Stoner comedy in "Express" lane at box office

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - As the box office wags are putting it: “Wednesday is the new Friday.”

Cast member James Franco (L) and actress Ahna O'Reilly attend the premiere of the film "Pineapple Express" in Los Angeles July 31, 2008. REUTERS/Phil McCarten

That’s certainly the case for the next few weeks, as a slew of movies open midweek to maximize playtime before September’s return to the classroom for college students and schoolkids across North America.

On Wednesday, Sony opened the stoner comedy “Pineapple Express,” while Warner Bros. debuted the female-skewing sequel “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2.”

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 estimated $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.

“Dark Knight,” the box office champ for the past three weekends, grossed $5 million on Wednesday to push its domestic total $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.

FedEx founder Fred Smith’s Alcon Entertainment financed the first picture 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 picture 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 picture’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 picture “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.

Universal will hope a decent sophomore session can restore some luster to the picture’s domestic run. But it’s entirely possible it will fall one place to third place this weekend.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter