Films getting head start at boxoffice

'Pineapple Express,' 'Sisterhood 2' already in theaters

As the boxoffice wags are putting it: "Wednesday is the new Friday."

That's certainly the case for the next few weeks, as wide openers and even some limited releases unspool midweek to maximize playtime before September's return to the classroom for the nation's college students and schoolkids.

On Wednesday, Sony opened the R-rated stoner comedy "Pineapple Express," while Warner Bros. debuted the female-skewing sequel "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2," rated PG-13. The former rang up an estimated $12.2 million in first-day grosses -- helped by 12:01 a.m. showtimes in 750 venues -- and the latter fetched an estimate $5 million, with just a smattering of midnight showings.

"Pineapple" seems destined for as much as $30 million this weekend and $40 million or more over its first five days. That's likely plenty to win the weekend, as Warners' Batman behemoth "The Dark Knight" is unlikely to top $25 million over its fourth frame.

"Dark Knight" grossed $5 million on Wednesday to push its domestic cume $410.7 million.

"Sisterhood 2 " follows a June 2005 original that bowed with $9.8 million over its first weekend en route to $39.1 million domestically. Tracking shows the sequel on track for a first-weekend haul in the teen millions and a five-day gross north of $20 million.

Alcon Entertainment financed the first pic entirely and was 50% co-financier of the sequel, also covering prints and advertising. Alcon co-presidents Andrew Kosove and Broderick Johnson said the first pic cost $23.5 million to produce and the sequel $26.5 million.

"We said if for some reason we do no better than the first picture -- even though there's no reason for that to happen -- we don't want to spend any more money," Kosove said.

Johnson said the pic's mid-August slotting sets up "Sisterhood 2" for a potentially leggy late-summer run.

"The competitive profile of the following weeks looks very favorable," Johnson said.

Speaking of strong legs, Universal will be hoping to mount a sturdy second session for its three-quel adventure pic "The Mummy: Curse of the Dragon Emperor," whose soft domestic bow totaling $40.5 million last weekend was in marked contrast to the its robust first-weekend tallies overseas.

Uni will hope a decent sophomore session can restore some luster to the pic's domestic run. But it's entirely possible it will fall to third place this weekend after opening in second, behind "Dark Knight."

Elsewhere this weekend, the Wednesday-opening bug seems to have spread to the indie community. Freestyle Releasing bowed its California vineyards drama "Bottle Shock" midweek in 48 theaters.
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