SUNDAY AM: Good news going into the summer movie season –weekend box office was up finally, +15% compared to last year. Funny films swept the Top 3 as the obvious antidote to rising food bills, astronomical gas prices and the constant tide of bad news these days. Universal’s female buddy comedy Baby Mama pairing 30 Rock‘s Tina Fey and SNL‘s Amy Poehler won Friday with an opening of $6.4 million Friday and $7 million Saturday from 2,543 theaters for what was a better-than-expected $18.2 million FSS. “There was nice movement towards the end of this week. Whatever they did with their TV spots worked for female audiences,” a rival marketing marven told me. The PG-13 pic tracked well with women of all ages. “Unaided awareness, definite interest, and choice with women young and old is fantastic,” a Uni source told me. “The hard part is tracking it against comparable movies. It’s near impossible to think of a female-driven buddy comedy of the last few years.” I can think of three — The Sweetest Thing, and even Connie and Carla and High Heels and Low Lifes, all of which tanked. But those movies didn’t have hot Tina Fey.

New Line’s stoner guy pic Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay debuted to $5.9 million Friday and $5.1 million Saturday from 2,510 venues. It ended the weekend with $14.3 million. A sequel to a pic that didn’t do even $19M in theaters during its entire release, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle didn’t merit a follow-up until it had a terrific after-life in ancillary markets. Guantanamo Bay tracked well with young men, plus showed some strength with older men and younger women.

The other major newcomer, Deception, distributed by Fox as a favor to its X-Men/Wolverine/Australia star (and investment) Hugh Jackman, finished even worse than expected  — in 9th place, eking out only $760K Friday and $920K Saturday for a meager weekend total of what was $2.2M. (See my weekend predictions, ‘Baby Mama’ To Berth No. 1)

There worries mid-week about too many comedies in the marketplace, and fears that Baby Mama would crowd out Universal’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall. But the holdover from Judd Apatow’s laugh factory, finished Friday in 3rd place with $3.4M Friday and  $4.5M Saturday — minus 38% from its opening a week ago — what turned out to be a very good $11M weekend and $35M cume. In the 4th spot Friday was The Weinstein Co/Lionsgate’s The Forbidden Kingdom with Jet Li and Jackie Chan making $3.2M Friday and $4.7M Saturday — minus 48% from its debut — for what was a $11.2M FSS and a new cume of $38.2M.

Sony’s Prom Night keeps outperforming — #6 with $1.6M Friday and $2M Saturday for a $4.4M weekend and new cume of $38.1M, the studio’s 21 finished  #7 with $1.2M Friday and $1.7M Saturday for a $4M weekend and new cume of $75.7M, and Sony’s third Top 10 pic 88 Minutes was #8 with a take of $1M Friday and $1.5M Saturday for a $3.6M weekend and new cume of $12.6M. Thanks to big Saturday kiddie matinees, Fox’s family fare Nim’s Island jumped up to #5 after earning $1.2M Friday and $2M Saturday for a $4.5M weekend and new cume of $38.9M, and that studio’s other family fare, Horton Hears A Who! from Dr. Seuss., was #9 with $650K Friday and $1M Saturday for a $2.4M weekend and new cume of $147.8M.