‘Dragon’ edges out ‘Kick-Ass’ at box office

* “Dragon” leads box office with $20 million

* “Kick-Ass” opens at No. 2 with $19.8 million

LOS ANGELES, April 18 (BestGrowthStock) – In a major upset, the new
kiddie superhero action comedy “Kick-Ass” failed to take the
top spot at the North American box office, narrowly losing the
race to “How to Train Your Dragon,” according to studio
estimates issued on Sunday.

“Dragon,” a cartoon that also opened disappointingly four
weekends ago but has held on strongly, earned $20 million for
the three days beginning Friday. “Kick-Ass” followed with $19.8
million. Another new release, the Chris Rock comedy “Death at a
Funeral,” came in at No. 4 with a solid $17 million, just
behind “Date Night” with $17.3 million.

Rankings could change when final data are released on
Monday; that was the case last weekend when “Date Night”
claimed the No. 1 spot on Sunday, but was usurped by reigning
champion “Clash of the Titans” the next day.

Industry forecasters had expected “Kick-Ass” to open in the
$25 million-$30 million range. Aaron Johnson stars as a
high-school student who transforms himself into a hapless,
homemade superhero. Chloe Moretz co-stars as a combat-trained
preteen girl, and Nicolas Cage as her father.

Reviews were strong, but the “R” rating in the United
States, blocking admission to unaccompanied children under 17,
likely hit sales, said David Spitz, executive vice president
for distribution at distributor Lionsgate.

Spitz, emboldened by the holding power of “Dragon,”
predicted “Kick-Ass” would “play and play and play” in coming
weeks.

“The ‘definite recommends’ (from exit polling) are through
the roof compared to the norms,” Spitz said.

The film previously opened below forecasts in Britain,
Australia and New Zealand, but has also held up, he added.

Lionsgate, a unit of Lions Gate Entertainment Corp
(LGF.N: )., paid $25 million for the rights. Spitz said the film
would be profitable for the company, which is evaluating a
hostile $7 per share takeover bid by Carl Icahn. The
billionaire investor has criticized the company’s spending.
Lions Gate stock rose 50 cents to $6.87 on Friday.

“How to Train Your Dragon” has now earned $158.6 million
after four weekends. Sales dropped just 20 percent from last
weekend, when it ranked at No. 3. Among other recent big films,
“Alice in Wonderland” was off 48 percent in its fourth weekend,
and “Avatar” 27 percent.

The stock of the film’s producer, DreamWorks Animation SKG
Inc (DWA.O: ), has recovered a little after tumbling eight
percent to $39.34 the day after the film opened at No. 1 with a
modest $44 million. It traded at $40.79 on the Nasdaq on
Friday. DreamWorks Animation releases are distributed by
Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc (VIAb.N: ).

“Death at a Funeral,” an urban remake of the 2007 British
comedy of the same name, opened within industry expectations.
The film, produced by Sony Corp’s (6758.T: ) (SNE.N: ) mid-range
Screen Gems label for $21 million, skewed to older women, the
studio said.

“Date Night,” a romantic comedy starring Tina Fey and Steve
Carell, has earned just over $49 million after 10 days. The
20th Century Fox release also enjoyed a modest drop, of 31
percent. Fox is a unit of News Corp (NWSA.O: ).

“Clash of the Titans” fell four places to No. 5 with $15.8
million in its third weekend; the tally for the mythological
epic rose to $133 million. The film was released by Warner
Bros., a unit of Time Warner Inc (TWX.N: ).

Stock Basics

(Reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by Eric Walsh and Jackie
Frank)
(To read more about our entertainment news, visit our blog
“Fan Fare” online at http://blogs.reuters.com/fanfare/)

‘Dragon’ edges out ‘Kick-Ass’ at box office