‘Mummy’ blankets Oz as the rest go cold

'Mandolin' plunges 40% in soph session

“The Mummy Returns” — and how.

Universal/UIP’s f/x-laden thriller rocked Australia over the weekend, racking up an estimated $2.8 million on 349 prints at 202 locations Thursday through Sunday.

Elsewhere, it was another blah frame. Understandably, no distrib was willing to release major films knowing UIP is unwrapping “The Mummy” sequel in 20 territories next weekend.

Pic’s performance in Oz was UIP’s fourth-biggest four-day opening there in history behind “Mission: Impossible II,” “Gladiator” and “The Lost World: Jurassic Park.” Friday and Saturday biz was very strong although Sunday was off a bit, indicating the sequel is skewing rather younger than “Gladiator.”

Pic bettered “The Mummy” debut by 42%, although the original launched on 256 prints. The Brendan Fraser/Rachel Weisz starrer also bowed over the weekend in Italy but no estimates were available.

The rest of the Oz market was very thin as Gore Verbinski’s “The Mexican” ranked second in its third shoot-out ($295,000 on 207) followed by the second stanza of Roger Donaldson’s “Thirteen Days” ($152,000 on 54).

Billy Bob Thornton’s benighted “All the Pretty Horses” added to its string of casualties in Oz, corralling just $126,000 on 118.

Out of tune

There was little comfort for producer Working Title and Miramax, which has the rights to “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” in the U.K. and a bunch of other territories.

After a less-than-dazzling world preem in Blighty, the Nicolas Cage/Penelope Cruz starrer plunged by more than 40% in its soph session, orchestrating an estimated $860,000 Friday-Saturday on 377. That would suggest adverse word of mouth, although the F.A. Cup soccer final no doubt proved a mighty distraction to cinemagoing.

The romantic drama helmed by John Madden was a distant second behind the buoyant fifth frame of “Bridget Jones’s Diary” ($1.4 million on 450). Australian hit “The Dish” landed in the U.K. at No. 5 with a weak $193,000 on 184.

At virtually no other time of the year would you expect domestic loser “Say It Isn’t So” to hold the top spot in any major market. Yet Fox’s comedy reigned in Spain in its second lap with very ordinary figures, whistling up an estimated $292,000 Friday-Saturday on 194. That was a whisker ahead of local James Bond spoof “Torrente 2” in its seventh outing ($291,000 on 230). Next came Warner Bros.’ “Sweet November” in its dreary second frame ($197,000 on 140).

In Germany, “The Wedding Planner” retained pole position in its second tryst, romancing an estimated $500,000 Thursday through Saturday on 508. That kind of gross usually would mean a third- or fourth-placed ranking, so depressed is the German box office.

“Exit Wounds” was No. 2 with an anemic $338,000 in its second lap on 438, followed by the seventh turn of “Miss Congeniality” ($237,000 on 455) and feeble freshman “Men of Honor” ($233,000 on 301).

In Argentina, New Line’s “15 Minutes” topped the chart in its debut, pulling in a muscular $378,000 Friday-Saturday on 47, well ahead of the third rounds of “Miss Congeniality” ($104,000 on 55) and “Snatch” ($87,000 on 40).

Gallic thriller “The Crimson Rivers” entered Hong Kong at No. 1 with a mediocre $137,000 on 18 screens, beating fellow rookie “Enemy at the Gates,” the soph sessions of local titles “Life Is a Miracle” and “City of Desire,” and Korean newbie “The Isle.”

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