Close race among top three: 'Date Night,' 'Titans' and 'Dragon'

Twentieth Century Fox’s “Date Night” earned a narrow victory this weekend at the domestic B.O., debuting with an estimated $27.1 million at 3,374 engagements. As the frame’s only wide release, bow was enough to edge out Warner Bros.’ 3D sandals and swords epic “Clash of the Titans,” which estimated $26.9 million at 3,802.

Meanwhile, Paramount’s 3D toon “How to Train Your Dragon” held steady in its third frame, down just 13%, making this weekend a three-horse race. Toon earned an estimated $25.4 million at 4,007 locations.

The frame’s top three performers, all of which came within an estimated $2 million of each other, could fluctuate when studios release their actual weekend figures tomorrow.

“When it ends up this close, we’re all estimating a day that hasn’t happened,” Fox VP of domestic distribution Burt Livingston said of Sunday’s projected earnings.

Overall, the frame was down 3% from the same weekend last year, which was Easter weekend.

Specialty distrib Vivendi saw healthy returns for its faith-based drama “Letters to God,” figuring in the top 10 with a solid launch of $1.3 million at 897.

“Date Night” opened day-and-date in 35 overseas markets, with an estimated $7.1 million on 1,610 screens, but still fell victim to “Clash,” which was the top earner internationally with $54 million on more than 7,000 screens in 31 territories. Overseas cume for “Clash” reached an estimated $119.2 million.

Rival studios have described Fox’s domestic projections for “Date Night” as “aggressive,” saying the laffer should drop 35 to 40% on Sunday. Still, with an estimated Sunday take of $7.1 million, Fox predicts a 34% decline from Saturday’s earnings of $10.7 million.

“Date Night,” starring Steve Carell and Tina Fey, tells the story of a married couple whose ordinary night out takes a turn for the worst. Pic played best among older couples, skewing 60% over 25. Among single auds, the film saw a 52 to 48% female-male split.

“People want to laugh, and this movie features a great pairing,” Livingston said. “Director Shawn Levy makes funny movies and people want to see them.”

The comedy should continue to benefit from positive word-of-mouth, coupled with the popularity of its stars.

Highest-ranking opener for Carell, in which he stared, was Warner’s 2008 comedy “Get Smart,” with $38.7 million. Fey, whose popularity mainly comes from TV, starred opposite “Saturday Night Live” alum Amy Poehler in Universal’s “Baby Mama,” which debuted with $17.4 million in 2008. Both Carell and Fey topline hit NBC skeins “The Office” and “30 Rock,” respectively.

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