It was a photo finish weekend: while their respective studios estimated How to Train Your Dragon at $20 million and Kick-Ass at $19.75 million on Sunday, Kick-Ass came out on top with the studios' actual grosses reporting on Monday, making $19.83 million versus Dragon's $19.63 million.
But here's the kicker: Kick-Ass distributor Lionsgate included the movie's 10 p.m. Thursday previews in the weekend gross, when, objectively, the weekend is Friday-Sunday. Remove those grosses and How to Train Your Dragon could be No. 1, given how close the movies were. Lionsgate has not responded to multiple requests to clarify this matter, but word has it that the Kick-Ass Thursday night figure was over $200,000.
On the other hand, while How to Train Your Dragon may have edged out Kick-Ass in dollars, Kick-Ass likely had greater attendance due to Dragon's 3D ticket price premium.
For all of this jockeying for position, though, it's important to note that rank is mostly for publicity purposes. It's the gross that really matters, not the position a movie wound up with compared to an unrelated group of movies during a short timeframe such as a weekend. By the gross standard, How to Train Your Dragon fared relatively better than Kick-Ass no matter what, but Kick-Ass was fairly solid for what it is.
Maintaining its altitude better than any other nationwide release, How to Train Your Dragon eased 21 percent and lifted its total to $158.3 million in 24 days. That's within shouting distance of Monsters Vs. Aliens and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa through their 24th days despite those pictures' much larger initial grosses. With a month and a half as the only family event in town, positive word-of-mouth for its story and its 3D ticket price premium, Dragon's trajectory points to a final gross north of $200 million, which would make it DreamWorks Animation's fourth or fifth highest-grossing movie. Not too shabby for a picture sporting the heretofore unappealing movie subjects of dragons, Vikings and animated action.
Shackled by its unappealing subject matter, Kick-Ass packed a not-so-walloping opening on approximately 4,300 screens at 3,065 locations. The Incredibles holds the record for superhero comedies and is the only truly successful one, but, among live-action entries, Kick-Ass boasted the biggest debut. Mystery Men was the previous high with $10 million (or over $15 million adjusted for ticket price inflation), showing how little interest the sub-genre has stirred in the past. Lionsgate's exit polling indicated that 60 percent of Kick-Ass's audience was male and 50 percent was under 25 years old.
Prior to the weekend, there was hope that Kick-Ass would transcend its sub-genre like Zombieland did last year. Horror comedies were notorious for failing at the box office, yet Zombieland opened to $24.7 million on its way to a $75.6 million final tally. If the hype from Kick-Ass's aggressive advertising and media push were to be believed, fan boys were chomping at the bit to see it and that excitement had spilled over into the mainstream. What's more, Kill Bill Vol. 2, which Kick-Ass emulated stylistically, was unleashed on April 16 in 2004 and started with the equivalent of over $31 million adjusted.
Zombieland, though, was the exception, and Kick-Ass's turn-out was closer to the other violent action movie from April 16, 2004: The Punisher. That's because the Kick-Ass machine rammed outrageousness, colorfully vicious action, randomness and self-referential humor down people's throats but lacked purpose and story. It was true to its sensory-bound but nondescript title. Furthermore, while some spoofs work, people aren't as eager to see heroes torn down. Watchmen and television series Heroes ultimately alienated viewers with such themes, so a movie brazenly dissing heroes like Kick-Ass was only going to go so far.
Also opening nationwide, Death at a Funeral had a decent gathering of $16.2 million on around 3,000 screens at 2,459 venues. Among comparable comedies, that was in the same range as Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins and First Sunday but was less substantial than This Christmas, Guess Who and most Tyler Perry movies. Death, a remake of the 2007 movie of the same name that grossed $8.6 million in its limited run, was sold as a raucous ensemble comedy featuring familiar faces like Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence and Tracy Morgan. Ads were punchy enough to somewhat overcome the movie's morbid theme, but, as is often the case with ensembles, the gross didn't seem to equal the sum of its parts. Distributor Sony Pictures reported that the audience breakdown was 56 percent female and 56 perced aged 25 years and older.
Among holdovers, Date Night attracted $16.7 million, bringing its tally to $48.7 million in ten days. Abating by 34 percent, the comedy held much better than The Bounty Hunter. Clash of the Titans rounded out the Top Five with $15.4 million. Leveling off somewhat, the action picture faded 42 percent, and its total reached $132.6 million in 17 days, which is a relative far cry from 300's $161.7 million at the same point.
• Limited Report: 'Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,' 'Joneses,' 'Perfect Game,' etc.
• Weekend Preview: 'Kick-Ass,' 'Death at a Funeral'
• 'Titans' Fall But Still Tall
This Timeframe in Past Years:
• 2009 - '17 Again' Is Big
• 2008 - 'Forbidden,' 'Forgetting' Fly
• 2007 - 'Disturbia' Thrills More Than 'Fracture,' 'Vacancy'• 2006 - Solid 'Silent Hill,' So-so 'Sentinel,' Shattered 'American Dreamz'
• 2005 - 'Horror' Takes Toll on Tax Weekend
• Weekend Box Office Results