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‘Host’ with the most

Local action fare tops at Asian B.O.

Homegrown pics about monsters, local legends and chopsocky action dominated the box office in South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong, respectively, last weekend, beating big-budget Hollywood fare.

South Korean monster pic “The Host” demolished the local record for an opening weekend in that territory with 2.63 million admissions, earning $17.2 million from Thursday to Sunday.

In Japan, epic toon “Tales From Earthsea,” the helming debut of Goro Miyazaki (son of anime master Hayao Miyazaki), earned $7.9 million on 672,696 admissions in its opening weekend, beating the soph session of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” which earned $6 million.

Meanwhile, martial arts actioner “Dragon Tiger Gate” dominated Hong Kong’s B.O., bringing in $692,308 over its three-day opening weekend.

And in South Korea,, Cannes player “The Host” grabbed the local record from K.T. Kwak’s actioner “Typhoon,” which opened to 1.8 million admissions last December.

“The Host” also set a single-day record on Saturday with 792,762 admissions, earning $5.2 million, beating the previous record of 590,000 admissions set by “Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War” in 2004.

Budgeted at $11 million, with special effects work by San Francisco-based the Orphanage, “The Host” opened on a record 620 prints, well over a third of the nation’s screens. Magnolia Pictures plans a U.S. launch before the end of this year.

“Tales,” released Saturday on 435 screens by Toho, recorded 86.1% of the first-weekend take of “Spirited Away,” the Hayao Miyazaki toon that broke the Japanese B.O. record with a final gross of $267 million.

Distrib Toho predicted “Tales” will finish north of $87.7 million, which would make it the year’s biggest hit, beating current No. 1 “The Da Vinci Code.”

“Code” topped the Japanese B.O. in the first half of 2006 with $79 million. Seven of the top 10 pics, however, were Japanese, pointing up the growing strength of local product in the world’s second-largest film market.

“Code” is followed by sea actioner “Umizaru 2: Test of Trust” ($61.4 million), “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” ($60.5 million), ensemble comedy “Suite Dreams” ($53.5 million), toon “Doraemon” ($30.7 million), “Flightplan” ($27.2 million), toon “Detective Conan” ($26.3 million), horror pic “Death Note” ($23.7 million), romantic comedy “Star Reformers” ($20.2 million) and Alzheimer’s disease drama “Memories of Tomorrow” ($19.3 million).

In Hong Kong, No. 1 “Dragon Tiger Gate,” starring Donnie Yen, was followed by kids’ toon “Keroro,” based on a Japanese comic series, which opened Thursday and racked up $487,179 at 31 screens over the four days. Toon “Monster House” also opened Thursday and came in third with $397,436.

(Vicki Rothrock in Hong Kong contributed to this report.)

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