''Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End'' stays at No. 1, but the funny (and critically acclaimed) ''Knocked Up'' has taken some wind out of Jack Sparrow's sails

By Joshua Rich
Updated June 04, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

While ultra-expensive Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End dropped anchor at No. 1 for a second consecutive weekend (earning $43.2 mil, according to Sunday’s estimates), it was the moderately budgeted Knocked Up (No. 2) that truly delivered the goods.

The Seth Rogen-Katherine Heigl comedy — which is said to have cost around $30 mil to produce — gave birth to a bouncing baby box office of $29.3 mil. That’s the fifth-best opening ever for an R-rated funny film (trailing those of American Pie 2, Scary Movie, Wedding Crashers, and American Wedding), and perhaps most impressively, it marks a huge improvement on the $21.4 mil debut that Knocked Up director Judd Apatow garnered with his previous hit, The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Interestingly, critics seem to appreciate this farce slightly more than audiences do: It scored a stellar 85 out of 100 on, yet got a merely decent B+ CinemaScore from a crowd that was nearly two-thirds female and two-thirds over age 25.

Still, there’s plenty of good news for Apatow and his team. For one thing, as we saw with last summer’s The Devil Wears Prada (which opened at $27.5 mil and finished with $124.7 mil), older women tend to help movies sprout long legs at the box office. Perhaps even more promising is the fact that a scan of the upcoming movie-release schedule reveals that there are no other major adult comedies due out for more than a month (License to Wed appears to be next, on July 6). And all that adds up to Knocked Up cruising through June with little direct competition and big returns.

Of course, the raunchy pregnancy comedy’s success is also aided by the quick sinking of its competitors’ grosses. POTC:AWE may have won a second consecutive weekend, but it did so while declining a less-than-swashbuckling 62 percent from its $114.7 mil three-day premiere (you’ll recall that Spider-Man 3 fell a similar 62 percent from its big bow last month). That’s a much bigger second-weekend drop than those of either Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (54 percent) or Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (27 percent). Sure, the film’s $216.5 mil domestic total and more than half-a-billion-buck worldwide sum are impressive enough. But its plummeting may cause concern for the folks at Disney, who need the reported $400 mil movie to clear something like $800 mil worldwide to turn a profit. Not that it’s the only blockbuster out there raising eyebrows. Similarly sluggish is Shrek the Third (No. 3), which dropped another 50 percent to earn $26.7 mil. The animated fantasy’s three-week cumulative domestic gross now stands at $254.6 mil — very good numbers, but nowhere near the $314.5 mil at which Shrek 2 stood this far into its run.

Kevin Costner’s killer thriller, Mr. Brooks, came in at No. 4 with a so-so $10 mil total, a bit under industry projections in the low teens. Blame audience apathy (it got a weak B- CinemaScore from an audience a whopping 80 percent over age 25) and much buzzier opponents. Spider-Man 3‘s domestic disappearing act continued: The franchise film rounded out the top five with $7.5 mil and has brought in $318.3 mil domestically overall, but it still may not clear $350 mil here and almost certainly won’t approach the $373.6 mil that Spider-Man 2 banked in the U.S. and Canada. And the soccer drama Gracie (No. 7) simply missed the goal with $1.4 mil.

All together, these slumping blockbusters yielded the first ”down” weekend since this insanely bloated and record-busting 2007 summer movie season began a month ago. Total grosses were more than 4 percent below those of the same weekend last year, when The Break-Up and X-Men: The Last Stand led the way. But, hey, the box office deserves a break every now and then, don’t you think?