The teen comedy from Sony, the misadventures of two high school buddies trying to score booze, took in $31.2 million to debut as the weekend's No. 1 movie, according to studio estimates Sunday.
"Superbad" knocked off the previous weekend's top flick, New Line's "Rush Hour 3," which slipped to second place with $21.8 million, raising its total to $88.2 million.
The Warner Bros. sci-fi tale "The Invasion," starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig in an update of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," opened a weak No. 5 with $6 million.
"Superbad" maintains the pattern of producer Judd Apatow's earlier hits, "Knocked Up" and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," which he directed. Apatow and his collaborators, including "Knocked Up" star and "Superbad" co-writer and co-star Seth Rogen, have a knack for packaging crude, R-rated humor with clever, authentic dialogue far smarter than what's normally seen in summer comedies.
Shot on a modest $20 million budget, "Superbad" had a slightly better debut than "Knocked Up," which opened in June with $30.7 million and went on become a $100 million hit.
"I think a genuinely funny movie always has a shot at doing well, because so few movies are really funny," Apatow told The Associated Press as he headed to the "Knocked Up" premiere Sunday at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in Scotland.
"Superbad," co-written by Rogen and his high school best friend Evan Goldberg, stars Jonah Hill and Michael Cera as pals on a quest for alcohol to impress the foxy host of a party. Rogen co-stars as an inept cop who ends up carousing with the teens, while Christopher Mintz-Plasse proves a scene-stealer as Hill and Cera's super-geeky friend.
Though centering on high schoolers, "Superbad" drew in older crowds, with 40 percent of the audience over 30, said Rory Bruer, head of distribution for Sony.
"The Apatow comedy machine itself is a brand now, and it's a brand that has created movies that appeal to older audiences who now follow whatever he does, even in the teen genre, which is very unusual," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers.
Overall Hollywood revenues rose with the top 12 movies taking in $110.5 million, up 21 percent from the same weekend last year, when "Snakes on a Plane" opened at No. 1 with $15.2 million. Movie attendance is running 5 percent ahead of last summer's, according to Media By Numbers.
The Weinstein Co. release "The Last Legion," featuring Ben Kingsley in an action tale set in ancient Rome, tanked with just $2.6 million, finishing at No. 12.
In narrower release, MGM's comedy "Death at a Funeral," a tale of outrageous goings-on at a British patriarch's farewell, opened solidly with $1.3 million.
Warner Independent's "The 11th Hour," a global-crisis documentary on ecological issues co-written, co-produced and narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, debuted well in four theaters with $56,000.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers LLC. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "Superbad," $31.2 million.
2. "Rush Hour 3," $21.8 million.
3. "The Bourne Ultimatum," $19 million.
4. "The Simpsons Movie," $6.7 million.
5. "The Invasion," $6 million.
6. "Stardust," $5.2 million.
7. "Hairspray," $4.3 million.
8. "Underdog," $3.6 million.
9. "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," $3.54 million.
10. "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry," $3.5 million.
By DAVID GERMAIN