‘Harbor’ in B.O. battle for Europe

Gaul, Oz, auds sinking pic's B.O.

Can “Pearl Harbor” hold onto its Euro auds? That’s the question as the widely panned pic moves into its second or third week in major territories after strong bows in most markets.

“Pearl Harbor” is fast losing altitude in France and Australia but managing to stay aloft in many other markets. Distribbed by Buena Vista Intl., pic has amassed $20.5 million from 4,610 engagements in 24 territories, hoisting cume to $73.5 million just 18 days into its overseas mission.

In its soph sessions, “Pearl” held well in Germany (scoring $14.1 million in 11 days, off 21%) but it’s sagging in France (a soft $6 million in 12 days, down 35%) and Australia ($5.4 million in 11 days, plunging 41%), although it’s still No. 1 in both.

“Pearl Harbor” reviews were no kinder in Italy than anywhere else.

Leading daily La Repubblica called it a film produced rather than directed, comparing it unfavorably to the anti-military take of “From Here to Eternity” and criticizing the ceaseless gung-ho flag-waving and politically correct depictions of noble Japanese soldiers.

” ‘Pearl Harbor’ will be one of the biggest pics this year, but not an epoch-marking phenomenon,” opined one of Spain’s leading exhibs. “Pearl” opens July 6 in the territory, going out on 282 prints.

Exhibs polled by Daily Variety put expected total gross in Spain at 2 billion-2.5 billion pesetas ($10.3 million-$12.9 million). That would probably make it the highest-grossing U.S. pic to date this year, but only by a whisker or two.

Michael Bay’s WWII epic rang up $2.5 million on a record 604 prints in Mexico, the industry’s fifth highest live action entry behind “The Mummy Returns,” “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace,” “Mission: Impossible 2” and “Godzilla.”

Pic opened strongly but didn’t rank among the top 10 all-time debutantes in Argentina, mustering $870,000 from 125. That was the market’s second biggest bow this year after “Hannibal,” but 15% below the helmer’s “Armageddon.”

“Pearl” is a standout in Korea, dipping by 30% in its third weekend for $8 million to date — 85% of “Armageddon’s” entire earnings in that territory.

The remaining critical market for “Pearl Harbor” is Japan, typically the No. 1 foreign market for American movies. Pic opens there July 14 on 400 screens.

‘Mummy’ unwrapped in Asia

Elsewhere, “The Mummy Returns” notched record-shattering bows in South Korea and Taiwan, while “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” and “Swordfish” had dashing offshore launches at the weekend.

“The Mummy Returns” unearthed $15.9 million from 3,688 engagements in 29 countries; cume soared to $149.1 million. Universal/UIP’s release set industry records in Korea with $2.4 million in two days on 75 (beating the previous highs by “Pearl Harbor” and Korean click “Friend”) and Taiwan at $2.4 million in two days on 52, including sneaks (unseating prior champ “The Lost World: Jurassic Park”).

The action-adventure stole $1.8 million in four days on 35 in Hong Kong, the second biggest debut there behind “The Lost World.”

Simon West’s “Tomb Raider” stormed Singapore with $575,000 in three days on 28, including previews, a local record for a Paramount title and 6% better than “M:I 2.” “Swordfish” seized pole position in Malaysia, hooking $188,854 on 35, including previews.

“Shrek” ventured into Italy, its second market, drawing a solid but not stellar $1 million in three days on 319, ranked No. 1 in trading subdued by hot weather and a championship soccer final Sunday in Rome, which was the scene of a monster party that night, making it a virtual no-go zone for cinemas. But the animated fairy tale was lauded by Italo critics, and tradesters expect it will build into a steady performer through the summer. “Shrek” fell by 46% after a strong first week in Singapore, a notoriously fast-burn territory, devouring $771,000 in 11 days.

Congenial alternative

Cume of “Miss Congeniality” topped $98 million, helped by Japan’s respectable $3 million in nine days (abating by 27%). The Sandra Bullock starrer at least provides an alternative to those not transfixed by “The Mummy Returns,” which has racked up a socko $13.7 million in Japan in the same frame, off 37%.

“Bridget Jones’s Diary” eased by 22% in Spain, retaining the top spot, penning $3 million in 10 days. Still earning decent money after banking $54.8 million through its 10th weekend in the U.K., romantic comedy has fetched a sparkling $1.1 million in 10 days in Poland and $1 million in 11 days in Holland.

In Mexico, local erotic drama “Y Tu Mama Tambien” (“And Your Mother Too”), distribbed by Fox, dropped by just 16%, raking in a hot $3.3 million in 10 days.

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