Romans rule o’seas

'Gladiator' takes $28 mil on 3,350 screens

The all-conquering “Gladiator” racked up $28.3 million on 3,350 screens in 26 markets last week, maintaining the early summer B.O. momentum in many territories, while “Dinosaur” and “Shanghai Noon” scored gangbuster international preems.

“Erin Brockovich” became just the seventh film to cross $100 million overseas this year, “Mission to Mars” launched impressively in Japan (but will it hold?) and “The Whole Nine Yards” continued to draw Bruce Willis admirers in the U.K. and France.

” ‘Gladiator’ is what cinema is all about; that’s why people go to the movies,” enthuses one Teutonic booker as Ridley Scott’s epic notched the third-best bow of this year behind “American Pie” and “Pokemon.”

The Russell Crowe starrer had stellar debuts in Austria, German-speaking Switzerland and Hong Kong, and in its second laps slipped by just 9% in Spain, 21% in Taiwan and 30% in Italy. In its third in the U.K., it fell by a minuscule 4%. The cume soared to $79.6 million.

Malaysian malaise

However, the sword-and-sandals saga hasn’t reached great heights in Malaysia (taking $463,000 in three weeks) or Singapore ($1 million in ditto).

One Malaysian exec opines the genre is passe and the pic has faced stiff competition from local slapstick comedy “Senaria Again,” a sequel to last year’s hit based on a popular TV series.

In Singapore, one exhib believes lack of star power has inhibited “Gladiator” a bit in Asia and while he’s pleased with the local results, they’re well below the likes of “Con Air” and “Twister.”

“Dinosaur” devoured $651,000 in five days on 31 prints in Singapore, a record for a Disney toon, besting “Toy Story 2” by 25% and last summer’s “Tarzan” by 50%.

Jackie oh, my

Jackie Chan’s army of fans turned out for “Shanghai Noon” in Malaysia, delivering $725,000 in six days on 51 — an all-time high for a BVI release, topping “Armageddon” by 25%.

“Mission to Mars” took pole position in Japan with $2.9 million in five days on 236, ahead of fellow rookies “Erin Brockovich,” “Any Given Sunday” and “The Insider.”

“Mars’ ” cume in BVI’s markets is $20.6 million, plus $7.4 million from Spyglass’ territories. Typically, the pic opens well then plummets as word of mouth spreads like a virus.

“Erin’s” weekend figures in Japan were a bit below Columbia TriStar’s projections, but Wednesday B.O. virtually doubled regular weekday biz as the pic capitalized on Ladies’ Day, when tickets for femmes are $10 (normally $18). Its estimated cume is $102.4 million. It’s not surprising “Insider” ($29.7 million cume) didn’t catch fire in Japan, a nation of nicotine lovers.

In the U.K., “Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo” barely caused a giggle, underscoring how some lowbrow U.S. laughers can face tough sledding abroad. With just Italy and Belgium to come among the major markets, “Deuce’s” cume is $26.6 million, a shadow of domestic’s $65.5 million.

Blighty bookers were heartened by the sturdy soph sessions of “Final Destination” and “The Whole Nine Yards,” but took no comfort from “Honest,” toplining members of the All Saints pop group as three London East End gals who become gangsters.

Bruce is boss

Willis is the flavor du jour in France, with “Nine Yards” reigning in its third term and “The Story of Us” opening respectably.

Gallic programmers noted ticket sales at what is usually a slow time were 50% ahead of the corresponding week last year.

Domestic dud “I Dreamed of Africa” had no better luck in its first offshore forays in Italy, Spain, France and Mexico. Woody Allen’s “Sweet and Lowdown” finally saw daylight in Italy, retitled “Agreements and Disagreements,” but fared poorly.

Also unimpressive in Italy were “Up at the Villa,” a locally set period drama pairing Kristin Scott Thomas and Sean Penn, “The Bachelor,” which didn’t fulfill the promise of its new moniker “The Golden Bachelor,” “Brokedown Palace” (which masqueraded as “Bangkok, No Return”) and WB’s belated release of “The Wedding Singer.”

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