Low figures, release delays expected through summer

In the wake of Japan’s crippling earthquake, much global attention has been focused on that market, which saw box office totals shrink over the March 11-13 frame by 41% from the previous weekend, according to figures compiled by Rentrak Corp.

Though admissions were down, business didn’t cease completely, with three new titles opening, including local security police thriller “SP Kakumei-hen,” which topped the territory for the weekend with $3.6 million at 239 locations. That’s half of what the previous “SP” pic earned last year in its opening frame, mostly due to cinemas in quake-stricken northern Japan being closed.

“Tangled” opened to approximately 60% less biz in Japan — the film’s last major overseas market — than distrib Disney originally had expected, with a Saturday-Sunday gross of $1.6 million at 156 locations. Nevertheless, the toon’s Japanese take of $3.5 million contributed nearly half of the film’s overall weekend box office, bringing its international cume to $354.8 million. “Tangled” now ranks as Disney’s seventh-highest grossing toon ever.

The lower figures in Japan are likely to continue for some time, even through summer, as exhibs close theaters and cut back on screenings due to power blackouts, transportation stoppages and fuel shortages.

Several studio releases have been delayed indefinitely, including Warner Bros.’ “Hereafter,” pulled due to its opening sequence depicting the Indonesian tsunami and Sony’s “Battle: Los Angeles,” which was to be released under the name “World Invasion in Japan,” held back because of its disaster-related theme. Paramount’s “True Grit,” slated to bow March 18, is struggling to secure screens.

Studio titles aren’t the only films looking to find locations. Japan’s highly active local market may take precedence, considering the depressed numbers for last weekend’s top local performer, “SP Kakumei-hen,” along with Warner Japan’s “Nintama Rantaro,” which bowed at No. 9 in the territory, with $257,105 at 90 locations for a per-location average of just $2,857.

Elsewhere in the world, Spanish 3D film “Torrente 4: Lethal Crisis,” from production companies Amiguetes Entertainment and Antena 3 Films, raked in $11.7 million on its home turf, the best-ever opening for a local pic in Spain, and the fourth-best for any pic. The Warners-distribbed pic had the widest print count ever for a local film — 665 in both 3D and 2D.

Local exhibs cited the strong promotional campaign by multihyphenate Santiago Segura as one reason for the film’s record-setting bow. “Online buzz has been nonstop,” says Pablo Nogueroles, managing director for Warners Spain.

Overall for the weekend, it was Paramount toon “Rango” that turned in top coin, with $24.1 million from 46 markets, thanks to an aggressive expansion in territories like Australia, Brazil and Italy. Toon’s overseas cume now stands at $47.2 million after two weeks in release.

Leading the toon’s charge was Brazil, where it bowed to $2.7 million at 244 locations, outstripping 3D toon “Monsters vs. Aliens” by 22%. In Oz, “Rango” opened in the top spot, collecting $2.6 million at 235 corrals, beating Par 3D toons “How to Train Your Dragon” by 9% and “Megamind” by 7%. Meanwhile, “Rango” also topped the Italo B.O., with $2.1 million at 378.

Sony’s “Battle: Los Angeles,” whose moniker has been altered in most markets to be less Stateside-centric, was runner-up behind “Rango,” with a weekend take of $16.7 million. The alien-invasion pic opened day-and-date with the U.S. in 33 markets, and topped the B.O. in Russia (the pic’s best market, with $4.6 million), South Korea ($3.6 million) and the U.K. ($3 million).

Emilio Mayorga in Barcelona, Mark Schilling in Tokyo, Ed Meza in Berlin and Nick Vivarelli in Rome contributed to this report.

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