Japanese disease thriller Pandemic (Kansen Retto) ended Wall-E's three week run in the number one spot at the local box office this past weekend.
Produced by TBS and distributed by Toho on 324 screens, Pandemic earned $3.64m (Y330m) on 225,000 admissions. Toho predicts a final gross of over $22m (Y2b) as its first hit of 2009.
Directed by Takahisa Zeze, Pandemic follows a young doctor (Satoshi Tsumabuki) and his colleague (Rei Dan) as they try to track down the source of a deadly flu epidemic that leads to a total shutdown of Japan's infrastructure and the closing of its borders.
Pandemic generated interest at last year's Cannes market, with nine Asian territories pre-buying before any footage was available. Tsumabuki's appeal as well as the timely subject matter saw a rare display of buyer confidence in an increasingly cautious market. Pandemic's avian flu subplot plays on fears of current and previous breakouts of the disease across the continent.
TBS will continue sales at next month's European Film Market in Berlin (February 5-15). According to a TBS representative, remake offers from several US companies are also currently being considered.
Dropping to second, Disney's Wall-E has grossed $40m thus far. Wall-E opened in Japan on December 5 as its final major territory. Its reign was interrupted for one week by Keanu Reeves sci-fi film The Day The Earth Stood Still on the December 20 weekend.
Gaga-distributed Che fell to number three in its second week and NTV's K-20: Legend Of The Mask placed fourth. Preview screenings of Quantum Of Solace ahead of its January 24 release earned approximately $3m.