‘Stars’ over rookies

'Menace' on path to top 'Independence Day'

Tracking ahead of “Independence Day” in the U.K., Japan and Australia, the “Star Wars” prequel soared to $168.1 million overseas last week and, depending on its results in continental Europe, appears to have a shot at reaching “Independence Day’s” lifetime tally of $505 million.

Also giving the biz some summer momentum, “The Mummy” pulled in crowds as it unspooled in France, Belgium and Hong Kong, “Wild Wild West” opened with guns blazing in four small territories, and “Tarzan” had great holds.

Many exhibs, however, beefed about a paucity of potent product as “Instinct” and “The King & I” flopped in France, “Pushing Tin” bombed in Australia and Singapore and “Never Been Kissed” was shunned in Taiwan.

“It’s been the worst week for new releases this year, if not for many years,” one Madrid booker moaned, surveying a bunch of losers including “Baby Geniuses,” “10 Things I Hate About You,” “Varsity Blues” and “The Mod Squad.”

Domestic hit “Big Daddy” didn’t generate lots of laughs or bucks in its first foreign tryout in Thailand, a market that isn’t hip to Adam Sandler (“The Waterboy” tanked there). But “Daddy” is a question mark until it starts rolling out in major markets in late August/early September.

Empire still striking

The mercurial “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace” rang up $30.3 million on nearly 2,400 screens in 24 territories. After an all-time record bow in the U.K., sci-fier dipped by a reasonable 39%, amassing $37.9 million in 13 days. Pic dropped by just 18% in its third weekend in Japan, towering at $42.9 million after 19 days.

“Phantom Menace” is running ahead of “Independence Day” in Taiwan and South Korea but didn’t keep pace with that blockbuster in Malaysia and Singapore, where the “Star Wars” cult has never been strong.

Harvesting $22.8 million on more than 3,000 screens in 22 countries, “The Mummy” vaulted to $163.6 million, spurred by France’s superb $5.8 million opener, Belgium’s $1.3 million on 53 and Hong Kong’s $1.5 million on 40.

“Wild Wild West” corralled $436,000 in six days on 30 in Norway and $361,000 on 69 in South Africa and debuted nicely in German-speaking Switzerland and Iceland.

Pic is resonating effectively overseas, boosted by Will Smith’s star power and a hot-selling soundtrack.

‘Hill’s’ pinnacles

With about $94.3 million in the till after grossing an estimated $9.3 million last week, “Notting Hill” is poised to become the eighth title released this year to cross the century. “Tarzan” raked in $9 million from 1,355 prints in 18 territories, elevating cume to $33.8 million, paced by a socko $8.6 million in 13 days in Mexico and $4.1 million through its third lap in Argentina.

“The Matrix” ascended to $164.2 million, driven by an $8.3 million frame from 2,586 in 30 territories.

Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” had a groovy debut in South Korea and stole a virile $2 million in previews on 300 screens in the U.K. before its July 30 blastoff.

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