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‘Button’ sews up top spot overseas

Oscar-nominated drama nabs $30 million

David Fincher’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” may be dominating the international box office, but whether it will be the springboard the film needs to achieve financial success is still a question.

Film’s foreign performance is certainly impressive so far. For the weekend of Feb. 13-15, “Button” grossed north of $30 million, far ahead of its nearest rival (“Bolt,” $14 million), bringing its international cume to $116 million. Pic’s domestic total is $122.7 million.

Warner Bros. and Paramount are partners on “Button,” which Warners Intl. is distributing overseas.

Pic, toplining Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, cost $150 million to produce. That doesn’t include the tens of millions spent on marketing the film worldwide.

Any wins at the Academy Awards on Feb. 22 could further boost “Button’s” gross overseas, although its Oscar noms alone helped build buzz over the past month.

That buzz — as well as Brad Pitt’s strong overseas box office appeal — helped “Button” open on top in Italy and hold the top slot in Germany and Spain for the weekend. Pic also opened No. 1 in South Korea with $2 million.

“Button” beat a pair of homegrown St. Valentine’s Day romancers in Italy, grossing a boffo $3.8 million off 477 via Warner Bros at a sweet $7,900 per-screen average.

In Spain, Fincher’s epic bested the bows of two other Oscar best pic contenders, “Slumdog Millionaire” and “The Reader,” declining a respectable 38% to $3 million for a $9 million cume.

“Button” placed No. 1 in Spain for the third consectuive week. The pic added nearly $2.5 million to its $13.4 million cume, the biggest gross of any international territory. Second-best territory is France, where film has earned $6.6 million.

Rival Oscars contender “Slumdog” remained a hit in Europe over the weekend. Pic, which bagged seven BAFTA awards on Feb. 8, leapt up 15% in its sixth frame to gross $2.6 million at 410 for an exceptional cume of $28.5 million for Pathe.

Among new studio openers over Valentine’s Day weekend, Paramount Intl.’s “Friday the 13th” placed No. 5, grossing $9.5 million at 2,172 playdates in day-and-date launches in 30 markets. Best grosses came in the U.K. and Russia.

Despite its glitzy premiere in Berlin, where it opened this year’s Berlinale, Sony’s political thriller “The International” opened in third place in Germany at $4 million.

Sony is confident, though, that “The International,” which shot in several swank European locations, will be a strong contender as it rolls out overseas, helping to make up for a soft U.S. debut of roughly $11 million over Valentine’s Day weekend.

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

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