'Slumdog' shows strong legs

LONDON — Military thriller “Valkyrie” opened with a spring in its step in selected territories and Oscar hopeful “Slumdog Millionaire” continued to sizzle in holdover biz this weekend at the European box office.

In the U.K., red-hot “Slumdog Millionaire” rose again and held top spot comfortably. The Pathe release added 15% more screens and did 7% more biz — $4 million at 379 screens.

The potent combo of escalating awards season buzz and excellent word-of-mouth has made “Slumdog” the film to see this January. The cume for Danny Boyle’s Mumbai-set thriller stands at $14.4 million and the film shows little signs of letting up its assault on the U.K. box office. This weekend, its third on release, it posted a chart-topping $10,403 screen average.

Twentieth Century Fox’s “Valkyrie” was the top opener with $2.6 million at 450. Pic, which placed second overall, was boosted by positive reviews and Cruise’s sterling promotional work in Blighty.

Entertainment release “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans” was the next best opener with $1.4 million at 339.

Oscar hopeful “Milk” got off to a decent enough start via Momentum, pulling $472,481 at 131. “Frost/Nixon” opened bigger — $831,803 at 307 — but at a lower screen average than “Milk.”

Best of the holdovers besides “Slumdog” was “My Bloody Valentine” for Lionsgate U.K., which slipped only 12% in its soph sesh to place third with $1.7 million. The pic has been performing exceptionally well in its 3-D showings.

“The Wrestler” didn’t show much B.O. muscle in its second round, falling 53%.

In Germany, Tom Cruise’s portrayal of a national hero in “Valkyrie” generated plenty of interest, resulting in a chart-topping yet unspectacular start.

For all the hoopla triggered by Bryan Singer’s film, including some loud initial protests against Cruise playing Claus von Stauffenberg due to the actor’s ties to Scientology, which is viewed critically locally, the pic barely beat “Twilight,” which continued to draw large young crowds in its second frame.

Going out via Fox, “Valkyrie” garnered $3.7 million from 689, resulting in a strong per-location average of $5,411. Local exhibs pointed out that pic played well among adults and predicted it would have a strong run.

“It’s not a film that viewers may rush out to see on opening night, but it will still remain a fascinating must-see story for many,” said one exhib, who added that the pic could also benefit from its educational appeal and high school history class trips to the movies.

In a close second, “Twilight” took in $3.6 million, dropping 45% from its opening weekend take for an $11.7 million total.

Opening in third, Disney’s “Bolt” followed with $2.6 million from 502. Clint Eastwood’s “Changeling” opened in ninth with $651,150 via Universal.

In Italy, local laffer “Italians” dominated the solid frame, which saw “Milk” launch richly, boosted by its eight Oscar noms.

“Italians,” a satire of national misbehavior involving Ferrari thieves and Russian prostitutes, which toplines local A-listers Carlo Verdone and Sergio Castellitto, scored a boffo $6.3 million off 611 playdates via Aurelio De Laurentiis’ Filmauro.

“Milk” was Italy’s second-biggest bow, opening at $804,000 off 149 — a $5,400 per-screen average — via BIM. Sean Penn’s strong star pull in Italy, on top of the Oscar noms, contributed.

Daniel Craig starrer “Defiance” had a moderate Italo outing, with $597,000 from 188 via Medusa for Edward Zwick’s Holocaust drama, which had received mixed reviews. Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon comedy “Four Christmases” fell flat, as expected, bowing at $315,526 off 123 via Warner Bros.

As for holdovers, “Journey to the Center of the Earth” had a stellar sophomore frame, sliding just 26% and drawing $2 million from 273 via 01 Distribuzione for a $5.6 million running cume. Thanks to its 10 Oscar noms, “Slumdog Millionaire,” is now showing staying power. This weekend, it dropped a mere 22% in its eighth frame for $213,000 from 47 via Lucky Red and a $3.4 million running cume.

In France, “Twilight” slipped 28% in its third frame but held top spot. The vampire romancer released by SND has cumed $13.2 million.

“Revolutionary Road” bowed powerfully for Par, with a tasty take in its first five days of $2.6 million on 300. “The returns are excellent — at the upper ends of our expectations, without any doubt,” said Par executive consultant Steve Summersby, adding, “French audiences were eager to see Kate Winslet and Leo DiCaprio together again. We anticipated that it would appeal to the French public, and this has been the case.”

Fellow new release “Yes Man” (Warner Bros.) got a positive response from the Gallic public. The Jim Carrey comedy made more than $2 million on 403 in its first five days.

Local laffer “De l’autre cote du lit” (Changing Sides) is having a sturdy run for Mars: off 32% in its third frame, it has cumed $9.7 million.

Will Smith caused Spanish hearts to swoon again as holdover “Seven Pounds” stayed top with another $2.6 million toward a $7.5 million running total.

“Revolutionary Road” fulfilled bookers’ predictions, coming in second with $1.9 million at a bouncy $7,131 playdate average. Exhibitors are betting on “Road” holding up at Spanish theaters, thanks in part to Winslet’s high awards season profile. DeAPlaneta actioner “Transporter 3″ scooped $1.6 million for a screen average of $6,210. Both “Transporter” and “Road” went out on the same spread, bowing on 260 screens.

Wanda’s “Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis” (Welcome to the Sticks) put in another excellent innings, falling just 12% to move the cume to $2.3 million. “Although it’s a bit too early to say, ‘Ch’tis’ could become the first big sleeper of the year,” ventured one exhib. Also holding well is Palme d’Or winner “The Class,” which slid only 4% for a $646,914 cume via Golem.

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

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