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Satirical superhero film set to ‘Kick’ its way to the top

Lionsgate looks as if it will kick butt at the box office this weekend.

The independent studio Friday will release its satirical superhero film “Kick-Ass,” which it acquired after a successful screening at last year’s Comic-Con International, with healthy expectations.

People who have seen pre-release audience surveys said it should sell roughly $30 million worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada through Sunday.

“Kick-Ass,” which stars Nicolas Cage along with a mostly young cast, has long been generating interest among young males, who have been excited since buzz started at the fanboy convention. Lionsgate recently focused more of its marketing on older males and young women, who may be attracted to the film’s tween superhero Hit Girl.

The movie’s R rating, however, could deal a blow to its weekend gross by limiting the size of the under-17-year-old audience.

Unless “Kick Ass” opens significantly below expectations, Lionsgate should end up in good financial shape on the movie, particularly if those who see it on its first weekend create positive buzz.

The studio paid $15 million for domestic distribution rights and is spending $25 million to $30 million on advertising and prints.

Barring a disaster, “Kick-Ass” will be this weekend’s No. 1 movie. Sony Pictures’ “Death at a Funeral” is on track to open at around $20 million, a decent figure given that the studio’s Screen Gems label spent $21 million on production.

The remake of a 2007 British film stars Chris Rock and Tracy Morgan and is tracking stronger with African American audiences but is expected to draw a fairly diverse crowd.

It could be in a tight race for second place with “How to Train Your Dragon,” which declined only 14% to $25.3 million last weekend and will probably have a similarly tiny drop on its upcoming fourth weekend in the market.

Much of the talk Thursday among executives who closely follow tracking surveys wasn’t about any movies playing this weekend. Marvel Studios’ “Iron Man 2,” which opens May 7, showed up on the two major polling services used by studios this weekend.

The movie is generating huge pre-release interest, the executives said, and is nearly certain to far exceed the $98.6-million first-weekend domestic gross of the original “Iron Man” on the same weekend in 2008.

Although it won’t get the benefit of higher ticket prices from playing in 3-D, “Iron Man 2" is expected to open to more than $100 million and has a shot at exceeding the all-time domestic record of $158.4 million set by “The Dark Knight” in 2008.

ben.fritz@latimes.com


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