'Pirates of the Caribbean' premiering at Budokan

Is Tokyo becoming the new Westwood?

Two of the mega-budget summer tentpoles — “Spider-Man 3” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” — premiered in Japan’s capital city, a testament to the country’s enormous box office power.

On Wednesday night, Disney threw the international premiere of “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” at the giant Nippon Budokan arena, best known for its famous rock concerts.

Roughly 5,000 people attended the Japan preem — 3,000 more than attended the world preem of the pic at Disneyland on Saturday.

Mark Zoradi, president of the Walt Disney Motion Picture Group, noted that the cast and director Gore Verbinski were all set to attend the Tokyo preem.

“Last year, we went around the world and we did four or five premieres. This year, we decided to just do the U.S. and Tokyo. The reason we choose Tokyo is because Japan is such a big market,” Zoradi said on the phone from Tokyo hours before the event.

“For a movie like this, Japan could be the No. 1 or 2,” added the exec, who heads up worldwide marketing and distribution for the Mouse House.

Tokyo also is the ideal platform to reach out to all of Asia.

“The fact that we are having 5,000 people brings the media out. That’s the reason for such big premieres, to generate a lot of publicity,” Zoradi noted.

Disney and its promotional partners threw a pre-screening reception, versus an after-party.

Tokyo was also the focus of Sony’s unusual step of holding the world premiere of “Spider-Man 3” on April 16, a full two weeks before the actual release of the movie. (Tentpole opened in Japan on May 1, three days ahead of its U.S. bow.) Competitors opined that Sony was trying to outdo “Pirates” buzz by waging such an aggressive release campaign.

Sony — headquartered in Tokyo — also was taking advantage of Japan’s Golden Week holiday, which kick-started “Spider-Man 3” in that market with a $26 million opening weekend record. Spidey’s Japanese cume has hit $44 million, trailing only France at $46 million and the U.K. at $57 million.

Though none of the other summer tentpoles are preeming in Japan, the attraction of the market as a launch point’s easy to understand at a time that the international markets represent an increasingly large portion of the box office for high-profile pics.

Over 62% of the “Spider-Man 3” grosses — now at $750 million — have come from outside the United States; more than 60% of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” worldwide total of $1.07 billion was generated internationally. Japan’s box office on “Pirates 2” topped $84 million, second only to the $98 million cume in the U.K.

Disney’s turned on its worldwide promo machine full blast for “Pirates.”Johnny Depp’s been able to tubthump extensively in the U.K., for example, as he’s been in Blighty recently for feature version of “Sweeney Todd.”

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