Batman derails 'Pineapple Express'

“The Dark Knight” staged a comeback Saturday to emerge victorious for the fourth straight frame, while some surprisingly durable holdovers continued to find traction in the middle of the top 10 pack.

Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures’ superhero sequel lost to “Pineapple Express” on Friday by a narrow $7.9 million to $7.6 million margin. But on Saturday it surged ahead of Sony’s stoner comedy, winning the day with $10.5 million vs. $7.6 million. Combined with a slightly higher Sunday estimate, it ended up comfortably in the top spot with $26 million.

Christian Bale and Heath Ledger starrer has now cumed $441.5 million, surpassing “Shrek 2” as the third highest domestic grosser of all time. It’s expected to beat “Star Wars’ ” $461 million total in the next week before finally settling at No. 2, behind “Titanic.”

Final weekend gross for “Pineapple” was a solid $22.4 million. Since its Wednesday opening, pic has toked $40.4 million. Weekend take was lower than last August’s Judd Apatow-produced comedy starring Seth Rogen, “Superbad,” which opened at $33 million, but “Pineapple” easily wins in a comparison of the two pics first five days.

It also beat “Dark Knight” on a per-theater basis, averaging $7,292 compared with $6,467.

“This film was very reasonable to make and is going to be a huge success for us,” said Sony Pictures distribution topper Rory Bruer of “Express.”

Frame’s other debut was WB and Alcon’s “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2,” which took in $10.8 million over the weekend and boosted its cume to $19.7 million since its Wednesday bow. Both figures are higher than the $9.8 million the first pic in the girl-focused series premiered to in 2005.

Further down in the top 10, “Mamma Mia!” and “Journey to the Center of the Earth” continue to hold extraordinarily well. U’s musical adaptation dropped just 36% in its fourth week, crossing the $100 million mark as its cume hit $104 million. It’s significantly outpacing last summer’s musical hit “Hairspray,” which didn’t reach $104 million until after its fifth frame.

New Line’s Brendan Fraser starrer, meanwhile, fell just 27% in its fifth weekend. It has now cumed $81.8 million. After a $21 million bow, pic is on track to achieve the rare feat of more than quadrupling its opening weekend gross.

Strong legs for “Journey” are attributed in large part to the fact that it’s playing in many theaters in digital 3-D. That’s good news for studios looking to use premium theatrical experiences like 3-D to boost grosses going forward.

Similarly, Imax appears to have been an extra boost for “The Dark Knight.” Large-format screens have accounted for $31 million of pic’s cume so far. This weekend, “Dark Knight” on Imax fell only 19%, substantially less than at standard-size playdates.

“The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” dropped 60% on its second frame, landing in third place with a gross of $16.1 million. Cume for Universal’s monster three-quel is $70.7 million. Pic so-so domestic perf is being far outpaced in foreign markets, however, where it has grossed a boffo $141 million thus far.

In limited release, Samuel Goldwyn’s release of Lakeshore’s “Elegy” opened to a boffo $102,441 at six locations, or $17,074 per play. Adaptation of Philip Roth’s short novel “The Dying Animal” expands to the top 25 markets in two weeks.

Paramount Vantage’s docu “American Teen” nearly doubled its print count to 76 but saw its gross drop 18% to $137,337. It will expand from the top 35 to the top 60 markets on Friday.

Despite the solid perfs of most recent films, studio estimates had the weekend down about 25% from the same frame last year, when “Rush Hour 3” opened.

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