'Date,' 'Titans,' 'Dragon' in weekend logjam

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Twentieth Century Fox’s “Date Night” scored 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, its bow was enough to edge out Warner Bros.’ 3D sword-and-sandals epic “Clash of the Titans,” which estimated $26.9 million at 3,802 in its second sesh.

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 one other, could fluctuate when studios release their actual weekend figures today.

“When it ends up this close, we’re all estimating a day that hasn’t happened,” Bert Livingston, Fox’s veep of domestic distribution, 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,” which rounded out 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 was outgunned by “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. With an estimated Sunday take of $7.1 million, Fox predicts a 34% decline from Saturday’s earnings of $10.7 million.

The laffer, starring Steve Carell and Tina Fey, centers around a married couple whose ordinary night out takes a turn for the worst. Pic played best among older couples, skewing 60% over 25. Among unmarried moviegoers, 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 its stars’ TV platform, with Carell toplining NBC’s “The Office” and Fey fronting NBC’s “30 Rock.” Fey tubthumped the pic in her guest-hosting slot on “Saturday Night Live” this past weekend.

Warner’s 2008 comedy “Get Smart,” with $38.7 million, still stands as Carell’s highest-ranking opener. Fey starred opposite “Saturday Night Live” alum Amy Poehler in Universal’s “Baby Mama,” which debuted with $17.4 million in 2008.

In its soph sesh, “Clash” dropped an estimated 56% after earning a record-setting $61.2 million last weekend over the Easter holiday. Some B.O. observers expected the 3D epic to fall 60% to 70%.

Despite the pic being panned by critics, Warners distrib chief Dan Fellman said “Titans” has heat among its core target aud, primarily younger males.

“The 3D experience on ‘Clash’ continues to drive the box office this weekend, and has played a significant role in the success of the movie,” Fellman said. “It’s a solid performance and a strong indication of where it’s going.”

“Clash’s” 3D component, which has sparked a debate over the quality of 2D to 3D conversion, screened at 1,632 3D-equipped locations, up 30 from last weekend. With the film’s weekend performance, the domestic total for “Clash” muscled its way to an impressive $110.5 million.

The frame’s other top 3D performer “Dragon” continued to see a sizable bump from 3D tickets, with approximately 65% of domestic revenue coming from 2,165 total 3D runs. Imax reported its share at 12% on 186 3D-equipped screens.

A limited drop bodes well for the 3D toon, but could be steeper in subsequent weeks as moppets head back to school. “Dragon’s” domestic cume stands at $133.9 million.

Lionsgate’s Tyler Perry comedy sequel “Why Did I Get Married Too?” saw a steep drop of 62%, earning an estimated $11 million at 2,155 engagements. Pic turned in boffo numbers last weekend, when it bowed with $29.3 million to become the second-highest opening for Perry behind last year’s “Madea Goes to Jail,” which earned $41 million.

Meanwhile, Disney continues to enjoy strong holdovers with “The Last Song” and “Alice in Wonderland.” Entering its soph sesh, “Last Song,” starring Miley Cyrus as a troubled teen who develops a summer romance, earned $10 million at 2,674 playdates, down 37%. Cume for the weeper totals $42.4 million.

The Mouse House’s 3D phenom “Alice” grossed an estimated $5.6 million, slipping a slight 32% in its sixth frame, for a hefty domestic take of $319.3 million.

Apparition repped two specialty contenders: an expansion of music biopic “The Runaways,” starring Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning, and a limited Stateside bow of Australian-thriller “The Square.”

“The Runaways” earned $470,029 at 204 locations, up 124 in its fourth frame, for a per-screen average of $2,304. Apparition mounted an altered marketing scheme, targeting older arthouse auds after failing to gain much traction among younger auds based on Stewart’s “Twilight” popularity. Despite the weekend’s muted take, the distrib is still banking on positive reviews and publicity from real-life Runaways Joan Jett and Cherie Currie. Pic has cumed $2.5 million since its release on March 19.

“The Square” bowed at two locations in New York and Los Angeles, with an estimated $16,564, for a per-screen average of $8,282. Distrib nabbed North American rights to the Nash Edgerton-directed pic early this year. Edgerton’s short “Spider,” which screens before the feature, “sets up the dark comedy perfectly,” said Apparition CEO Bob Berney.

Also, microdistrib Abramorama launched its music doc on the Doors, “When You’re Strange,” at eight engagements, totaling $65,371. Narrated by Johnny Depp, the pic scored a solid per-screen average of $8,171.

At the international B.O., “Dragon” held nicely in its third frame, earning $23.7 million on 7,033 screens in 55 territories. The toon’s 3D share totaled 69% of the weekend take on 3,357 3D-equipped screens. Overseas cume for “Dragon” soared to $148.1 million.

“Alice” also performed well in repeat frames, with $19 million on 7,152 screens in 51 territories. Without major bows, the 3D fantasy’s total came from key holdover markets, principally France and China. In those territories, “Alice” grossed a respective $4.3 million on 737 screens and $4.1 million on 1,477.

Another notable overseas player was Sony’s local Brazilian co-production “Chico Xavier.” Biopic about Francisco Xavier, a famous figure in the country’s Spiritism movement, earned $2.5 million on 340 screens in its soph sesh. Take was down only 29% from its record-setting bow last week, where it became Brazil’s highest-grossing launch ever for a locally produced film, with $3.5 million on 340 screens.

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