A computer-animated panda bear bumped a computer-generated grizzly bear from the number one spot at the North American box office as the toon sequel Kung Fu Panda 3 debuted on top with an estimated $41M. Averaging a solid $10,367 from 3,955 theaters, the PG-rated DreamWorks Animation offering posted the lowest opening weekend for the series, but also the third highest bow for the month of January which typically does not see large launches.
Reviews were solid and word-of-mouth from audiences is stellar with an A CinemaScore grade. With most schools taking a winter recess at some point in February, and no major competitors for several weeks, the road ahead looks promising. Many past kidpics opening in January have gone on to finish with four times their debuts so Kung Fu Panda 3 definitely has a shot as matching the $165.2M domestic final of its 2011 predecessor which played in the summertime. That film debuted on the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend with the Friday-to-Sunday portion contributing $47.7M.
Fox estimates that international openings amounted to a stellar $75M this weekend including China, Russia, and Korea making for a potent $116M global debut. Many major markets will not open Panda 3 until closer to Easter so there is plenty of business still to come over the next two months. International markets have been a key part of the success of the franchise which has grossed $1.4 billion to date on its way to a possible $2 billion for the trilogy when this new one completes its journey.
Academy Award contender The Revenant slipped back into its comfortable position at number two with an estimated $12.4M showing a great hold with a 23% dip. With DiCaprio solidifying his position as the Best Actor front-runner with Saturday’s big SAG win, the survival adventure upped its cume to an impressive $138.2M for Fox on its way to north of $175M. No other film has more Oscar nominations this year.
Han Solo and friends posted a sturdy gross in third place collecting an estimated $10.8M for Star Wars: The Force Awakens slipping only 23% in the process. No film in the top ten dropped by more than 35% this weekend thanks in part to some business in the east getting snowed out last weekend and the marketplace picking up lost activity now. But the Force hold was impressive given the sci-fi pic’s kid appeal and the arrival of Panda.
The new Star Wars climbed to a record $895.4M from North America while overseas grosses rose to $1.09 billion for a new worldwide haul of $1.98 billion. Look for the smash hit to break the $900M domestic mark this Friday with the global gross still on track for a finish of about $2.05 billion.
Opening to soft results in fourth place was the Coast Guard thriller The Finest Hours with an estimated $10.3M from 3,143 locations for a mild $3,286 average. Chris Pine headlined the PG-13 film based on a true story but audience interest never took off. Mixed reviews hurt too. Studio research showed that the crowd was 53% male and 83% over 25. With a good A- CinemaScore, Disney hopes for some legs but the pricey $80M production will find it hard to break even since international appeal is not too strong.
Taking fifth was the comedy sequel Ride Along 2 with an estimated $8.4M in its third weekend, off 33%, for a $70.8M cume for Universal. STX enjoyed a terrific hold for its thriller The Boy which defied horror movie gravity and dipped only 27% in its second weekend with no increase in screens. Total is $21.5M heading to near $40M.
The raunchy comedy Dirty Grandpa followed with an estimated $7.6M, down 32%, for a new sum of $22.8M. Also falling 32% in its second round was the sci-fi dud The 5th Wave with an estimated $7M putting Sony at just $20.2M.
50 Shades of Black, the latest spoof comedy from Marlon Wayans, opened poorly in ninth place with an estimated $6.2M. Averaging a lackluster $2,982 from 2,075 theaters, the R-rated pic was panned by critics, to nobody’s surprise, but also failed to please paying moviegoers with a lousy C CinemaScore grade. The debut was a third of the solid $18.1M that Wayans saw three Januarys ago for A Haunted House which was a Paranormal Activity send-up. Shades cost only about $5M to produce, but Open Road also has marketing costs to deal with.
Soldier story 13 Hours rounded out the top ten by dropping 34% to an estimated $6M giving Paramount a nice $42.6M to date.
Half of the Oscar contenders for Best Picture were just below the top ten pulling in business and displaying fantastic holds. These included The Big Short (-6% weekend dip, $60.9M cume), Brooklyn (-0.3%, $30.4M), Room (-9%, $9.9M), and SAG winner Spotlight (-12%, $34.7M).
The top ten films grossed an estimated $117.5M which was up a hearty 47% from last year when American Sniper stayed at number one with $30.7M; and up a robust 78% from 2014 when Ride Along remained in the top spot with $12M.