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Slumdog races past $ 100 million in box office
Arthur J Pais

A scene from Slumdog Millionaire
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February 02, 2009 13:11 IST

The flavour of the season, Slumdog Millionaire [Images], raced beyond the $100 million benchmark worldwide over the weekend. For a film that cost a mere $15 million and which is also substantially in Hindi, this is a landmark achievement. It has already become profitable in its limited worldwide run.

In India, however, it plunged by about 70 percent in its second weekend, according to the trade publication Variety. Even then, it grossed a decent $ 4 million. 'A respectable accomplishment,' declared Variety, 'but well below the perfs of Bollywood hits.'

In other countries, the drop has been less than 28 percent till now.

The backlash against the film in some quarters should not affect its Oscar chances, argued Roger Friedman of Fox News, which is owned by the film's North American distributor Fox Searchlight. 'Let's not let some weird backlash hurt it at the last minute,' he asserted recently calling the movie a 'multicultural triumph.'

'We should only be happy to see the whole audience at the Kodak Theatre get up on their feet and dance to Jai ho on February 22,' Friedman added. 'The rest doesn't matter, not now.'

The movie, which will be opening in more than 60 countries in the next two weeks has grossed $67 million in North America, has taken a sensational $20 million in the United Kingdom reigning at the top for three consecutive weeks. In Australia [Images], it has nabbed over $5.2 million; $4.2 million in France [Images], $3.6 million in Italy [Images] and about $1 million in Switzerland [Images]. Its box office abroad will gain a big boost with its release in key territories such as Germany [Images], Spain and Japan [Images].    

Fox Searchlight, which distributed the film in America and Canada [Images], pointed out that the movie, which is in its 12th week and ranked number five in the American box office charts last week, is playing strongly in smaller markets, including such locales as Columbia, South Carolina, and Butte, Montana. It is also doing excellent business in smaller Canadian cities that have no significant South Asian audiences.

'The film has exploded into the mainstream audience because of the Golden Globe [Images] Awards, the Academy nominations and now the Producers Guild of America best film award,' said Searchlight senior VP of distribution Sheila DeLoach in an interview before the movie won the Directors Guild award.

Among the Oscar nominated films like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Doubt, Slumdog is the most beloved, and has seen the biggest box office gains.

'While the four other films are all of the highest quality, we do feel echoes of past moviegoing experience in each of them,' Roger Friedman added. 'Button is especially guilty of this because of the onerous Forrest Gump associations. But Milk is a little like Brokeback Mountain; The Reader has Schindler's List and English Patient traces, and Frost/Nixon is a classic fencing match.'

But Slumdog is the one honest-to-God totally cool, out of left field, genius entry from 2008, Friedman asserted. 'Watching it for the first time, without a lot of hype, you can feel the breathtaking achievement of mixing old and new India, American game shows, class warfare, all of it. Slumdog is alive with possibilities for new avenues of filmmaking, a multicultural triumph.'

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