LOS ANGELES Batman outwitted a pair of stoners to lead the North American box office for a fourth weekend on Sunday, becoming the third-biggest movie of all time.
"The Dark Knight" sold about $26.0 million worth of tickets during the three days beginning Friday, taking its haul to $441.5 million after 24 days, said Warner Bros. Pictures.
The superhero sequel now ranks at No. 3 on the all-time list, behind "Titanic" with $601 million and "Star Wars" with $461 million.
But adjusted for inflation, the Caped Crusader ranks more modestly at No. 49, according to tracking firm Box Office Mojo. The 1939 epic "Gone With the Wind" wins by that measure with $1.4 billion in today's dollars.
Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner Inc, said it expects "Dark Knight" to surpass "Star Wars" next weekend and end up with about $520 million.
The last movie to enjoy an unbroken four-week reign at No. 1 was "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" in 2003-2004, according to Box Office Mojo.
Internationally, "The Dark Knight" has earned $263.1 million, with Britain contributing $69.3 million and Australia $35.6 million.
The drug-fueled caper "Pineapple Express," named for a strong brand of marijuana, opened at No. 2 in North America with $22.4 million. It would have been No. 1 had Columbia Pictures not opted to open the picture two days earlier than usual on Wednesday to maximize sales during the school holidays. The film's five-day total stands at $40.5 million.
Seth Rogen and James Franco play a pair of pot aficionados on the run after witnessing a murder.
Columbia said the opening was "beyond expectations" given that the budget was a modest $27 million. Not surprisingly, men aged 25 and under made up the bulk of the audience, the Sony Corp unit said.
Another Wednesday opener was the teen-oriented female drama "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2," which came in at No. 4 with $10.8 million for the weekend. The five-day haul stands at $19.7 million. The audience was 90 percent female, said Warner Bros., which co-financed the $26.5 million film with FedEx Corp founder Fred Smith's Alcon Entertainment.
Its 2005 predecessor, released before co-stars America Ferrera and Blake Lively won acclaim with their respective TV shows "Ugly Betty" and "Gossip Girl," earned $9.8 million during its first three days, and finished with $39.1 million.
Elsewhere, Universal Pictures' "The Mummy: Curse of the Dragon Emperor" slipped one place to No. 3 with $16.1 million in its second weekend; its 10-day total rose to $70.7 million. Universal, a unit of General Electric Co, said the Brendan Fraser adventure was the No. 1 movie internationally for a second weekend with $56.1 million from 49 territories; the foreign tally stands at $141 million.
Columbia's comedy "Step Brothers" fell two to No. 5 in North America with $8.9 million, and now has a $80.9 million after three weekends.
(Reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by Philip Barbara)