'A.I.' maintains momentum

One Tokyo critic likened it to “Gone with the Wind” set in WWII. Another hailed it as more realistic than “Tora! Tora! Tora!” and labeled as misguided those who’d expected the movie to be anti-Japanese.

By no means every reviewer in Japan greeted “Pearl Harbor” so enthusiastically, but critics were far more positive than in the U.S. and most other countries. Ticket-paying citizens embraced Michael Bay’s epic, forking over $10.8 million in five days on 430 screens. Pic’s $7.2 million weekend, including $1.6 million from July 7 sneaks, ranked as a BVI Japan record (edging out “Armageddon’s” bow by 1%), 80% ahead of “Saving Private Ryan’s” entry and the market’s sixth-highest preem in history.

‘Harbor’s’ haul

All told, the romantic drama marshaled $21.6 million from 4,270 engagements in 40 markets, and the cume rocketed to $157.2 million — already closing in on its domestic haul — including Spain’s so-so $3.6 million in 12 days (down 34%) and Sweden’s swell $2.3 million in 13 days (jumping by 23%, helped by lousy weather). Some 4.2 million Germans have seen the pic, establishing Germany as its most lucrative market thus far.Despite “Pearl’s” invasion, “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” maintained momentum in Japan, easing by 17%; it’s hailed by Warner Bros. as the territory’s biggest-ever third weekend, 109% ahead of the comparable frame of “Jurassic Park.” “A.I.” has amassed a phenomenal $40.5 million after 19 days in Japan, better than half the U.S. take over the same amount of time.

Ogre powerKudos for the frame’s highest-earner goes to “Shrek,” which minted an estimated $25.5 million from roughly 3,300 screens in 24 markets, propelling the cume to $86.9 million. Biggest surprise was the ogre’s tame debut in Spain, which exhibs blamed on a prolonged B.O. slump. “There’s nothing wrong with ‘Shrek,’ ” opined one Madrid booker, who noted that only two titles have been breakthrough hits since early May: “The Mummy Returns” and “Bridget Jones’s Diary.”

Solid preems

DreamWorks toon saw animated preems in Holland and Poland, and it drew a socko $5.8 million in 12 days in Korea, improving by 2% in Germany and abating by 15% in France, buoyed by word of mouth among adults and kids. Just four weeks into its run, “Shrek” stands as the No. 1 film of the year Down Under, overtaking “Moulin Rouge.”

“Jurassic Park III” was sneaked in Singapore and Malaysia to get a jump on the ever-resourceful video pirates, chewing up $280,000 in three days on 50 and $200,000 on 41, respectively — beating previews of “Pearl Harbor” and “Mission: Impossible 2″ in both countries.

Cruising past its domestic tally, “The Mummy Returns” reached $205.8 million, paced by Japan’s $27 million and Korea’s $11.4 million — the first blockbuster to cross $200 million this year.

Day-and-date with its dispiriting U.S. debut, “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within” did well enough to command pole position in Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. The computer-animated sci-fier managed only third place in Hong Kong behind the soph sessions of Cantonese comedy “Shaolin Soccer” and “Shrek.”

‘Tomb’s’ take

“Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” stole an estimated $17.5 million from 23 markets, and its cume hit $75 million, spurred by Taiwan’s smash $1.7 million in five days on 48, Thailand’s $656,000 in six days on 104, the U.K.’s lively second lap and Germany’s third.Hoping to hitch a ride on Angelina Jolie’s profile, distribs launched “Original Sin,” which pairs Jolie with Antonio Banderas, in Germany and France — but to little avail.

Domestic dud “Evolution” is tracking more strongly overseas, boosted by a new ad campaign that accents the cast and pitches it as an alien comedy. But not everyone gets the jokes. Ivan Reitman’s laffer had a jolly outing in Oz (hyped by lots of exposure for David Duchovny’s visit), while its debuts in Korea and Brazil were ho-hum, and Argentina was soft. Cume from 27 markets is about $20 million, nearly half of that from the U.K.”Dr. Dolittle 2″ overshadowed “Evolution” in Brazil, prescribing $989,000 in six days on 182 — Fox’s eighth-highest bow there — and fell by a reasonable 26% in Oz. Early in its foreign voyage, “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” rang up $790,000 on 120 in Argentina (on par with “Toy Story 2″ and 14% better than “A Bug’s Life”) and a terrif $5.7 million in 13 days in Mexico. But Disney’s pic is struggling in Asia, typified by soft starts in Korea and Hong Kong.

In the last major market stops of its tour, “The Wedding Planner” didn’t win many hearts in France or Spain; its cume topped $31 million, way below domestic’s $60 million. Romantic comedies often are problematic abroad, especially in Asia, and Jennifer Lopez doesn’t guarantee ticket sales. Germany’s $6.1 million is the top score to date, while results in the U.K., Italy, Oz and Mexico have been fair to middling.

Off the pace

Gallic exhibs declared Sylvester Stallone’s waning B.O. appeal — and lack of interest in the story of an aging race car driver — as reasons why “Driven” hit a brick wall in France. “Stallone’s audience has grown up, and he is no longer as attractive to younger viewers,” one tradester ventured. Predictably, the critics were ferocious, including one who said that compared to “Driven,” “Days of Thunder” looks like the work of Bergman.

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