Action pic on course to gross more than $60 million

TOKYO — The sea epic “Umizaru 2: The Test of Trust” cruised past the $40 million mark on its 23rd day on release, while scoring 3.35 million admissions. It is now on track to become the second-highest-earning sequel in Japanese film history, with total gross expected to reach $67 million. The record holder is the cop actioner “Bayside Shakedown 2,” which recorded $156.5 million in 2003.

“Umizaru,” an action pic about elite Japanese Coast Guard divers, grossed $15.5 million in 2004 and became the basis for a hit Fuji TV series. Now the sequel is drawing everyone from the expected young males to oldsters and kids with their parents. “Not only the original film, but the series broadened our target to all ages, including fans who rarely go to the theater,” said a publicist for Toho, which is distribbing the pic on more than 300 screens nationwide.

To celebrate the pic’s success, star Hideaki Ito made a whirlwind four-city tour on May 28, covering 1,367 miles in 11 hours. Ito, who plays a salaryman-turned-diver in both films, greeted fans in Fukuoka, Osaka, Nagoya and Tokyo. In a 40-minute mara-thon, he shook the hands of all 620 fans who turned out for the Tokyo screening.

Web Fuji TV, which also produced the “Bayside Shakedown” films, is reportedly considering another “Umizaru” sequel, but has yet to make an announcement. Meanwhile sales company Pony Canyon is sorting out the many offers, principally from Asia, for “Umizaru 2″ following its Cannes market screening.

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