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Dragon Trumps Kick-Ass

Dragon Trumps Kick-Ass

Picking up word-of-mouth as it continues to pull audiences, Paramount/DreamWorks Animation’s How to Train Your Dragon bested all comers at the weekend box office, kicking Kick-Ass to second place. TOH box office analyst Anthony D’Alessandro reports:

Lionsgate’s R-rated teen superhero opus Kick-Ass got its buttocks burned at the box office by a gang of 3D serpents, opening with $19.75 million at No. 2 behind Paramount-DreamWorks’ fourth weekend holdover How to Train Your Dragon which ascended to No. 1 with $20 million.
The weekend’s second new title, Sony-Screen Gems’ remake of the British comedy Death at a Funeral boasting a top-notch African-American cast of Martin Lawrence, Chris Rock and Tracy Morgan generated $17 million at 2,459 parlors, a figure that was below the media’s $20 million-plus projection, but in line with the studio’s expectations.  Overall, the Funeral business was truly good for Screen Gems as they only spent $21 million on the project.
Though Kiss-Ass flew below its lofty tracking of $30 million, it remains a worthy acquisition for Lionsgate since the studio is only on the hook for about $45 million — $15 million acquisition price + another $25-$30 million in P&A. 

See indieWIRE’s indie weekend b.o. report here and TOH top-ten chart below.

However, before box office analysts spank Kick-Ass over its failure to live up to its hype, riddle this: If Kick-Ass was tracking strongly for fanboys under 25, where were they?

One wild theory is that they definitely turned up at the multiplex, however, those under 17 bought tickets to Dragon or Date Night and snuck into Kick-Ass.

This is the conundrum for R-rated fare which looks to be targeting teens–i.e. American Pie, Superbad. The prime demo attends, but other films profit. Summer is the prime season for R-rated teen titles to excel, because there are more 17+ moviegoers on hand. Despite its red-band trailer, Superbad made $33.1 million in late August 2007 on its way to a domestic cume of $121.5 million.

A second weekend decline smaller than 40% will be a good indication that word of mouth is working on behalf of Kick-Ass. Lionsgate remains hopeful about the domestic prospects for Kick-Ass as the film has held well with 20-30% dips in the U.K. and Australia. Fanboy films on average decline 50% or more in their sophomore session.

“With exit polls at a ‘definitely recommend’ level, the audience is just finding out about how great this movie is,” said Lionsgate head of distribution David Spitz. “Look no further than this weekend’s No. 1 film (‘Dragon’).  The media had jumped the gun in assessing its opening.  Like that film, I think we have a lot of play left before we determine where we end up.”

Overseas, Kick-Ass is being handled by Universal and Mandate International, Lionsgate’s overseas arm.  In English-speaking territories, which Universal is currently overseeing, Kick-Ass amassed $2.6 million from the U.K., Australia and New Zealand for a current cume of $17.4 million.  Kick-Ass went up against Clash of the Titans in the U.K. during the first weekend of April, and unspooled in Australia and New Zealand last weekend.

Historically, it would have been an anomaly for a film like Kick-Ass, with an ensemble largely of unknowns, to propel past the $30-million mark. Titles pulling off such feats during the unpredictable days of April are largely mega-franchise films such as Fast and Furious with its $71 million bow or mega-star projects like Anger Management which opened with $42.2 million.

Lionsgate wasn’t taking too risky a gamble by slotting a mature comic book adaptation in April, as the largest R-rated bow for the month belongs to Dimension’s 2005 pulp flick Sin City which made $29.1 million. But what drove that film to great heights was its all-star directors above the title, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, as well as a cast which featured Bruce Willis, Benicio Del Toro and Jessica Alba. At the time, it was reported that Sin City, like Kick-Ass, charted below its tracking projection.

Commenting on Dragon’s rebound, DreamWorks Animation head of marketing and consumer products Anne Globe said: “This really speaks to the playability of the movie.  Audiences love it and 3D holds very well.  We opened in a competitive environment and knew at playtime it was going to be good for us.  At this point, word-of-mouth is broadening.”

Dragon continues to pull 65-68% of its box office from its 3D locales, which haven’t declined from its opening weekend count of 2,178 with 186 Imax.

Meanwhile Funeral, much like Tyler Perry’s films, attracted a heavy over-25 female crowd of 56%, respectively for the total audience and its age demo. Among April titles catering to the African-American demo, Tyler Perry grabbed the opening weekend crown three weeks ago with Why Did I Get Married Too? ($29.3 million).

Sony employed creative measures in promoting Funeral with a :30 second vignette of Chris Rock and former basketball champ Charles Barkley that aired during NBA games from March 24 to April 13. Tracy Morgan also showed a sneak of the film during his TV show 30 Rock. In addition, 15 markets hosted a stand-up comedy contest whereby winners were selected to open for Morgan’s upcoming comedy tour.

One might expect that the pairing of Rock and Lawrence would translate into higher figures. But each have seen opening upticks when paired up with other stars, i.e. Rock with Adam Sandler in 2005’s The Longest Yard ($47.6 million 3-day bow) and Lawrence with John Travolta in 2007’s Wild Hogs ($39.7 million). Thus those films brought in demos other than the core Funeral crowd. It remains to be seen if Funeral has cross-over potential. Word-of-mouth, as always, is key to any picture’s box office future, as How to Train Your Dragon proves.

More updates to come.

Box Office Top Ten Chart:

1. How to Train Your Dragon (Paramount): $20 million down 20% in its fourth weekend at 3,825 theaters. $5,229 theater average. Domestic total: $158.6 million.

2. Kick Ass (Lionsgate): $19.75 million in its first weekend at 3,065 theaters. $6,444 theater average. Domestic total: $19.75 million.

3. Date Night (Fox): $17.3 million down 31% in its second weekend at 3,380 theaters. $5,118 theater average. Domestic total: $49.2 million.

4. Death at a Funeral (Sony/Screen Gems): $17 million in its first weekend at 2,459 theaters. $6,913 theater average. Domestic total: $17 million.

5. Clash of the Titans (Warner Bros.): $15.8 million down 41% in its third weekend at 3,753 theaters. $4,202 theater average. Domestic total: $133 million.

6. The Last Song (Disney): $5.8 million down 41% in its third weekend at 2,767 theaters. $2,092 theater average. Domestic total: $50 million.

7. Why Did I Get Married Too? (Lionsgate): $4.18 million down 62% in its third weekend at 1,859 theaters, theater average $2,249. Domestic total: $54.9 million.

8. Hot Tub Time Machine (MGM/UA): $3.545 million down 35% in its fourth weekend at 2,308 theaters. $1,536 theater average. Domestic total: $42.5 million.

9. Alice in Wonderland (Disney): $3.540 million, down 33% in its seventh weekend at 2,024 theaters. $1,749 theater average. Domestic total: $324.0 million.

10. The Bounty Hunter (Sony): $3.2 million down 24% in its fifth weekend at 2,475 theaters, theater average $1,293. Domestic total: $60.4 million.

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