'Pearl,' 'A.I.' split hairs over weekend victory

Buena Vista Intl. and Warner Bros. Intl. both were claiming victory in the weekend B.O. battle in Japan. Truth is, both “Pearl Harbor” and “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” are winners — and arguing about which was the weekend champ is splitting hairs.

Going by the industry norm, “Pearl Harbor” commanded top spot, earning an outstanding $7.2 million on 430 screens, including the prior Saturday’s sneaks. That ranks as a BVI Japan record (edging out “Armageddon” by 1%), 80% ahead of “Saving Private Ryan’s” entry and the market’s sixth-highest preem in history behind “Star Wars: Episode One — Phantom Menace,” “A.I.,” “Mission: Impossible 2,” “Independence Day” and “The Lost World: Jurassic Park.”

Steven Spielberg’s “A.I.” raked in $5.4 million in its third frame on 518, abating by a mere 17%, hoisting its cume to a socko $37 million. WB hailed that as market’s biggest third weekend ever, 109% ahead of the comparable frame of “Jurassic Park” and 121% better than “Mission: Impossible 2.”

The distrib claims “A.I.’s” third lap was fractionally ahead of “Pearl Harbor’s” weekend, excluding the latter’s Friday night previews; however it’s standard practice to include sneaks in first weekend tallies. Also, “Pearl Harbor’s” length restricts it to three sessions a day — and “A.I.” is playing on more screens.

All told, the WWII epic amassed $14.5 million from 4,270 engagements in 40 markets, and the cume rocketed to $150.1 million, including Germany’s phenom $24 million through its sixth lap (off just 5%), Spain’s $3.2 million in 10 days (down 30%) and Sweden’s $1.9 million in ditto (jumping by 23%, helped by lousy weather).

Fairy-tale earner

Kudos for the frame’s highest earner goes to “Shrek,” which minted an estimated $16.5 million from around 3,300 screens in 24 markets. DreamWorks’ ogre devoured a strong but not exceptional $1.3 million on 282 in Spain, where hot weather subdued the B.O.; a terrif $450,000 on 112 in Holland (beating “Toy Story 2″ by 23% and “A Bug’s Life” by 153%) and $313,000 on 52 in Poland (10% higher than “Dinosaur”).

Toon slipped by just 20% in South Korea, drawing a whammo $4.6 million in nine days; improved by 2% in Germany ($6.5 million in 11 days); and eased by 15% in France ($6.8 million in 12 days).

Day-and-date with domestic, “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within” launched fairly well in Hong Kong with $423,000 on 27, No. 3 behind the soph sessions of Cantonese comedy “Shaolin Soccer” and “Shrek.” Computer-animated sci-fier took pole position in Singapore ($304,000 on 30), Malaysia ($232,000 on 35) and the Philippines ($193,000 on 49).

The omens for “Jurassic Park III” are pretty awesome judging by the response to the world’s first paid previews: $280,000 in three days on 50 in Singapore (eclipsing the sneaks of “Pearl Harbor” and “M:I2″) and $200,000 on 41 in Malaysia (trumping sneaks of “The Mummy Returns,” “Pearl Harbor” and “M:I-2.”). Dinopic debuts in 12 markets this weekend, day-and-date with the U.S.

“Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” stole an estimated $11.4 million from 23 markets, and its cume hit approximately $67.2 million, driven by Taiwan’s smash $1.2 million in two days on 48, Thailand’s $498,000 in three days on 104, the U.K.’s $10.9 million in 10 days (off by a reasonable 35%) and Germany’s $9.3 million in 18 days.

‘Evolution’ gains

“Evolution” brought in $4.7 million from 2,000 screens in preems in 16 markets and holdovers in 11 territories, led by Australia’s dandy $1 million on 225, South Korea’s fair $432,000 on 60, Brazil’s so-so $304,000 on 157 and Argentina’s soft $207,000 on 58. Cume is $18.5 million, highlighted by the U.K.’s $9.1 million and Spain’s $2.6 million.

“Dr. Dolittle 2″ overshadowed “Evolution” in Brazil, prescribing $675,000 on 182 — Fox’s eighth-highest bow there — and fell only 12% in Oz, laffing up $3.3 million in 11 days. “The Mummy Returns” became the first blockbuster to cross $200 million this year, cuming $203.6 million.

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