SATURDAY PM UPDATE: ‘Dark Knight’ Wins 4th Weekend In A Row With $26M vs ‘Pineapple Express’ $22M

SATURDAY AM: Friday’s box office was a nailbiter, but Sony’s Pineapple Express won the day with $7.8 million from 3,072. Warner Bros’ The Dark Knight was close behind at $7.5 million from 4,025 venues. Oh, this is going to be a fun weekend at the two pics fight for domestic gross supremacy, and Hollywood emails are flying fast and furiously!

But the latest Batman installment should have a better Saturday and therefore take the No. 1 spot for its 4th straight weekend with around $25M, while the Judd Apatow/Seth Rogen stoner comedy should end up with $23M. But Sony tells me that’s a great outcome considering that Pineapple Express is R-rated with a negative cost of $27M and a 5-day total of $41M (after opening on Wednesday with a surprisingly hefty $12.1M). Meanwhile, Dark Knight can expect a gigantic domestic cume of $440+M by end of Sunday.

It’s unclear what effect the Beijing Olympics will have on moviegoing for the next two weeks. Total box office looks to be down 20% from last year, but that may be due to the Wednesday opening of Pineapple Express and The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants 2 putting in $27M gross on Wednesday/Thursday rather than any Olympics impact. The No. 3 movie Friday was Universal’s Mummy 3: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor which did $4.8M from 3,780 plays, down 68% from a week ago. It should finish the weekend with $15.7M and a $70M cume. Sisterhood 2 was in 4th place with $3.9M Friday from 2,707 runs for what could be an $11M FSS and a 5-day cume of $20.5M. And in the 5th spot, Sony’s Will Ferrell laugher Step Brothers made $2.7M Friday for probably a $9M weekend. Universal’s Mamma Mia! was No. 6 with $2.4M Friday for what should be an $8M weekend.

FRIDAY 6 PM: Wow, this weekend’s domestic box office is going to be closer than first thought. Now I’m hearing from Warner Bros sources that The Dark Knight‘s matinees today were ahead of those for Pineapple Express which Sony insiders still think may best Batman. Given how movies these days get toppled from first place week after week, it’s unreal if TDK can win its 4th weekend in a row.

FRIDAY 2 PM: When there’s a Wednesday opening, I’m writing the same box office news over and over until Sunday. Oh joy. So this’ll be a quickie. Sony Pictures is hoping the Judd Apatow/Seth Rogen stoner comedy Pineapple Express can finish this weekend in the high $20sM for Friday-to-Sunday and mid-$40sM for the five-day total. The R-rated pic is expected to finally knock off Warner Bros’ uber-blockbuster The Dark Knight, which should earn $25M during this weekend. Meanwhile, Warner Bros’ The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants 2, which also debuted Wednesday, should take in $15M for this weekend and mid-$20sM for the five-day total from 2,667 venues. Meanwhile, Sony was truly shocked that Pineapple Express is doing so well — a surprising $12.1M Wednesday and another $6M Thursday from 3,072 theaters in North America. Guess they underestimated how well bongs and edgy comedy go together. (And the next time you movie execs or film agents partake of weed in the office, and a lot of you do, just say you’re doing research.)