‘The Matrix’ takes over the world

Japan, Italy buzz over pic; U.K., France not as giddy

They love it or hate it: There’s no middle ground, evidently, in auds’ reactions to “The Matrix Revolutions,” prompting sharply different prognostications last week from exhibs on how fast the Wachowski brothers’ pic will descend after its record-busting international debut.

The final chapter of the trilogy is generating strong word of mouth in Japan, Italy and Spain, and bookers in the latter two were expecting mild second weekend falls of 30%-40%.

“People are coming out of cinemas saying it’s simpler than ‘Reloaded’; they like the fact there’s less philosophy,” noted one programmer in Madrid.

But the reactions generally aren’t positive in the U.K., Germany, France and Australia, according to local bookers, and those in Blighty and Oz were steeling themselves for drops of around 50%.

One Gallic exhib predicted a rapid decline, noting the pic is chiefly drawing adolescents who usually flock to the first weekend.

For the record: The WB/Village Roadshow co-prod conjured up an unprecedented $119 million on 10,013 prints in its first five days in 107 territories, including 18 Imax screens, according to Warner’s revised numbers.

That topped “The Matrix Reloaded’s” $113.2 million three-day haul in May from launches in 80 markets and its soph sessions in 16 countries. In seven days, the final installment amassed an estimated $138.7 million.

Two rival distribs are anticipating an eventual tally of around $350 million, which would be impressive, although way below the forerunner’s $456 million.

“Revolutions” marked the third-biggest opening ever in Japan, the distrib’s second-highest in Brazil, its third best in Spain and its fourth in the U.K., Italy and Mexico.

Its U.K. bow ranks as the second-biggest for an R-rated film behind “Reloaded” and No. 11 in industry annals, while Australia’s was the 10th biggest. France’s stands as the distrib’s fourth best for a U.S. release in admissions.

Benefiting from the five-day frame, the finale beat the previous seg’s entries in Russia (where it posted an all-time record, dethroning “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines”), Taiwan, China and India, giving WB company-best preems in the latter two.

“Revolutions” wasn’t far short of its predecessor’s bows in France, Italy, Spain, Holland, South Korea and Brazil.

Intriguingly, the Keanu Reeves starrer gave the overall B.O. a mighty boost in some territories but negligible uplift in others.

Receipts in Oz shot up by 70%; France surged by 53% (also buoyed by a long weekend); and the U.K. jumped 47%. Spain saw a 17% improvement while Germany was up 15% and Italy just 3%.

Predictably, Neo & Co. flattened most of the holdovers, although romantic comedy “Intolerable Cruelty” proved an appealing alternative as its cume climbed to $48.2 million in 24 countries, with Japan, France and Russia ahead.

In France, low-budgeted rookies “Les Sentiments” (a romantic comedy toplining Jean-Pierre Bacri and Nathalie Baye) and “Mauvais Esprit” (a genre pic featuring pop star Ophelie Winter) proved to be highly effective counter-programming to WB’s juggernaut.

In its fourth frame in Germany, “The Miracle of Bern” withstood the invasion pretty well, as one programmer hailed it as “a national phenomenon that’s attracting a wider audience than the computer geeks and young sci-fi fans who are rushing to see ‘Matrix.’ ”

After pulling up lame in Italy, France and Germany, “Seabiscuit” came out of the gates at a fair clip in the U.K., surprising exhibs who didn’t think the historical saga would interest auds. The Tobey Maguire starrer has mustered a mere $9 million in 31 markets.

British execs weren’t surprised by “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s” attrition after its Halloween debut. They noted director Jim Sheridan’s “In America” continued to resonate well in Ireland and upmarket locations in the U.K., but not in the provinces.

“Dogville” began snappily on limited prints in Italy and Spain, markets in which helmer Lars Von Trier has a sizable cult following. Also in Spain, “4th Floor,” a local pic that deals with teen cancer, had an excellent soph session, while “The Human Stain” held passably after its midrange opening.

(Archie Thomas in London, John Hopewell in Madrid, Sheri Jennings in Rome, Liza Klaussmann in Paris and Ed Meza in Berlin contributed to this report.)