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'Slumdog' becomes millionaire 200 times over

THE milestones just keep coming for "Slumdog Millionaire": After winning eight Academy Awards, including best picture, the feel-good indie has now crossed the US$200 million mark in worldwide box office.

As of yesterday afternoon, "Slumdog" had grossed nearly US$217 million from theaters around the globe. It made US$12 million the weekend after it dominated the Feb. 22 Academy Awards, a healthy 43 percent improvement over the previous weekend, and came in at No. 3 behind two movies with strong built-in audiences, "Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail" and "Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience."

By contrast, previous best-picture winner "No Country for Old Men" had a worldwide gross of just more than US$162 million, while Martin Scorsese's star-studded "The Departed" from 2006 made nearly US$290 million worldwide.

"Slumdog Millionaire" tells the story of an 18-year-old orphan who rises from the streets of Mumbai to become the biggest winner ever on India's version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." Director Danny Boyle's film had a budget of about US$15 million, featured no well-known stars and is partly in subtitled Hindi, but it's wowed audiences and critics alike.

Steve Gilula, co-chief operating officer for Fox Searchlight, which released "Slumdog," said he expects the movie will go past US$250 million globally.

"It's extraordinary," Gilula said. "Very, very few films get past US$200 million worldwide."

Comparatively, another small Searchlight movie that made it big, 2007's "Juno," made US$230 million worldwide.

Gilula attributes the global success of "Slumdog Millionaire" to a couple of factors. One is the international nature of the setting, the cast and the Oscar-winning filmmakers - Boyle and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy are British, for example, and composer A.R. Rahman is from India. The other is the attention it got from winning top honors at the Golden Globe Awards, given by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and Britain's BAFTAs.

"All of that comes together to create a phenomenon," he said.


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