Sony Pictures Releasing International (SPRI) top brass believe the record Brazilian opening weekend for their local language hit Chico Xavier could set it up for a lucrative run outside its native country.

Daniel Filho’s film about the life and death of the popular and controversial Brazilian medium has become the new box office sensation and added $2.5m (R$4.5m) over the weekend following the record $ 3.4m (R$ 6.1m) launch on 388 screens.

“We put all efforts into making sure this film was an incredible success in Brazil first, so we are just now beginning to look at its potential elsewhere,’’ SPRI’s senior vice-president Steven O’Dell said. “There is the added advantage of a built-in audience given the many followers of Spiritism around the world, including key markets in Europe and the US.’’

Xavier wrote more than 450 books in his lifetime but did not consider himself the real author of these works, claiming he was guided by spirits. Filho previously directed the Brazilian smash Se Eu Fosse Voce 2, the highest-grossing Brazilian film since the revival of Brazilian cinema (Retomada Do Cinema Brasileiro) in the mid-1990s.

Lereby produced Chico Xavier in association with Globo Filmes and Estacao da Luz. SPRI has first option for the world and released in Brazil with Downtown Filmes. The film has grossed $7.5m (R$13.3m) after two weekends.

“The success of the film is attributable to Chico Xavier’s popularity among Brazilians, which made the public receptive to a quality film about his life,’’ O’Dell said. “What turned it into a movie event was a combination of a well executed marketing campaign and, in the end, having a emotional movie with great production value under the direction of a terrific story teller, Daniel Filho.”