'Date Night' battles 'Titans' in b.o. fight

VIDEO: Carell-Fey comedy eyeing $23-$27 mil weekend haul

The battle for supremacy at the domestic boxoffice this weekend amounts to the clash of a titanic 3D holdover and a comedy for the date-movie crowd.

Fox's appropriately titled "Date Night" should appeal to couples and fans of topliners Steve Carell and Tina Fey. Directed by Shawn Levy (the "Night at the Museum" films), the PG-13 pic about a suburban couple's accidental walk on the wild side targets a broad swath of adult moviegoers.

Its mainstream campaign has featured ubiquitous TV spots and billboards and a recent Parade magazine cover story. Early reviews have been promising and should further position the pic as a smart comedy with broad appeal.

Studios execs see the market as ripe for a new comedy with the most recent one, MGM's R-rated "Hot Tub Time Machine," entering its third weekend in release.

"This is the first straight-ahead comedy for everyone in a while," Fox distribution president Bruce Snyder said.

A bow in the range of $23 million-$27 million looks likely. That could be enough to open the pic atop the domestic heap.

On the other hand, don't expect Warner Bros.' "Clash of the Titans" to give up the No. 1 spot without a fight, after the action-fantasy topped the rankings last weekend with $61.2 million. "Titans" is likely to absorb a big sophomore-session drop from its opening tally, but even a 60% decline would fetch nearly $25 million.

"Historically, a 50%-60% drop from an Easter weekend would be normal," Warners distribution boss Dan Fellman said. "But our exit surveys have been terrific, and I see a nice long run for this film."

Warners had to fight hard to get even 1,800 3D engagements for "Titans" included among its 3,777 inaugural playdates, but the studio should be able to hang onto those screens for a while. The next 3D pic doesn't hit multiplexes until May 21, when Paramount debuts DreamWorks Animation's "Shrek Forever After."

Among this weekend's limited openers, Anchor Bay unspools the horror thriller "After.Life," -- boasting a cast including Liam Neeson, Justin Long and Christina Ricci -- in 41 theaters in 10 cities, and Screen Media debuts the Benjamin Bratt drama "La Mission" on 25 screens in 10 markets.

Industrywide, the weekend will be compared with last year's $134 million Easter session, which was topped by the $32.3 million bow by "Hannah Montana: The Movie."
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