'Matrix' destroys Japanese B.O. records

The pre-summer season is taking a while to heat up as Germany experienced its worst weekend of the year and biz slid in Spain, France and Italy and stayed flat in the U.K. as “The Matrix Reloaded” tired in its third or fourth frames.

But Japan was jumping as the “Matrix” sequel smashed industry records and Australia was revved up by “2 Fast 2 Furious.” Also, “Bruce Almighty” was angelic in Brazil, Hong Kong and Thailand and “Finding Nemo” had a whale of a time in South Korea and Singapore.

“Reloaded” downloaded an estimated $42.3 million from more than 9,400 screens in 63 territories, including sneaks in Japan, and its cume through June 10 soared to $313.8 million, eclipsing “The Matrix’s” $289 million. The Japanese weekend bow of $18.7 million on 631 screens, including $7.5 million from previews May 24 and May 31, was a territory high, 7% bigger than “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.” In four days the sci-fier amassed $23.4 million, indicating it will easily overtake the original’s $71 million territory total.

Down Under, “2 Fast” was two good, beating “The Fast and the Furious’” entry by 73%, repping UIP’s fourth-biggest opener behind “Mission: Impossible 2,” “Gladiator” and “Jurassic Park: The Lost World.” “We were surprised there was a significant female attendance,” said one booker, adding, “We thought Vin Diesel’s absence would lead to this film under performing its predecessor but it turns out the car sold the movie, not the actors.” He predicts the hot rod caper will earn at least $10 million, with no challenger in that genre until “The Hulk” explodes June 26.

“Bruce Almighty” smashed the opening records for U.S. comedies in Brazil and Thailand (marking BVI’s second-biggest ever in Brazil, trailing “The Lion King”) and the second highest so far this year in Hong Kong. All three set personal bests for topliner Jim Carrey, and “Bruce” reigned again in its soph session in Italy.

Disney/Pixar’s “Nemo” set all-time toon records in local currency in South Korea and Singapore, outrunning “Shrek” by 9% and “Dinosaur” by 15%. Remarkably, the fish tale jumped by 46% in Malaysia, taking $846,000 in 13 days, cruising past “Mulan” to rank as the market’s top-grossing animated pic.

“Anger Management” resonated pretty well in the U.K. (“audiences are crying out for a decent comedy,” one programmer noted), Spain, Mexico (No. 1, ahead of “Reloaded’s” third lap), South Korea, Holland and South Africa. But the Adam Sandler/Jack Nicholson starrer was all but ignored in France, where exhibs blamed Sandler’s anonymity and dire reviews exemplified by one crit who saw it as “the first American film of post-war Iraq; as with Adam Sandler, the whole country seems in quest of an anger management cure, trying to master its nerves and channel its anger.” “Anger’s” estimated cume is $31.3 million in 28 countries, with six major markets ahead.

The French B.O. slipped by 11% despite lively local entries “Mais Qui A Tue Pamela Rose” (Who Killed Pamela Rose), a spoof about incompetent FBI agents investigating the death of a stripper, featuring comics Kad Merad and Olivier Barroux; and “Le Bison (et Sa Voisine Dorine)” (The Bison and His Neighbor Dorine), a comedy about a concierge and her surly neighbor who confront each other when their partners run off together; it marks the helming debut of thesp Isabelle Nanty (“Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra”, “Amelie”), who also stars.

“Bringing Down the House” held stoutly in its second laps in the U.K. and Mexico although one London booker said he expected more from the Steve Martin/Queen Latifah starrer in light of its $130 million domestic haul.

Fox’s horror item “28 Days Later” saw a fair turnout in Germany, although one booker said the blood and gore was a turn-off for many folks, after grossing a handy $9.7 million in its native U.K. and corpsing in France; it’s collected just $15 million in 28 territories.

In its first major Euro market, Zhang Yimou’s “Hero” notched a healthy per-screen average in Germany after being warmly received at the Berlin fest. “There are many fans of Chinese cinema in Germany but it’s also a film that’s interesting for cineastes in general,” said one exhib. Its cume is $55.3 million.

In listless Spain, “The Life of David Gale” died, due more to lukewarm reviews than Spaniards’ attitude to death-row dramas (“Dead Man Walking” over-performed there). Oliver Stone’s Fidel Castro doc “Comandante” and serial killer portrait “Las horas del dia” fared OK on limited prints.

(Liza Klaussman in Paris, Archie Thomas in London, Ed Meza in Berlin, John Hopewell in Madrid and Sheri Jennings in Rome contributed to this report.)

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