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‘Transformers’ beats ‘Harry’ in Japan

Bay film takes in $5.35 million

Opening Saturday on 617 screens, helmer Michael Bay’s “Transformers” jumped straight to the top of the Japanese weekend box office with a two-day total of ¥631.3 million ($5.35 million).

That spelled more than “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” which took in $4.04 million over the weekend, for second place.

The “Transformers” figure is 16% better than the $4.6 million opening weekend for “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” (Japan cume $57.5 million), which bowed on 370 screens, and 6% better than the $5.07 million of “Mission: Impossible III” (Japan cume $43.4 million), which debuted on 800 screens. Both were released in summer, like “Transformers.”

“Transformers” compares favorably with Bay’s previous smash, “Armageddon,” which opened in Japan with $5.87 million and went on to make $114 million in 1998 when the Japanese exhibition circuit was considerably smaller than today.

Looking at the strong early numbers, and the higher-than-expected female auds, distributor United Intl. Pictures is predicting a $59 million final tally for “Transformers.”

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