'Button,' 'Road' build on nominations push

LONDON — Military thriller “Valkyrie” hit targets at the European box office this weekend as awards season contenders “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “Revolutionary Road” expanded successfully.

Standout homegrown performer in Europe was lowbrow laffer “Italians,” which held top spot despite the arrival of Tom Cruise starrer “Valkyrie”

In the U.K., “Slumdog Millionaire” stayed top dog for the third weekend running. Danny Boyle’s Oscar hopeful slipped only 16% in its fourth frame to take $3.4 million at 416 screens via Pathe. The running cume stands at $20.3 million and it shows little signs of slowing up its strong pace. Awards season buzz and sizzling word-of-mouth has made it comfortably the most talked about pic on release since it debuted a month ago.

Top opener was “Revolutionary Road,” which placed third with $1.5 million at 252 via Paramount. No other opener made much impact.

Besides “Slumdog,” the best holdover perfs came from “Valkyrie” and “My Bloody Valentine,” which slipped 30% and 22% in their second and third frames, respectively. Decent word-of-mouth is fuelling “Valkyrie” whilst 3-D screenings of “Valentine” are selling like hot cakes.

“Benjamin Button” landed at the top of the charts in Germany, where the multi-Oscar contender took in $4.9 million from 605 via Warner Bros. Boosted by rave reviews and the star power of Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, pic easily knocked “Valkyrie” off the number one spot.

The Third Reich thriller fell nearly 41% in its second frame, garnering $2.2 million for third place and a $6.7 million cume.

In second, “Twilight” grossed $2.4 million in its third week, down 34%, on its way to a $14.5 million total.

Constantin’s “Die wilden Huehner und das Leben” (The Wild Chicks and Life), the third instalment in the hugely popular teen franchise based on the book series by Cornelia Funke, opened in fourth with $2 million — the best start so far for a “Wild Chicks” pic.

In Italy, local laffer “Italians” held on to the top spot in a flat frame, which also saw “Valkyrie” beat “Revolutionary Road” and “Doubt” bow decently.

“Italians,” a satire of national misbehavior involving Ferrari thieves and Russian prostitutes, toplining local stars Carlo Verdone and Sergio Castellitto, had a boffo $3.6 million sophomore frame off 609 via Filmauro, proving that local celebs can prevail over the likes of Cruise and Leonardo DiCaprio. “Italians” has an $11.5 million running cume.

Second-placed “Valkyrie” launched at $2.1 million from 394 via local distrib 01 Distribution. The $5,350 per-screen average was in line with expectations given mixed Italo reviews. “Road” bowed at $1.6 million off 281 via Universal, managing a slightly higher per-screen average than “Valkyrie” — $5,673.

“Doubt” bowed at $658,540 from 153 via Buena Vista International, dispelling doubts that the priestly pedophilia drama would fail to click in Catholic Italy.

The Italo frame was down 18% to $14 million compared with the previous weekend.

In Spain, auds disregarded lame reviews for “Valkyrie,” which pulled $2.8 million from 400 at a $7,242 playdate average. Takings were a touch lower than expected by most bookers, but by no means disastrous. Free broadcaster Antena 3 had aired Jo Baier’s TV movie “Operation Valkyrie” on Jan. 27, securing a 11.5% share and 214,6000 viewers. Bookers feared this might put off rather than encourage auds to go see the Cruise pic.

“Seven Pounds” grabbed second spot and is showing good traction in Spain. The Will Smith drama fell 37% in its third frame toward a $9.6 million cume. “Revolutionary Road” dropped off more sharply in its soph sesh, falling back 44% for a $3.3 million cume.

BVI’s “Doubt” opened to $814,991 on 131, establishing the second best screen average of the weekend: $6,317. Fellow bow “Role Models” (UPI) took $766,564.

In France, “Twilight” stayed top of the heap in its fourth frame. Down just 17% on the week, the vampire romancer has cumed $15.8 million on 457 for a delighted SND.

Both crix and auds gave “Valkyrie” a warm welcome as it netted $2.2 million on 450 in its first five days. “At the moment it looks set to meet our expectations of around 900,000 admissions,” said TFM marketing topper Henri Ernst, who held out the quite plausible hope that the wartime thriller would beat out “Twilight” for best box office perf over the full week.

“Revolutionary Road” is showing good legs for Paramount — it dipped 28% in its second frame for a cume of $5.1 million. Also showing legs is local laffer “De l’autre cote du lit” (Changing Sides). Down by 20% in its fourth frame, the Mars release has cumed $11.6 million — the second-best performer of the year so far in Gaul.

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

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