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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The stoner film comedy "Pineapple Express" launched on a high note as it grossed over $12 million its first day in North American theaters, a new record for a Wednesday debut in August, distributor Sony Pictures said on Thursday.
The $12.15 million mid-week debut, an impressive feat for an R-rated comedy, surpassed the month's previous Wednesday benchmark of $8.5 million set in 2004 by "The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement."
"Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" holds the record for biggest Wednesday opening of all time with $44.8 million in July 2007, $12 million of which came from midnight screenings alone, according to box office tracking service Media By Numbers.
"Spider-Man 2" ranks as the No. 2 all-time Wednesday opener with $40.4 million from June 2004.
The robust start for "Pineapple Express," an action comedy about a couple of dope-smoking slackers caught up in a drug murder, puts the film on track to snap the three-week reign of "The Dark Knight" at the top of the U.S.-Canadian box office.
It also marks the third successful August launch for producer Judd Apatow, the filmmaker behind last year's "Superbad" and 2005's "40 Year Old Virgin." Those two also carried an R rating -- under 17 not admitted without a parent -- but opened on a Friday.
"Apatow, plus R-rating, plus August equals hit," said Paul Dergarabedian, head of box office tracker Media By Numbers.
"I don't think anyone expected an R-rated comedy to post such a strong number on a Wednesday," Sony Pictures spokesman Steve Elzer said. "We were caught completely by surprise and hope it's an indication that the best has yet to come as we head into the weekend."
Hollywood studios have increasingly been scheduling their summer films to open on a Wednesday, long considered one of the slowest moviegoing days of the week, in order to generate early buzz ahead of the traditional Friday dash to the multiplex. (Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)