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Japan ‘Menace’d

'Star Wars' captures opening B.O. record

“Star Wars” muscled past “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” to seize the all-time opening record in Japan last weekend, while “Tarzan” charmed Argentina (in second place there behind rookie “Phantom Menace”), “The Mummy” wowed South Korea and “The Matrix” blitzed Belgium, Norway and Finland.

But the B.O. wilted in many other European markets due to a combo of scorching weather and paucity of new releases, typified by “10 Things I Hate About You’s” anemic launch in the U.K. and “The Water Boy’s” demise in Spain.

Saturation media coverage, including SRO sessions at 6 a.m. in Tokyo, greeted “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace” in Japan, ringing up a colossal $12.2 million in two days on 403 galaxies, selling 913,392 tickets. This gross eclipsed previous champ “Lost World” by 20% and tripled “Titanic’s” bow. Adding in two sets of weekend previews, the tally in Japan is a lofty $16.7 million.

George Lucas’ epic coined an extraordinary $21.1 million from 2,343 screens in 22 countries, jet-propelling the cume to $80.5 million. The sci-fier starrer fetched $1.5 million on 115 in Argentina (the second-highest preem in history behind “Titanic”) and $323,000 on 35 in Israel (a Fox record).

In full swing

“Tarzan” smashed Buena Vista Intl.’s opening record in Argentina (slightly besting “Armageddon”), nabbing $1 million on 88 screens. While this was below “Phantom Menace,” BVI reported that the animated pic’s attendance exceeded the sci-fier’s on Sunday and the distrib is confident “Tarzan” eventually will outperform Fox’s pic in this territory.

The loin-clothed hero swung into Hong Kong with a solid $275,000 in two days on 23 screens, level with “The Lion King’s” entry and slightly below “A Bug’s Life” and “Mulan” in the same time span. Excellent word of mouth helped limit “Tarzan’s” soph-session erosion to just 13% in Brazil, bringing the tally there to a hefty $2.9 million.

“The Mummy” minted $12.8 million on nearly 2,500 screens in 17 countries as its cume vaulted to $108.9 million — the sixth film released this year to cross the ton.

Stephen Sommers’ crowd-pleaser set a UIP company record in South Korea, surpassing “Lost World,” roping in $1.6 million in two days on 57. The Brendan Fraser vehicle took pole position in Sweden (where soaring temperatures depleted ticket sales) with $235,000 in three days on 45 (9% higher than “Deep Impact”) and $365,000 on 67 in South Africa. The horror pic eased by a reasonable 24% in Spain for a thrilling $5.7 million in 10 days and by a mere 4% in Taiwan, clocking $3.5 million in the same period.

Germany is the top earner thus far, amassing $25.3 million through its sixth frame, followed by the U.K.’s $17.5 million in 17 days, Japan’s $16.7 million and Mexico’s $9.2 million.

Channeling ‘Powers’

“Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” unthawed in South Africa with a terrif $407,000 on 60: the market’s fifth-highest debut ever. The hirsute spy has bagged $11.3 million in Australia and $1.3 million in New Zealand.

“Entrapment” unspooled in Oz with a neat $1.5 million on 181 (Fox’s seventh-highest opening) but plunged by 49% in the U.K., scoring $4.5 million in 10 days; its cume hit $77.1 million.

“The Matrix” annexed $9.8 million on 3,109 screens in 31 markets, sending its total to a highly profitable $138.5 million. The Keanu Reeves starrer grabbed $981,000 on 65 in Belgium, including previews (a Warner Bros. record and the fifth-best bow ever), $396,000 on 40 in Norway (the biggest opening of this year) and $222,000 on 36 in Finland (also the highest preem of the year). The Wachowski brothers’ sci-fier set WB records in Indonesia ($203,000 on 25) and India ($134,000 on 40).

In Japan, “The Negotiator” withstood the “Star Wars” invasion pretty well, falling by 36% for a creditable $3.9 million in nine days, while the resilient “Shakespeare in Love” held on to the fifth spot in its 11th outing, advancing to $17.4 million there and $175.3 million outside North America.