‘Menace’ grows o’seas

Record-setting prequel powers foreign B.O.

The “Star Wars” prequel’s foreign cume soared to $271.7 million last weekend, powered by record-busting debuts in five European territories, while the long-delayed “The Thirteenth Warrior” had a reasonably encouraging world preem in France.

Rounding out the frame, “Mickey Blue Eyes” had a midrange launch in the U.K., consistent with its day-and-date Stateside preem, and “The Thomas Crown Affair” initialed brightly in Australia, the U.K., Netherlands and Portugal.

Continuing as the summer’s standout, “Star Wars: Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace” seized $26.3 million from 3,300 pods in 27 countries. George Lucas’ sci-fier nabbed $12.4 million in four days on 1,001 screens in Germany, narrowly beating “Men in Black’s” previous high.

“Phantom Menace” claimed $4.3 million in three days on 352 in Spain (outstripping “Independence Day” by 46%), $1.6 million in four days on 100 in Sweden (eclipsing prior champ “Lethal Weapon 4” by 36%) and $1.3 million in four days on 110 in Austria (36% ahead of “ID4”).

Great among Danes

“Menace” broke the industry record in Denmark with $932,000 in four days on 66 (commanding 64% of that market’s receipts), but had to be content with being the second-best opener ever in Norway (behind “ID4”), snaring $890,000 on 73.

After wrapping principal photography in 1997, John McTiernan’s “Thirteenth Warrior,” a Viking tale toplining Antonio Banderas, finally had its first exposure in France, notching about $2 million in five days on 497 prints, ahead of its U.S. bow this Friday.

Pic based on Michael Crichton’s novel was overshadowed by “Notting Hill,” which scored a buoyant $4.6 million on 685 after sneaks and initial engagements in the provinces and beachside areas, bringing the tally to $5.6 million. Roger Michel’s romantic comedy is closing in on $150 million after bagging $11 million on nearly 3,000 screens, propelling the cume to $148.7 million.

‘Blue’ takes third

The Hugh Grant/Jeanne Tripplehorn starrer “Mickey Blue Eyes” wooed $1.5 million in three days on 274 in the U.K., placed third behind the rampaging “Phantom Menace” (which hit $67.9 million in its sixth orbit) and the “Austin Powers” sequel (tallying $33.6 million after its fourth).

In Japan, where the B.O. cooled after the Obon vacation, “Phantom” flew to $79.8 million in its seventh lap and “Entrapment” (cume: $102.7 million) fell by 37% for a breezy $6.1 million in nine days.

“Thomas Crown,” McTiernan’s follow-up to “Thirteenth Warrior,” stole a uniformly solid $1.4 million on 298 in the U.K. (5% better than “Ronin’s” entry), $804,000 in four days on 174 in Australia (5% up on “The Peacemaker”) and $234,000 in four days on 50 in Holland.

“Runaway Bride” hitched a terrif $1.1 million in weekend previews on 221 screens Down Under, presaging a fat payday when it rolls out Thursday. Pic added a snappy $354,000 on 32 in New Zealand (double “Notting Hill’s” debut). The Julia Roberts/Richard Gere vehicle demonstrated excellent stamina in South Korea, slipping just 8% for $1.1 million in nine days on 34, and has taken $925,000 in the same period on 16 in the Taiwan capital, Taipei.

‘Wild’ mild

Showing a fragility which is becoming a pattern as adverse word of mouth kicks in, “Wild Wild West” plunged by 58% in the U.K., collecting $7.7 million in 10 days. The Will Smith starrer has cumed $68.4 million, highlighted by Germany’s $13.7 million, France’s $13.2 million, Spain’s $4.8 million and Taiwan’s $3 million.

“The Mummy” climbed to $204.4 million, “The Matrix” topped $185 million, “Tarzan” touched $51.5 million and “Analyze This” moved up to $33.9 million.

Doug Liman’s hip, dark comedy “Go” drew plenty of youthful admirers Down Under, clocking $647,000 on 138 ($921,000 with previews) and is generating good vibes. Handled by Columbia TriStar, the no-stars pic has fared OK as a limited release in Germany, Brazil and Mexico.

Jean-Claude Van Damme’s drawing power overseas isn’t strong enough thus far to elevate “Universal Soldier: The Return” beyond mediocre B.O. levels. The actioner scraped up $143,000 in three days on 63 in Italy, where biz is mired in the summer doldrums, and slumped by 57% in Spain for a sluggish $728,000 in 10 days.

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