LOS ANGELES – Television comics Steve Carell and Tina Fey scored a disputed win at the North American box office on Sunday, as "Date Night" narrowly beat last weekend's champion "Clash of the Titans."
The duo's romantic comedy earned $27.1 million during its first weekend, said its distributor 20th Century Fox, coming in at the high end of pundits' forecasts.
"Clash of the Titans" grossed $26.9 million, said Warner Bros. But the studio said it estimated a $26 million weekend for "Date Night." Two rival studios also gave the edge to "Clash," while another said the race was too close to call.
"It does seem a little bizarre that they squeezed it out," Warner Bros. domestic distribution president Dan Fellman said of Fox's estimate. Fox declined to respond.
A clear winner will emerge on Monday when the studios release final data for the Friday-to-Sunday weekend.
Box office estimates are based on executives poring through the history books to research the trajectories of similarly themed films at the same time of year. The Sunday component is particularly open to revision since the studios release their three-day estimates early in the day.
Either way, the sales for both films were at the high end of industry forecasts. Pundits had predicted "Date Night" would open in the $23-27 million range, with "Clash" seen earning about $25 million.
Internationally, it was no competition. "Clash" led the field for a second weekend with sales of $54 million from 31 countries, taking its total to $119.2 million.
The mythological epic opened at No. 1 in Russia, France and Germany, Warner Bros. said. "Date Night" earned a modest $7.1 million in 35 markets, led by a $2 million contribution from a No. 3 opening in Australia, Fox said.
'Date Night' earns $7.1 million overseas
Carell ("The Office") and Fey ("30 Rock") star in "Date Night" as a suburban couple pursued by crooks in a case of mistaken identity. Shawn Levy ("Night at the Museum") directed the critically acclaimed film. Fox, a unit of News Corp, said the $55 million movie skewed to older couples.
"Clash of the Titans," the latest action film to jump on the lucrative 3D bandwagon in the wake of the success of "Avatar," has earned $110.5 million after its first 10 days.
It lost 56 percent of its opening-weekend audience, a slightly smaller drop than pundits had forecast. Warner Bros. is a unit of Time Warner Inc.
Former champion "How to Train Your Dragon" was a close No. 3 with $25.4 million, falling just 13 percent from last weekend. The DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc production has earned $133.9 million after three weekends.
Rounding out the top five were filmmaker Tyler Perry's sequel "Why Did I Get Married Too?" with $11 million, and the Miley Cyrus drama "The Last Song" with $10 million. Both in their second weekends, they have tallied $48.5 million and $42.4 million, respectively.
"Why Did I Get Married Too?" was released by Lionsgate, a unit of Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. "The Last Song" was released by Walt Disney Pictures, a unit of Walt Disney Co.