Ridley Scott's highly-anticipated Roman epic Gladiator scooped an eye-popping $0.6m (A$1m) from 293 screens on its opening day in Australia (May 4) - the first territory worldwide to play the film.

This opening figure is the territory's sixth highest ever, no doubt boosted by the film's protagonist Russell Crowe who was in Sydney for the opening. Although born in New Zealand, Crowe is heralded as a local star having been brought up in Australia. The result puts the film in the company of Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace, Tomorrow Never Dies, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and Independence Day.

The DreamWorks SKG and Universal Pictures co-production opens this weekend in North America where it is expected to be the first mega-hit of the year. This May 5 slot was used last year by Universal's The Mummy which rocketed to the top of the weekend chart with a three-day opening of $43.4m from 3,209 screens. The highest opening weekend to date this year is Scream 3 which topped the chart in February with a gross of $34.7m from 3,467 screens making it the biggest ever February opener.

Playing on around 3,200 screens, a three-day gross of $35m is quite possible but with Gladiator's R-rating and lengthy running time of 150 minutes it is unlikely to bust top-level records.

The international roll-out continues in quick succession and will be completed in two months. Next to open is the UK on May 12, followed by Italy, Spain and Brazil on May 19, Germany on May 25 and Japan on June 17.