Pounds,” which is helmed by Italo native Gabriele Muccino, slid a mere 35% in its sophomore frame to score $3.3 million from 545 via Sony toward a hefty $10 million cume.

“Journey” pulled Italy’s highest per-screen average — $9,690 — on a contained 276 playdates, 42 of which are 3-D equipped, for a boffo $2.6 million via 01 Distribuzion.

“Australia” bowed at number three with a $2.4 million take from 485 via Fox, a sub-par outing for the Nicole Kidman starrer which exhibs say suffered from “being a long haul,” as one booker put it.

“Beverly Hills Chihuahua” barked up buono biz with $1.6 million from 248 via Buena Vista International for the frame’s second-highest per-screen take — $6,700.

In Spain, Will Smith’s rapport with Spanish auds paid off as Sony’s “Seven Pounds” opened to $4.2 million from 316 at a boffo screen average of $13,218 — the most impressive numbers since “High School Musical 3: Senior Year” bowed at with a $13,396 average last October.

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

Universal’s “The Unborn” was the surprise of the frame, coming in ahead of Fox’s “Bride Wars.” Despite poor reviews, “The Unborn” scooped a healthy average of $7,731 for a $1.6 million bow. The bow killed off Filmax’s holdover “Quarantine,” which nosedived 72% in its soph sesh. “It’s always the same; there’s no room for two genre movies,” explained one exhib.

“Bride Wars” landed third with $1.2 million.

As for holdovers, word of mouth is beginning to build on Wanda’s “Welcome to the Sticks.” The French laffer rose 8% in its soph sesh, cuming $1.6 million at the third best print average of the frame: $4,854.

In France, “Twilight” kept shining. Down 31% in its second frame, it has cumed more than $10 million for a delighted SND.

“De l’autre cote du lit” (Changing Sides) is also showing good traction. Off by 16% after two frames, the parental role switcheroo laffer toplining Dany Boon and Sophie Marceau has cumed $7.2 million for SND.

Opener “Seven Pounds” pulled $2.8 million on 344 in its first five days for Sony. “Slumdog Millionaire” was a distant second in the new releases category. Bowing on just 126 screens, it earned Pathe $1.4 million.

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

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