'Dragon,' 'Kick-Ass' dueling for No. 1

No. 3 spot also close, with 'Date Night' trumping 'Funeral'

Update: 'Kick-Ass' overtakes 'Dragon'

There was another photo finish at the weekend boxoffice, as a leggy holdover again appeared to outpace a big wide-opener.

DreamWorks Animation's leggy "How to Train Your Dragon" fetched an estimated $20 million to top preliminary domestic rankings. The Paramount-distributed 3D adventure piled cumulative coin to $158.6 million through four sessions.

Just a hair off the leader's pace, "Kick-Ass" -- a relatively inexpensive pickup for Lionsgate -- posted a weekend opening less potent than its name yet hardly a kick in the pants for the minimajor. The well-reviewed romp about a band of not-very-super superheroes rung up $19.8 million, landing on the lower end of pre-release expectations.

The No. 1 and 2 positions could change Monday, depending on final data from distributors. Another wide-opener -- Sony Screen Gem's R-rated comedy "Death at a Funeral," with Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence -- settled for fourth place with $17 million.

More positively, Fox's PG-13 comedy "Date Night," starring Steve Carell and Tina Fey, used a tiny 31% drop from its week-earlier bow to ring up $17.3 million and grab third place in its sophomore session, and a $49.2 million cume. Warner Bros.' 3D action fantasy "Clash of the Titans" -- which overtook "Date Night" for No. 1 in the prior weekend's race to the wire -- finished fifth in its third frame with $15.8 million and a $133 million cume.

On an industry-wide basis, the $121 million weekend represented a 10% uptick from a comparable session last year, according to Rentrak.

Among limited bows, Sony Pictures Classics bowed Argentine crime drama "The Secret in Their Eyes" -- Oscar's best foreign-language pic last year -- in 10 theaters and grossed $176,389, or an encouraging $17,639 per venue.

And IFC Films opened Persian-language drama "No One Knows About Persian Cats" in two New York locations to gross $8,600, or an acceptable $4,300 per site.

Elsewhere, Apparition's dramatic thriller "The Square" added eight playdates for a total 10 in grossing $38,071, or an acceptable $3,807 per engagement. "Square" cume rose to $61,750.

DreamWorks marketing maven Anne Globe said positive patron reaction to 3D imagery in "Dragon" has helped the family powerhouse display such sturdy legs in the marketplace.

"Word of mouth is really propelling the film, and we believed that would be the case going in," Globe said. "When the 3D is really good, the picture holds really well."

Matthew Vaughn directed a "Kick-Ass" cast featuring Nicolas Cage, Aaron Johnson ("Nowhere Boy") and Chloe Moretz "("(500) Days of Summer"). The R-rated pic drew opening audiences comprised 60% of males, with 50% of patrons under age 25.

"We'll see what the final tally is; I think it's a dead heat," Lionsgate exec vp David Spitz said of the competition for No. 1. "But this is a great start, and I think we're going to have a great hold."

Costing $50 million to produce, "Kick-Ass" was acquired by Lionsgate for North American distribution for a sum "in the mid-teen millions," a studio insider said.

The remake of a 2007 British comedy, "Funeral" was directed by Neil LaBute ("Nurse Betty") with topliner co-stars including Danny Glover, Peter Dinklage and Zoe Saldana ("Avatar"). Opening audiences skewed 56% female, with 56% of patrons aged 25 or older. A studio spokesman said audiences were "largely" comprised of African-American moviegoers, but he declined to specify a percentage.

Sony distribution president Rory Bruer said the opening of "Funeral" was "totally in the zone that we were hoping to be in."

"Funeral" cost an estimated $21 million to produce.

Looking ahead, two films open wide on Friday: CBS Films' romantic comedy "The Back-Up Plan," and Warners' action pic "The Losers." Disneynature debuts the documentary "Oceans" on Thursday.