'Mercury' rises high in Japan

German audiences warmly embraced “Saving Private Ryan” over the weekend, highlighting a lucrative frame that netted $16.8 million overseas for Steven Spielberg’s World War II drama.

Media coverage in Germany indicated the film likely will be another major catalyst for intense reflection in the way “Schindler’s List” provoked debate in 1993.

“Private Ryan” grabbed $4.4 million on 649 screens in Germany, 59% ahead of “Forrest Gump” (which opened on only 254), 27% up on “Apollo 13’s” entry on 403, but 12% below “Mission: Impossible’s” on 653.

“Some of the cultural experts in Europe might call this another simple American story,” said U.S. ambassador to Germany John Kornblum, who hosted an advance screening last week at a cinema in Duesseldorf. “But these films succeed in telling a larger story. The plot is humanity and the inhumanity of war.”

A crowd of 400 German business and cultural leaders at Kornblum’s screening was left momentarily speechless by the film’s graphic depiction of the horrors of World War II.

“It’s a horrible and exhausting film for me because it has brought back so many memories of bombs and screams of pain,” said Thomas Sturzena, a 59-year-old toothpaste company executive who like many sat motionless for minutes after the film ended.

‘Too realistic’

“I’m not going to be able to sleep for the next week,” he said, adding that his brother died in a bomb raid near the end of the war. “The sounds were just too realistic for me. I stayed away from war films for 20 years, and wish I hadn’t watched this.”

Although some Germans have denounced the film as another attempt to portray the Germans as villains, most at the advance screening said they enjoyed the movie and felt it was an anti-war film comparable to the classic “All Quiet on the Western Front.”

“I didn’t feel any anti-German sentiment in the film,” said Heinz Moll, a 59-year-old economics professor whose hometown of Goch was destroyed by bombs in 1944. “It shows how terrible war is. I was deeply impressed. It was a very upsetting movie but a very good movie.”

But Georg Helk, a 62-year-old businessman from Aachen whose father was an officer in Amsterdam during the war, said the film was another “kitschy” Hollywood action movie in which “the Germans are portrayed as such fools that it makes you wonder why it took the Allies six years to win the war.”

Elsewhere in Europe, the D-Day drama pulled a boffo $663,000 on 65 in Sweden, $395,000 on 41 in Norway (2% behind “Mission: Impossible”) and $499,000 on 84 in Austria.

Top B.O.

The standout perfs include the U.K.’s $22.9 million, Japan’s $13.5 million in 16 days and France’s $11 million in 12 days (off 22%, but tracking 58% ahead of “Apollo 13″).

The cume is $91.1 million and will top the ton next weekend.

Fall biz also was powered by “The Truman Show’s” superb bow in the U.K., “Blade’s” lusty debuts in Spain and Australia, “A Perfect Murder” in Europe and “There’s Something About Mary” in Mexico.

In a fascinating duel in Japan, “Mercury Rising” checked in with $1.09 million in two days on 137, edging out “The Mask of Zorro’s” $1.02 million on 142. The Bruce Willis starrer’s cume is $49.3 million while “Zorro” has $18.3 million from 23 territories, with most of Europe to come.

Another milestone was passed as the Eddie Murphy vehicle “Dr. Dolittle” now ranks as the 10th title to cross $100 million abroad this year, standing at $102.6 million after a juicy $5.8 million weekend in 15 countries.

Peter Weir’s “Truman Show” hauled in $3.6 million in three days on 377 in the U.K., beating “Liar Liar’s” debut by 14%, and $264,000 on 28 in New Zealand. All told, the Jim Carrey starrer minted $6.7 million from 961 screens in six countries, propelling the total to $19.7 million.

Setting out in its first major markets, the Wesley Snipes’ vehicle “Blade” sucked up $1.5 million in three days on 200 in Spain (and could do $2 million after the Monday public holiday, New Line Intl. believes) and $1 million on 132 in Australia — No. 1 in both territories.

Record-setter

“Mulan” set an industry opening record for an animated release in Thailand, nabbing $446,000 on 80, almost triple “The Lion King.” The Chinese fable’s cume is $48.3 million ahead of the U.K. preem on Friday.

“There’s Something About Mary” wowed Mexico with $796,000 on 213 (Fox’s sixth-highest debut) and took a solid $381,000 on 23 in Hong Kong and $187,000 on 26 in the Philippines.

The Cameron Diaz/Ben Stiller starrer whipped up $5.1 million in 17 markets and the cume hit $33.4 million, led by the U.K.’s $13.2 million.

In its first offshore engagements, the omens don’t look bright for “Ever After.” The Drew Barrymore vehicle took a tepid $514,000 on 223 in the U.K. and a blah $46,000 on 14 in Taiwan.

Two Gallic entries look impressive, with the Catherine Deneuve starrer “Place Vendome” selling nearly 93,000 tickets on 33 screens in Paris (second behind “Private Ryan”) and “Le Poulpe,” a thriller adapted from a famous French novel, clocking 42,000 on 34. “The Borrowers” landed in France with a fair $687,000 on 330 ahead of the school vacation that kicks off Oct. 23; the family pic’s cume is $24 million, beating domestic’s $21.7 million.

Polygram’s costumer “Elizabeth” held rock-steady in its second outing in its London platform, tallying $729,000 in 10 days on 14 screens, and in Italy widened from 40 to 79 screens for a reasonable $887,000 in 10 days.

“The Horse Whisperer” bagged $6.5 million, paced by Germany’s excellent $14 million after the third lap, and its cume topped $58 million; Robert Redford’s drama sweeps into Italy and Japan next weekend.

The Jackie Chan/Chris Tucker romp “Rush Hour” set an opening record for a nonsummer release in Puerto Rico with $301,000 on 28, according to distrib New Line Intl. The actioner has amassed $2.2 million after two weeks in Taiwan, $1.5 million in nine days in South Korea, $990,000 after the third frame in Thailand and $910,000 in Singapore.

“Armageddon” pocketed $2 million and its cume peaked at $226.9 million, while “Godzilla” added $3.8 million and now has $221.6 million, “Lethal Weapon 4″ moved up to $136.4 million and “City of Angels” hit $95 million.

“Six Days, Seven Nights” touched $71.1 million (falling by 38% in Italy for $1.8 million in 10 days), and “The X-Files” stood at $71.5 million.

(Reuters contributed to this report.)

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