Box office could get ‘Knocked Up’

'Brooks' looks set to walk 'Pirates' plank

Hollywood is easing up on the pyrotechnics after a May for the ages, offering a trio of openers with R ratings, modest theater counts and expectations to match.

Universal’s “Knocked Up” is the most prominent entry. Reteaming helmer Judd Apatow with “40-Year-Old Virgin” co-star Seth Rogen, the R-rated comedy follows two twentysomethings (Rogen, Katherine Heigl) whose drunken hook-up results in a pregnancy.

Pic will bow in 2,873 locations, 34% fewer than the number at which “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” opened last weekend.

After racking up more than $400 million worldwide in its long-weekend launch, “At World’s End” should easily retain the weekend crown. The second installment dipped 55% in its second week last summer; a comparable drop would leave the third outing somewhere around $50 million.

That’s several boatloads ahead of where most observers see “Knocked Up.” Fully financed by U for a reported $30 million, pic is on track to open in the low $20 millions, though the studio says it will be pleased with anything in the high teens, especially given the legs potential. (“Virgin” opened to $21.4 million in late August 2005 but went on to hit $109 million domestically.)

The other R-rated hopeful is MGM’s “Mr. Brooks,” opening at 2,453. Kevin Costner is stretching to play his first completely evil character, a serial killer.

Historically, the weekend after Memorial Day is not a high-water mark for summer, but more of a pause before the July Fourth assault. In 2004, “Harry Potter 3” set the record for the frame, collecting $93 million.

Last year, U scored $39 million with “The Break-Up,” the only wide debut in a frame that yielded $135 million in total B.O.

On the foreign front, it’s still all pirates, all the time. “At World’s End,” which grossed a record-setting $251 million internationally in its first six days through Monday, won’t face any major openings this weekend amid what’s likely to be strong continued demand.

BVI reported additional foreign coin of $22 million each on Tuesday and Wednesday, driving the foreign cume to $295 million and the worldwide to $462 million. Best foreign cume came from the U.K. with $43.6 million, followed by Germany with $28 million and France with $24 million.

Execs were particularly enthused over how well “At World’s End” held on Sunday and Monday, so it’s probable that the pic will wind up the frame somewhere in the eye-popping range of $100 million. On a weekend-to-weekend basis, that would represent a decline of 54% from the opening $216 million weekend.

The plunder from “At World’s End” also will see some significant coin from this weekend’s opening in India, which is emerging as a solid mid-tier market for Hollywood tentpoles.

The third “Pirates” is likely to cross one significant international milestone during the weekend when it passes the $350 million mark — equaling the entire foreign gross for “Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl” in 2003. It’s also going to be well over half the way to matching the final international take of $642 million for “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.”

And on a worldwide basis, “At World’s End” should finish the weekend as the newest member of the club of 32 pics with combined domestic and foreign grosses topping $600 million.

The pirates will begin to see foreign competition over the following two frames, however. Warner Bros. will go day and date in many international markets next weekend with “Ocean’s Thirteen,” and Fox will make a major worldwide push starting June 13 for “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.” What’s more, “Shrek the Third” will begin expanding into major offshore markets in mid-June.

The fifth frame of “Spider-Man 3” will likely represent the only notable competition this weekend in foreign markets. As of Wednesday, its foreign cume had hit $504 million and worldwide had cleared $814 million.

“Shrek the Third” will double its markets to eight with launches this weekend in India, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. The toon’s taken about $25 million overseas, the majority of that from two frames in Russia.

Warner Bros. is going after the counterprogramming coin by expanding “Zodiac” into Brazil, Germany, Holland and Mexico. The thriller’s taken in about $20 million overseas from 19 markets.

Other launches include “28 Weeks Later” in Brazil and Mexico, “Black Snake Moan” in France and Spain, “Mr. Bean’s Holiday” in the Philippines and Taiwan and “Shooter” in Japan. And in an oddball bit of scheduling, Fox is opening Christmas comedy “Deck the Halls” in France.

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