Batman smokes 'Pineapple'

'Dark Knight' makes $26 mil in fourth week atop the boxoffice

Bruce Wayne made like Bruce Jenner this weekend, as Batman took home the boxoffice gold yet again.

Sony's stoner comedy "Pineapple Express" couldn't cop the session's top berth, despite a heady $40.5 million in estimated domestic grosses since bowing Wednesday. Midweek binging sapped its Friday-Sunday strength, and the Seth Rogen-James Franco starrer had to settle for a silver medal with $22.4 million over a weekend seemingly influenced by Olympics telecasts.

The R-rated comedy's lighter-than-expected weekend tally allowed Warner Bros.' "The Dark Knight" to top domestic rankings for an incredible fourth straight frame, with the Batman sequel fetching another $26 million to pump cume to $441.5 million.

Third place on the weekend went to Universal's adventure sequel "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor," which dropped a big 60% from opening grosses to register $16.1 million over its sophomore session and a 10-day cume of $70.7 million. Warners' female-skewing sequel "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2" was fourth with $10.8 million in Friday-Sunday coin and $19.7 million since bowing Wednesday— another front-loaded opening, suggesting some patrons hit theaters early in advance of the weekend's Olympics start.

A second frame for Disney's "Swing Vote" saw the political comedy drop 50%, to $3.1 million in ninth place with a $12 million cume.

Industrywide, the weekend's $119 million in collective grosses represented a 23% decline from the same session a year earlier, data service Nielsen EDI said.

The seasonal boxoffice is running even with summer 2007, at $3.59 billion. Year to date, 2008 is 1% off from the same portion of last year, at $6.26 billion.

In a limited bow this weekend, Freestyle Releasing popped open the period wine tale "Bottle Shock" in 48 locations to ring up $294,864, or a pleasing $6,143 per venue, with a cume of $365,376 since uncorking Wednesday. "Bottle" spills in a total 150 sites on Friday.

Also, the Samuel Goldwyn/IDP-distributed "Elegy" — Lakeshore Entertainment's adaptation of a Phillip Roth novel, starring Ben Kingsley and Penelope Cruz — unspooled in six theaters in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle to gross $102,441. That represented an impressive $17,074 per venue, with the pic set to expand to top-25 markets in two weeks.

Palm Pictures' music documentary "Patti Smith: Dream of Life" played in a single New York location to gross $8,080 this weekend and $14,228 since a Wednesday bow.

Elsewhere in the specialty market, Miramax's period drama "Brideshead Revisited" added 160 playdates for a total 349 and grossed $1.1 million, or an acceptable $3,036 per engagement, with a $3.3 million cume.

Paramount Vantage's doc "American Teen" added 37 locations for a total 76 and grossed $137,337, or a thin $1,807 per site, with a cume of $465,496.

And Sony Pictures Classics drama "Frozen River" held in seven theaters to gross $56,561, or a solid $8,080 per venue, with a cume of $169,054.

"Dark Knight" fell just 39% from its previous weekend tally over the latest frame, a somewhat smaller-than-expected drop. But Warners execs said there's still little cause for speculating over whether the Batman pic can overtake "Titanic" — a $600.1 million grosser in 1997-1998.

"I don't know how long we'll be able to sustain the gross," Warners domestic distribution president Dan Fellman said. " In the fall, I do think we'll have a lot of interest, but we've already taken so much out of the marketplace. We'll cross the $500 million bridge around Labor Day and see where it goes from there."

"Dark Knight" blew passed the $437 million performance of 2004's "Shrek II" this weekend to become the third-best domestic grosser ever, behind 1977's "Star Wars" ($461 million).

The Batman pic's latest weekend tally included $3.2 million in grosses from Imax auditoriums, with the giant-screen exhibitor's cume on "Dark Knight" hitting $31 million.

The Christian Bale starrer's four-peat atop domestic rankings is the first such feat in five years, EDI noted. New Line's 2003 action fantasy "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" was the last film to put together a similar string of No. 1 weekends.

Directed by David Gordon Green ("Snow Angels"), "Pineapple" drew audiences comprised 58% of males with the majority of its moviegoers under age 25. Sony execs were pleased to hit the high end of their five-day expectations, regardless of when the loot rolled in.

"You put all of the numbers together and say 'This is great'," Sony distribution president Rory Bruer enthused.

"Pineapple" was produced for an estimated $27 million.

The first "Sisterhood" pic opened in June 2005 with $9.8 million and grossed $39.1 million overall domestically, but its ensemble cast has grown in stature since then. Reprising their "Sisterhood" roles were America Ferrera, Amber Tamblyn, Blake Lively and Alexis Bledel.

"We're off to a very good start," Warners' Fellman said.

So good, that he acknowledged the possibility of a third "Sisterhood" pic."It's a good question, but we need to let the picture play out a little more," the Warners exec said.

"Sisterhood 2" drew almost all women and lots of teens, with audiences comprised 90% of females and 35% by patrons under age 18.

Producer Debra Martin Chase said she was "thrilled" with the opening grosses for "Sisterhood 2" but suggesed that Friday's tally in particular was undermined by the public's preoccupation with the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.

Looking ahead, next weekend will be a busy boxoffice session.

The early candidate to win the frame will follow a recent August trend and bow on Wednesday to maximize late-summer playtime. "Tropic Thunder" — an R-rated comedy from DreamWorks/ Paramount starring Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr. — has been heavily promoted. But it will bear watching to see how its prospective audience overlaps with that of "Pineapple Express."

Three other wide openers are set to hit the market Friday: Fox horror pic "Mirrors," Warners' animated feature "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" and Woody Allen's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," from MGM and the Weinstein Co. (partialdiff)