The spectre of Tom Cruise looms over the world this weekend as Paramountlaunches Mission: Impossible III in its biggest ever day-and-date release.

The third instalment in the action franchise is set toopen through UIP in 55 territories on approximately 9,500 prints.

M:i:IIIgoes out on May 3 in France, South Korea and Hong Kong, followed a day later inthe UK, Germany, Russia, Australia, Taiwan and Argentina.

The action picture opens on May 5 in Mexico, Italy, Spain andBrazil. Japan will follow on Jul 8, and China, which blocked a release this weekend,will possibly open in July.

Much is at stake here. Paramount chairman Brad Grey greenlit Mission:Impossible III in June2005 following lengthy delays. It was his Grey's first major play since joiningthe company and both he and UIP president and chief operating officer AndrewCripps, who becomes president of Paramount International Theatrical in January 2007,are looking for a big worldwide hit.

The franchise launched in 1996 and has grossed more than $1bn worldwideand more than $600m internationally. Mission Impossible took $275m at the international boxoffice and 2000's Mission: Impossible 2 took $330m.

Understandably everybody else is laying low this weekend. Fox International'shit Ice Age 2: The Meltdown will cross $400m since it currently stands at $391.1m.

Sony Pictures Releasing International (SPRI) opens the familypicture Yours, Mine And Ours in France on May 3, followed by Italy and India on May 5. It'staken $14.2m to date.

Latest figures put Fun With Dick And Jane on more than $91.4m, while Hostel has grossed $29.3m through alldistributors.

Warner Bros Pictures International (WBPI) has no major releases plannedthis weekend. As of May 1 Firewall stood at $31.7m including Village Roadshow territories, and VFor Vendetta had grossed$52.8m.

Buena VistaInternational has no major releases.