Rich start for 'Slumdog'

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It's been a relatively slack market so far for prestige films with awards-consideration aspirations, but Fox Searchlight's "Slumdog Millionaire" hit the jackpot during the weekend with a gold-plated start to its platform campaign.

Danny Boyle's critically praised dramedy about an Indian game-show contestant grossed $350,434 from just 10 first-frame playdates in six markets. That represented a mind-bending $35,043 per engagement for one of the year's top theater averages to date.

Cumulative domestic boxoffice on "Slumdog" reached $418,131 following its Wednesday bow.

"It's a fantastic start," Searchlight senior vp distribution Sheila DeLoach said.

Elsewhere in the specialty market, IFC's French-language Catherine Deneuve starrer "A Christmas Tale" unwrapped a first-weekend gross of $65,408 in five New York theaters and three in Los Angeles. That translated to an encouraging $9,344 per venue as the Yuletide reunion drama prepares to unfold in top 10 markets Friday.

Cavalier Films' PG-13 comedy "Family Strangers" grossed $12,294 from a pair of opening playdates in Washington, D.C. That amounted to a sturdy $6,147 per engagement, with "Strangers" tagged to expand in select markets slowly in coming weeks.

Laemmle/Zeller's basketball documentary "The First Basket" opened with $5,370 from three Southern California locations, or a thin $1,790 per site. And Liberation Entertainment's relationship drama "Eden" unspooled in a single New York venue with a tepid $2,760.

Among the session's notable expansions, Miramax's Holocaust drama "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" added 21 theaters for a total of 38 and grossed $490,000, or an impressive $12,893 per venue, with an $843,000 cume.
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