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    Kick-Ass? Not Exactly

    Chloe Moretz, KICK-ASS Lionsgate

    So as to not make Hit-Girl angry, we'll start off by noting Box Office Mojo declared Kick-Ass the biggest-opening superhero comedy ever.

    Other than that… Well… Er…

    The Comic-Con phenom fell way short of expectations, grossing an estimated $19.8 million, and fell victim to a stunning upset in the weekend box-office standings by the month-old How to Train Your Dragon ($20 million). So what happened?

    "Couple factors at play: R-rating, no bonafide stars," Exhibitor Relations' Jeff Bock said today in an email, "but that still doesn't change the fact that people went absolutely nuts at advance screenings. I know, I was at one."

    Sure enough, showings at San Diego Comic-Con and Harry Knowles' Butt-Numb-a-Thon gave Kick-Ass a kickstart. And while some critics, notably Roger Ebert, were taken aback by the 11-year-old Hit-Girl's preternatural ability to kill people dead, overall reviews were good, and the flick was pegged to open with as much as $36 million. (Internally, Lionsgate, which bought the indie film's distribution rights for $15 million, was braced for anything as much as that—or as low as what it got.)

    By Saturday, though, projections were revised downward to $20 million. Then, today, came the under-$20 million weekend estimate. 

    "This is a real head-scratcher, no doubt," Bock said.

    Lionsgate exec David Spitz took inspiration from How to Train Your Dragon. "Four weeks ago, everybody was, oh, this is a big disappointment," he said today of the rival movie. "Now they're holding fantasic. I think we're going to be in a similar situation."

    Elsewhere:

    Steve Carell and Tina Fey's Date Night ($17.3 million; $49.2 million overall), and Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence's debuting Death at a Funeral ($17 million) both hit their marks

    If you missed the update, Date Night did not finish No. 1 last weekend; Clash of the Titans did. It looks like Date Night will top Clash this time out, with the 3D fight-fest estimated to have dropped to fifth place ($15.8 million; $133 million overall).

    As things stand now, Dragon is back at No. 1 after two weeks away from the top spot. Since Dragon and Kick-Ass are pretty close, it's possible the two could flop positions when final numbers come out tomorrow. No matter what happens, though, Dragon will still be the weekend's winner.

    Avatar watch: Hollywood's biggest movie ever hit $745 million domestically.  

    Here's a rundown of the weekend's top-grossing films Friday-Sunday, per estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:

    1. How to Train Your Dragon, $20 million
    2. Kick-Ass, $19.8 million
    3. Date Night, $17.3 million
    4. Death at a Funeral, $17 million
    5. Clash of the Titans, $15.8 million
    6. The Last Song, $5.8 million
    7. Why Did I Get Married Too?, $4.2 million
    8. Hot Tub Time Machine, $3.545 million
    9. Alice in Wonderland, $3.54 million
    10. The Bounty Hunter, $3.2 million

    (Originally published April 18, 2010, at 9:19 a.m. PT)

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    Find out which films kick some major you-know-what in our Totally New Releases gallery.

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