‘A.I.’ prime in Japan; ‘Pearl,’ ‘Lara’ jolly

Spielberg flick racks up $2.6 mil

Japanese auds jumped at the chance to see “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” on Saturday night.

Priming the pump before its debut this Saturday in Japan, Steven Spielberg’s “A.I.” rang up $2.6 million on 286 screens on Saturday — an all-time record for paid previews in the territory, beating prior champ “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace” by 14%.

Warner Bros.’ Tokyo office predicted that “A.I.” would rank as the No. 1 title over the weekend from those sneaks alone, topping the third lap of “The Mummy Returns.” The distrib reported SRO biz at a number of theaters, including the 1,250-seat Pantheon in the Shibuya district of Tokyo and the Warner MyCal multiplex at Shinyurigaoka, where all five shows were sold out by 6 p.m.

Elsewhere, “Pearl Harbor” blitzed Hong Kong and Taiwan, “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” conquered Australia and Spain, “Evolution” had a promising offshore launch in the U.K., and “Shrek” had a monster preem Down Under.

Day-and-date with domestic, “Dr. Dolittle 2” ventured to Mexico, opening well ahead of the original, but it couldn’t dislodge front-runner “Pearl Harbor” in its soph session.

‘Pearl’ performs

Buena Vista Intl. estimated “Pearl Harbor” added $13.5 million-$14 million to its coffers over the weekend, propelling cume to around $94 million. It’s on course to cross $100 million overseas by midweek, becoming the eighth hit this year to do so, assuming “Miss Congeniality” reaches that threshold by today.

The WWII epic fetched an estimated $825,000 in its first four days in Hong Kong, which BVI rated as on par with the bows of “Armageddon” and “Saving Private Ryan,” 10% up on “Titanic” and 30% better than “The Sixth Sense.”

“Pearl” raked in roughly $800,000 in two days in Taiwan, the market’s seventh highest debut ever, level with “Armageddon” and 12% ahead of the most recent “Star Wars.”

Michael Bay’s pic collected an estimated $923,000 Friday-Saturday from 338 locations in Mexico, which means it will outgun the three-day tally of “Dr. Dolittle 2,” which Fox Intl. projects at $1.2 million on 349. Fox said that figure surpasses the original pic by 30%.

‘Mother’ makes it

Fox’s pickup “Y Tu Mama Tambien” (“And Your Mother Too”) eased by just 17% in Mexico, fetching $5 million in 17 days, which Fox says is a record for a Mexican pic in that frame. The erotic drama seized pole position in Colombia, bringing in $180,000 on 43.

UIP’s “Tomb Raider” unearthed $2.6 million in four days on 189 in Australia (including Wednesday night previews) and an estimated $880,000 in two days on 288 in Spain.

“Shrek” devoured $1.8 million on 209 in Oz after nabbing $2 million in sneaks on the two previous weekends, beating all the recent bows by Disney toons.

The computer animated pic raked in $723,000 in previews Saturday on 426 in the U.K., where “Evolution” chimed in at No. 1 with an estimated $1.8 million Friday-Saturday on 435. Columbia TriStar, which has foreign rights to Ivan Reitman’s romp, noted that the U.K. opening is neck-and-neck with “Deep Impact’s” first weekend there and hailed that as a turnaround after the pic’s underwhelming domestic preem.

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