'Superbad' makes out

$31.2 mil bow helps keep summer b.o. humming

The horny teens in Sony Pictures' "Superbad" might be challenged when it comes to impressing the ladies, but the movie itself scored at the North American boxoffice during the weekend. As the late-summer moviegoing surge continued, the R-rated "Superbad" earned high-fives all around as it grossed an estimated $31.2 million in 2,948 theaters.

The weekend's two other wide arrivals stiffed, however. Warner Bros. Pictures' sci-fi remake "The Invasion" limped to a fifth-place opening with an estimated $6 million, while the Weinstein Co.'s release of the Roman Empire actioner "The Last Legion" finished in the 12th spot overall with an estimated $2.6 million.

But with New Line Cinema's "Rush Hour 3" securing a second-weekend haul of an estimated $21.8 million and Universal Pictures' "The Bourne Ultimatum" holding strong with nearly $19 million in its third weekend, overall boxoffice for the frame was up for the sixth weekend in a row.

Last year at this point, New Line's debut of the infamous "Snakes on a Plane" was the top-grossing film with $13.8 million, a total that each of the top three films in the current frame surpassed. As a result, this weekend's top 10, which grossed an estimated $104.9 million, was up 21% compared with last year's bunch, according to Nielsen EDI.

With summer boxoffice climbing above $3.8 billion, the possibility of toppling the summer 2004 record of $4 billion is looking likely.

"Superbad," with a per-theater average of $10,583, represented another bigger-than-expected bow from the burgeoning Judd Apatow comedy combine. Apatow, who directed "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and the June hit "Knocked Up," oversaw "Superbad" as one of its producers.

Greg Mottola ("The Daytrippers") helmed the comedy, written by "Knocked Up" leading man Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and starring Jonah Hill and Michael Cera as two high school guys with nothing on their mind but booze and girls.

According to Sony, the movie's audience divided 52% male-48% female, and 60% of the audience was ages 18-30.

"Certainly, the movie fired on all cylinders," Sony domestic distribution president Rory Bruer said. "The studio really believed in this one, and the cast and the marketing and publicity department worked really hard to get the word out about how funny the movie is. With the very good reviews it got, everything just worked."

For Apatow, it's his third film in a row to open to more than $30 million; "Knocked Up" bowed to $30.7 million, and "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby," on which he served as a producer, debuted last summer to $47 million.

Apatow, speaking from Edinburgh, where he was attending a "Knocked Up" premiere, credited Mottola with doing a "fantastic job" on the low-budget, $20 million movie. "I think people like to laugh, and it's a rare movie that makes you laugh really hard," he said. "I think this movie is the funniest movie of all the ones I've been associated with."

Apatow became involved with the screenplay back in 2000. "Funny, but back then, nobody wanted to make it," he said, "but we just kept punching it up, and I never gave up on it."

"Invasion," a Warners/Village Roadshow production, is the fourth screen incarnation of author Jack Finney's classic novel "The Body Snatchers." The R-rated film, directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel with an uncredited assist from James McTeigue, might have starred Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig — who will reteam this year in "The Golden Compass" — but its launch in 2,776 theaters resulted in an anemic $2,163 per-theater average.

"Last Legion," which the Weinstein Co. distributed for Dino DeLaurentiis Prods., made even less of an impact. The PG-13 period adventure, directed by Doug Lefler and starring Colin Firth, debuted in 2,002 theaters, where it settled for a per-theater average of $1,297.

Still, the multiplexes remained busy.

The third installment of New Line's "Rush Hour" fell 56% in its second weekend but still ranked second overall in the frame as its domestic cume rose to just more than $88 million. New Line also saw its musical "Hairspray," in seventh place overall, take in an estimated $4.3 million as its cume climbed just above the $100 million mark, the 18th film of the year to hit that level and the 14th film of the summer to join that club.

Paramount Pictures' fantasy "Stardust," in its second weekend, saw its audience drop 43%. In sixth place overall, it took in an estimated $5.2 million to bring its cume to just more than $19 million.

Among limited releases, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment's "Death at Funeral," released by MGM, showed promise as it was greeted by $1.3 million in 260 theaters in 60 markets for a per-theater average of just more than $5,000.

Noting that the daily grosses on the British comedy of bad manners, directed by Frank Oz, jumped 57% from Friday to Saturday, Kimmel Distribution president Bingham Ray said: "It harkens back to an old-fashioned, crowd-pleasing, word-of-mouth hit. A British movie with no stars directed by a great American director, it's attracting a mature audience that really enjoys the movie."

Warner Independent Pictures' environmentally concerned documentary "The 11th Hour," directed by Nadia Conners and Leila Conners Petersen and narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio — who also contributed to the film as a writer and narrator — bowed in four theaters in Los Angeles and New York, where it grossed an estimated $56,000 for a per-screen average of $14,000. "So our green movie earned some green," WIP distribution head Steve Friedlander said.

Picturehouse introduced its video game documentary "The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters," directed by Seth Gordon, on five screens, where it grossed an estimated $50,294 for a per-screen average of $10,509.

Paramount Vantage's "Arctic Tale" expanded to 227 locations and received a marketing push from Starbucks in the process, but the nature tale was left out in the cold. It took in an estimated $191,147 for the weekend — a per-theater average of just $842 — leaving it with a cume to date of just more than $350,000.

Miramax Films' "Becoming Jane" added 585 theaters to bring its theater count to 1,186. Taking in an estimated $3 million during the weekend, the period romance's cume stands at just more than $9 million.

For the week ending Thursday, total boxoffice was $234.6 million, up more than 18% compared with the same week a year ago. For the year to date, domestic boxoffice is $6.55 billion, up more than 7% from 2006's $6.11 billion. Admissions are up more than 2%.