'Pirates' on second voyage atop boxoffice

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Buena Vista Pictures' "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" continued to rule the high seas at the North American boxoffice during the weekend, when Captain Jack Sparrow and his crew plundered an estimated $43.2 million in their sophomore frame to bring the 10-day total including previews to a hearty $216.5 million.

The worldwide gross for the Johnny Depp starrer stands at an impressive $625.3 million so far.

While the supremacy of "At World's End" during the weekend never was in doubt, what did catch the industry by surprise were the fertile returns generated by Universal Pictures' "Knocked Up," which captured second place overall with an estimated $29.3 million from 2,871 venues.

Heading into the weekend, most observers had pegged the Judd Apatow-helmed "Knocked Up" for the third position after Paramount Pictures' "Shrek the Third," with expectations somewhere in the high-teens to low-$20 million range. The debut proved a personal best for Apatow, topping the $21.4 million opening of "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," and is the fifth-biggest bow of all time for an R-rated film.

Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl star in the comedy.

"Shrek," from DreamWorks Animation, pulled in an estimated $26.7 million to take the third slot during its third weekend in theaters. The animated comedy slipped 50% from a week earlier, but the PG sequel has amassed a hefty $254.6 million to date.

MGM's "Mr. Brooks," an R-rated crime drama starring Kevin Costner, bowed in the fourth slot overall with an estimated $10 million from 2,453 sites, within the range anticipated going into the weekend. Costner plays a violent serial killer in this outing, directed by Bruce A. Evans and co-starring William Hurt and Demi Moore. The per-theater average was a moderate $4,085.

Sony Pictures' leggy "Spider-Man 3" swung into the fifth slot in its fifth weekend, grossing an estimated $7.5 million. The Sam Raimi-directed action-adventure film has grossed about $318.3 million domestically and its worldwide gross to date is about $850 million, the biggest total in the "Spider-Man" franchise and the top-grossing film in Sony history.

Fox Searchlight's "Waitress" continued its platform release, adding 95 theaters for the weekend to bring its total to 605. In its fifth weekend, the comedy was in the sixth spot overall with an estimated $2 million, taking the cume to about $9.5 million.

Meanwhile, the wide-release launch of Picturehouse's "Gracie" during the weekend was disappointing. The PG-13 sports drama went out in 1,164 houses but managed only an estimated $1.4 million. Inspired by a true story, the film helmed by Davis Guggenheim and starring Elisabeth Shue, Dermot Mulroney, Carly Schroeder and Andrew Shue averaged a weak $1,171 per theater.

After four consecutive up weekends at the boxoffice, the overall session was down compared with last year. The estimated total for the top 12 films was $124.7 million, down 3% from $129.2 million last year, when Universal's "The Break-Up" topped the charts with $39.2 million. The estimated total for all films for the weekend is about $130 million, down slightly from last year's $135.8 million.

As for the boxoffice treasure dug up by "At World's End," Buena Vista Pictures distribution president Chuck Viane said the distributor was thrilled with the film's performance. "By the end of next weekend, it will be among the top 50 highest-grossing domestic films of all time," he said. Viane added that the film's 62% drop from the previous weekend was well within the norm of what other blockbuster movies have done.

After 10 days, "At World's End" is easily outpacing the first "Pirates" film, "The Curse of the Black Pearl," but is running behind the second picture, "Dead Man's Chest," which accumulated $258 million in its first 10 days. But at this point fewer than 50% of schools are out, while almost all were out when "Dead Man's Chest" opened in July, a factor that gives midweek grosses a significant boost.

"At World's End" is the fourth film this year to gross more than $200 million. The record for a single year is eight, set in 2005.

As to "Knocked Up's" surprisingly strong debut, "This is very much beyond our expectations and a fantastic way for Universal to kick off what we think will be an amazing summer," Universal Pictures distribution president Nikki Rocco said. "It's also great to have an opening-weekend gross equal to what the film cost to make."

Added Rocco: "There was a void in the marketplace for this type of contextual comedy. After the launch of the juggernauts ("At World's End," "Spider-Man 3" and "Shrek the Third"), we saw an opportunity to capitalize on a film that had incredible playability."

The audience for "Knocked Up" skewed young and female, with 57% comprising that gender and 44% under age 30. A relatively large 14% of the audience was Hispanic.

Females also comprised 57% of the audience for "Brooks," but a sizable 79% of moviegoers were over 25.

This weekend sees the return of new sequels to the boxoffice mix, with Warner Bros. Pictures' "Ocean's Thirteen" and Lionsgate's "Hostel 2" hitting theaters along with a newcomer from Sony, the animated and family-friendly "Surf's Up."

In limited release, Fox Searchlight's "Day Watch" opened in five locales during the weekend to an estimated $46,324. The R-rated Russian import, based on the novel by Sergei Lukyanenko, averaged a moderate $9,265 per theater.

IDP/Destination Films/Samuel Goldwyn Films' "Rise: Blood Hunter" was in 24 theaters and grossed an estimated $25,500. The film, an R-rated thriller starring Lucy Liu and Michael Chiklis, had a dismal per-theater average of $1,063.

Magnolia Pictures' "Crazy Love" brought in an estimated $17,800 from three engagements. The documentary from directors Dan Klores and Fisher Stevens, a look at tabloid romance and sex in New York, averaged $5,933 per theater.

Palm Pictures' "Ten Canoes" debuted in four locations and tallied an estimated $14,700. The Australian story, shot in a native Aboriginal language, had a per-theater average of $3,675.

The national boxoffice for the week ending May 31 was up nearly 4% from the comparable seven-day period a year ago ($302.9 million vs. $292.0 million), while the year-to-date tally holds a 7% advantage ($3.70 billion vs. $3.47 billion). Estimated admissions are up about 1% year to date.
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