Weekend Wrap-Up for April 16-18, 2010

Dragons Roast Fake Hero Wannabes

By John Hamann

April 18, 2010

They were very surprised to hear the results of the weekend box office.

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Fanboys and fangirls were happy as Matthew Vaughn's Kick-Ass opened, but it appears they were the only ones. The R-rated Lionsgate pickup finally hit screens this weekend, as supporters and detractors have been waiting for this one eagerly since an extremely well-received screening at the San Diego Comic Con. Kick-Ass critics didn't like a violent and foul mouthed 11-year-old named Hit Girl, and Lionsgate was hoping the controversy would push sales even higher. Our other opener of the weekend is Death at a Funeral, another comedy. Both Death and Kick-Ass were made on the cheap, and had an opportunity to break out this weekend. Unfortunately, they didn't, as we have a bit of a surprise at the top of the box office charts.

Our number one film of the weekend is not Kick-Ass or Death at a Funeral. The winners of the last two frames, Clash of the Titans and Date Night, are also not sitting in the top spot. Instead, a four-weekend-old movie has returned to claim victory. How to Train Your Dragon, which finished at #1 in its opening weekend followed by a third place finish in both its second and third frames, has shocked the world by topping the charts in its fourth weekend. Its $20 million three-day total is off only 20% from last weekend, but perhaps even more impressively, it's actually only off 54% from its opening weekend. There's a lot of movies in the top ten right now that fell that far or more in their second frame.


This is a delightful success story for a wonderful family film that had seemed to get off to a rough start. Some of its success can be credited to its IMAX/3-D screens, but the terrific holds are also a triumph of word-of-mouth. How to Train Your Dragon is a remarkable 98% fresh at RottenTomatoes, and people with children are telling their friends that this is a movie worthy of a family outing. Thus far, the DreamWorks Animation flick has made $158.6 million at the domestic box office, with another $150 million or so coming from overseas. After starting out as a movie that looked like it would be a mild disappointment, How to Train Your Dragon will more than make its budget back in North America alone. Also, the toys associated with the film are selling out at an incredible rate, so merchandising has been a boon for Paramount. It serves as proof that the gap is indeed closing between Pixar and DreamWorks.

That means that our number two movie this weekend is Kick-Ass, the new comic book feature produced and financed by Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake) and Brad Pitt, amongst others. Kick-Ass has long been on the radar due to a rapturous screening at the San Diego Comic Con and the story around the production of this R-rated fanboy flick. Vaughn initially went to the studios with Kick-Ass, but was shown the door as the film was considered to be too violent and the language too course (you didn't have to be a rocket scientist to see that this one was aimed at the young male demographic, and was heading for a hard R rating). Matthew Vaughn decided to make the film on his own, self financing the $30 million film and then selling the US distribution rights to Lionsgate for $15 million, according to the LA Times. Lionsgate then invested a further $25 million on advertising and prints, so they had sunk about $40 million into the picture. They must have been very happy when original reviews were stellar, until Roger Ebert came along and called it "morally-reprehensible." Cue the Christian Right to jump on the bandwagon.

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