Vera Drake has given MikeLeigh his biggest UK opening to date through distributor Momentum Pictures.

Thecritically-lauded drama, which is favourite to win the best actress BAFTA nextmonth for Imelda Staunton, opened on $496,850 (£266,010) from 65 screens for astrong $7,645 location average.

Other key openersover the weekend included Alexander which took £1.2m including previewson 415 sites and The Aviator which went wide and took £1.16m on 285sites. However, the biggest film of the weekend was Entertainment'ssupernatural thriller White Noise which took £1.8m on 314 sites.

Vera Drake's opening beatLeigh's last film All Or Nothing, released through UGC Films in October2002, for the director's best home launch after just two days. Vera Drakehad amassed £171,000 by the end of Saturday Jan 8. All Or Nothinggrossed £164,291 over its opening weekend at 55 sites.

The BAFTAnominations on Jan 17 should provide a further box office boost to VeraDrake.

Vera Drake has alreadyopened in Italy through Bim Distribuzione where it has grossed $1.5m (Euro1.2m) after ten weeks on release from 211,300 admissions. It is now Leigh'ssecond best result in Italy after Secrets & Lies' 518,892 admissionswhich grossed Euros 2.7m.

Vera Drake's UK success comesafter a weak second half of 2004 for Momentum which saw disappointing resultsfor British titles Stage Beauty, My House In Umbria and Inside I'mDancing.

This year looksstrong for the distributor which has a line-up including family film RacingStripes on Feb 4 ahead of the schools half-term; US indie The Door InThe Floor (Feb 11); Germany hit Downfall (Der Untergang) on April 1;Nicolas Cage titles The Weather Man (Apr 15) and The Lord Of War;horror titles The Dark and Seed Of Chucky; comedy Prime starringUma Thurman and Meryl Streep; and new, yet to be titled, Jim Jarmusch comedy.