International timing perfect for Oscar pics

Studios hoping noms will boost overseas b.o.

LONDON -- As soon as this weekend, the effects of the Oscar noms will begin to reverberate throughout Europe and around the world.

In the U.K., a number of the best picture nominees are just about to hit theaters.

Universal's "Frost/Nixon" and "Milk," from distributor Momentum, are set to open in general release Friday, while "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," from Warners, is due Feb. 6. Optimum Distribution, owned by French giant Canal Plus, has "The Wrestler" (now playing) and "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" (opening Feb. 6) in the U.K.

With "The Wrestler" in its first week of release, Optimum's Danny Perkins is confident of a surge in interest. "Oscar nominations put a seal of quality on a film," he said.

As for Warner Bros., the studio is optimistic that the 13 Oscar noms for "Button" will pay off substantially abroad as the David Fincher drama expands its overseas run begun Dec. 26 in Australia. (Paramount has the domestic distribution rights).

"Button" has collected $15.8 million from 1,170 screens in eight foreign territories to date. Openings in another nine territories are set for the coming weekend as a prelude to the big-market premieres of the U.K. (Feb. 6), Germany (Jan. 29), France (Feb. 4) and Feb. 7 in Japan, where Pitt films generally do well at the boxoffice.

For "The Dark Knight," which failed to get a best picture nom, Warners is banking on something more tangible than a gold statue -- hitting the billion-dollar mark in worldwide grosses. To that end, it is returning the Batman sequel to 400 international locations this weekend.

Stephen Daldry's "The Reader," with Kate Winslet claiming all the headlines in Britain, should enjoy a fresh lease on life in its fourth week for Entertainment Films in that territory (cume so far there is $4 million), while "Slumdog Millionaire," which premiered in India on Thursday on the back of its 10 noms, is certain to feel an uptick in its third week at the British boxoffice for Pathe.

"Slumdog" is a genuine overseas boxoffice sleeper, having raked in since its Dec. 18 Australia opening a total of about $15 million in grosses through various distributors (Pathe, Icon and Fox). It remained the No. 1 U.K. film for the second straight frame last weekend and has collected $9 million so far from that market alone. In France, it opened last weekend within the market's top five titles with a gross of $1.4 million.

In need of extra foreign boxoffice help are Focus Features' "Milk" and Imagine/Working Title's "Frost/Nixon," both released overseas by Universal.

"Milk" has generated $1.2 million over 12 days from dates in just two markets, including Spain. Next up is Australia on Jan. 29. "Frost/Nixon's" foreign tally stands at $1.5 million from four markets (Australia, New Zealand, Belgium and the Netherlands) over 24 days. A U.K. bow is set for the coming weekend. Both titles will have international rollouts throughout the next two months.
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