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Tokyo Story’s tops

'Lorelei' torpedoes 'Phantom' at Japan B.O.

Japanese auds were gripped by 2001’s “Pearl Harbor,” but they’re only mildly captivated by a rare Japanese movie set in World War II, judging by last weekend’s debut of “Lorelei: The Witch of the Pacific Ocean.”

Fictional story of a Japanese submarine saving Tokyo from an A-bomb attack just before the war’s end, “Lorelei” captured an estimated $3 million on 263 screens after a hefty push from Toho.

That was good enough to be No. 1 in a market that’s been in a funk for most of this year, with the stellar exception of helmer Hayao Miyazaki’s animated monster “Howl’s Moving Castle,” which has minted $176 million in four months.

Based on a novel by Harutoshi Fukui (regarded by admirers as Japan’s Tom Clancy), “Lorelei” ended the five-week reign of “Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera,” which has whistled up a terrif $29 million: the tuner’s most lucrative market, ahead of the U.K.’s $17.1 million.

“Phantom,” which clicked in South Korea but failed miserably in France and Italy, has made an estimated $92 million.

‘Shark’ sighting

“Shark Tale” cruised into Japan, its last stop, nabbing $2.1 million. That was fractionally up on the bow of “Shrek 2” but not in the league of Pixar’s hits. DreamWorks’ new distrib Asmik Ace is relying on word of mouth and the popularity of pop star Shingo Katori, who voices Oscar, to sustain the pic until the two-week school vacation starts March 19.

Undersea caper easily retained the top spot in Italy, netting $3 million (off 23%), for a 10-day haul of $7.9 million; offshore cume hit $181 million.

Fox had modest expectations for “Sideways” in Japan, its final major market. It yielded a skimpy $87,000 on eight screens. Alexander Payne’s road trip has garnered a tidy $24.2 million, primarily at upmarket locations, led by the U.K.’s $5.7 million, Spain’s $2.9 million, France’s $2.7 million and Germany’s $2.4 million.

* * *

The weekend’s champ abroad, “Hitch” drew $21.1 million from debuts in 19 territories and holdovers in six markets, boosting cume to $29.6 million.

Will Smith/Eva Mendes starrer posted the biggest opening weekend of the year in Germany ($8.8 million), Australia, Austria and Switzerland (No. 1 in all, beating “Meet the Fockers”). It was No. 2 in Spain, a whisker behind fellow frosh “Hide and Seek.”

Spain, where auds prefer more macho fare, is the only market in which the romantic comedy hasn’t opened at No. 1.

“Million Dollar Baby” saw healthy bounces after its Oscar triumphs as distribs added prints in most markets.

Clint Eastwood’s poignant drama has grossed $10.5 million since the awards, according to co-financier Lakeshore Entertainment, spurring cume to $35.8 million. Highlights include Spain’s $8.9 million, the U.K.’s $8.3 million and Italy’s $5.1 million. With Japan, France and Germany ahead, “Baby” conceivably could advance to $60 million.

‘Constantine’ climbs

“Constantine” climbed to $72.5 million in 33 territories, helped by top-ranked debuts in Greece ($516,000 on 52) and Sweden.

“Blade: Trinity” grabbed a fair $1.3 million on 292 in Italy, sending its cume to $60.4 million, surpassing domestic’s $52.4 million. Vampire thriller’s standouts are the U.K.’s $12.9 million and Germany’s $10.3 million.

“Finding Neverland” flew to $55.5 million in 38 territories (vs. domestic’s $48.5 million), including Spain’s handy $5.8 million after its third outing and France’s soft $2.2 million in 12 days.

Updating other cumes: “Meet the Fockers” peaked at $200.5 million, “Ocean’s Twelve” topped $234 million, “The Polar Express” chugged along to $119.1 million and “The Aviator” reached $90.5 million.

Among the frame’s lesser lights: “Assault on Precinct 13” trapped a mediocre $1.1 million on 357 in France, “The Grudge” took a tame $1 million on 255 in Germany, the Brits weren’t aroused by “Kinsey” and the French shrugged off “Spanglish.”

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