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Spider-Man 3 to premiere May 1

Sony bows in Japan before U.S.

In a move underlining the clout of the overseas market, Sony is holding the “Spider-Man 3” world premiere in Tokyo on April 16 and will launch the pic in Japan on May 1, three days ahead of its U.S. bow.

Helmer Sam Raimi, series creator Stan Lee and stars Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and James Franco will attend the preem at the Toho Cinemas Roppongi Hills. Sony’s also planning a U.S. premiere after the Tokyo event but hasn’t announced the date yet.

The strategy — holding an initial premiere outside the U.S. and skedding that event a full two weeks before the actual release — is unusual for a tentpole pic like “Spider-Man 3.” While Sony’s first screening of “The Da Vinci Code” last May also took place outside the United States, at the Cannes Film Festival, it was only a day before the pic moved into theatrical release.

Sony execs were mum Monday as to the reasons for the move, but rivals opined that the effort will help “Spider-Man 3” create a bigger splash and set it apart from “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” which opens three weeks later.

In Japan, specifically, the earlier opening will help Spidey take advantage of the Golden Week holiday, which starts April 29. The number of screens in Japan has yet to be decided but will be north of 400, Sony sources said.

The early summer stakes this year are massive thanks to the outsize potential of the first three tentpoles — “Spider-Man 3,” “Shrek the Third” and “Pirates 3.” Their six predecessor films combined for a $4.7 billion worldwide gross.

Disney’s also planning U.S. and Japanese preems for “Pirates 3,” with the Stateside event taking place first. “Pirates” will begin rolling out May 23 — a Wednesday — in a few markets such as France, where Wednesday is the usual opening day, and launch in the rest of the world during the next two days.

Paramount’s “Shrek the Third” will open in the U.S., Russia and Southeast Asia around May 18, but the studio will hold off on most international launches until school holidays.

Sony’s two “Spider-Man” pics combined for $830 million in foreign markets.

Distrib aims to beat the Sony record in Japan set by its big May 2006 release, “The Da Vinci Code,” which finished with ¥9.05 billion ($77.4 million). “Spider-Man 2,” which opened in July 2004, grossed $57.3 million in Japan, and “Spider-Man,” which bowed in May 2002, ended with $64.1 million in that market.