‘Carandiru’ hot at Brazil B.O.

Pic released on 247 screens with big media push

RIO DE JANEIRO — Hector Babenco’s prison drama “Carandiru” has broken box office and attendance records for a local pic and is poised to overtake “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” for top spot in 2003.

Budgeted at $4 million, “Carandiru” has sold 3.86 million tickets since its April 4 release, grossing 25.81 million reais ($8.6 million).

Based on the best-selling memoir named for the notorious Sao Paulo prison, it tells the story of a physician, Drauzio Varella, who worked there.

Pic unseated the reigning local champ, Fernando Meirelles’ “City of God,” which had sold 3.3 million tickets during a 39-week run (it is still on a few screens) and grossed $6.62 million. “Two Towers” grossed $8.77 million.

Co-producer/distrib Columbia released “Carandiru” on a relatively wide 247 screens and backed it with a substantial media campaign, aided by co-producer Globo Filmes, the theatrical distrib arm of media conglom Organizacoes Globo.

Babenco’s shingle HB was the pic’s leading producer.

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