Action plays o’seas

'M:I2,' 'Noon' join 'Gladiator' at top of B.O.

Tearaway foreign preems by “Mission: Impossible 2” plus Jackie Chan’s starpower in Asia and lucrative business from “Gladiator” kept the foreign B.O. at a generally high altitude last weekend.

However, domestic disaster “Battlefield Earth” crashed and burned in its first major market try-outs, virtually killing any chance that foreign will rescue the Scientology-inspired saga’s bottom-line.

Benefiting from a hugely-hyped preem attended by Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman and the fact that it was largely lensed Down Under, “Mission 2” delivered $3.7 million in four days on 366 prints in Oz.

That was an all-time high for UIP, besting “Gladiator” by 8% and the industry’s third-best opening weekend in history behind Fox’s behemoths “Star Wars: Episode 1–The Phantom Menace” and “Independence Day.”

John Woo’s actioner nabbed $893,000 on 39 in Singapore–the territory’s sixth-biggest opener of all time–and $488,000 on 38 in Malaysia, which ranked as UIP’s fourth-largest ever.

Mission: staying power

The acid test for the sequel, especially in Australia, will be its second weekend drop, as that will indicate whether word of mouth and hence the prospect of repeat business (which has sustained “Gladiator”) will work to its advantage.

“Gladiator’s” cume soared to $97 million after a $13.2 million frame on 2,689 screens in 19 countries. Within a couple of days it will stand as the eighth hit to cross $100 million this year.

In Korea, “Gladiator” rolled out ultra-wide on 83 screens, grossing $1.2 million, hailed by CJ Entertainment, DreamWorks’ Korean partner, as the biggest opening weekend of the year. In UIP’s pecking order, it was the third-best behind “The Mummy” and “The Lost World: Jurassic Park.”

“Almost every show was sold out,” according to a CJE rep, who says the distrib is shooting for a market total of $8 million.

In Thailand, the Russell Crowe starrer fetched a very good but not exceptional $382,000 on 52.

High on ‘Noon’

Chan’s army of fans flocked to “Shanghai Noon” in Hong Kong, forking out $770,000 on 36 for the biggest bow by a U.S. production this year (behind local entries “Tokyo Raiders” and “2000 AD”).

“Noon” minted $460,000 on 18 in Taiwan, a record preem for a Chan vehicle, topping “Rush Hour” by 7%. In Malaysia, a notoriously fast-burn market, pic abated by a typical 53%, scoring $982,000 in 10 days.

“Dinosaur” eased by a reasonable 32% in its soph session in Singapore, tallying an impressive $880,000 to date.

“Mission to Mars” seized pole position in Mexico with a sturdy $911,000 on 266, BVI’s fifth-best entry by a live action release there.

Brian De Palma’s pic held better in Japan than in most other major markets, dipping by 31% for a nine-day haul of $4.9 million. The cume in BVI’s markets is $24.3 million.

Embattled ‘Battlefield’

Launched in seven Euro territories by Warner Bros. (which had the misfortune of securing all Euro rights to the sci-fier), “Battlefield Earth” scraped up a miserable $1.1 million.

Whether in Italy, Spain, the U.K., Holland or Scandinavia, auds showed minimal interest in the John Travolta starrer, and the critics were scathing.

“When Travolta plays a bad baddie, he loses all his natural animation and just looks slow-blooded and overstuffed,” said one of the kinder U.K. crits.

For reasons best known to themselves, the distribs of “U-571” and “The Ninth Gate” decided last weekend was a propitious time to unleash those titles. In its first Euro engagement after OK runs in Australia and New Zealand, the submarine saga barely broke the surface with $1.1 million on 281, while Roman Polanski’s pic won’t pay exhibs’ expenses let alone the P&A. “Gate’s” cume is $36.8 million.

“Erin Brockovich” ascended to $106.1 million and slipped by 14% in its second lap in Japan for a disappointing $3.6 million.

Beginning its European campaign, “Three to Tango” entered Germany at No. 2 behind “Gladiator’s” sizzling second turn ($9.3 million in the kitty, off 28%), taking a mediocre $1 million on 332.

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