Weekend Box Office: Po Rolls In the Dough

With no major storms or championship football games to contend with, the North American box office got itself back on track this weekend. Fox/Dreamworks’ Kung Fu Panda 3 kicked fellow new arrivals The Finest Hours, 50 Shades of Black and Jane Got a Gun to the curb without much effort, while The Revenant and The Force Awakens continued to draw viewers in. Overall, the top ten climbed 22.7% over last weekend’s snowy totals and a healthy 47% over last year.

After a hiatus of nearly five years, the Kung Fu Panda franchise came back to life with Kung Fu Panda 3. The sequel kicked its way to a solid $41 million from 3,955 theaters. The opening for the latest adventures of Po and his pals was down slightly from the $47 million earned by the second film back in 2011, but it should be noted that Panda 2 opened during the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Overseas, the film pulled in a big $75 million in its debut.

Reviews were solid for the new film, which once again brings back the voice talents of Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Lucy Liu and Jackie Chan. Critics on Rotten Tomatoes gave the film an 80% approval rating, just below Part 2’s 81% and the 2008 original’s 87%. Ticket buyers gave the film a solid “A” rating on CinemaScore. With solid word-of-mouth and no direct competition on the horizon, Kung Fu Panda should have a healthy run ahead of it until Disney’s Zootopia arrives in early March.

Fox also had the second most popular film in the country with its wilderness drama The Revenant, which eased a mere 23% in its fourth weekend of wide release on 3,330 screens. The Leonardo DiCaprio hit earned an estimated $12.4 million to bring its domestic total to $138.2 million.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens also held well in its seventh weekend. Despite losing 809 screens the blockbuster managed to bring in an estimated $10.8 million from 2,556 theaters, a decrease of only 23% from last weekend’s gross. The Disney film has earned $895 million domestically and an additional $1.087 billion from overseas. The Force Awakens will break through two more milestones this upcoming week: $900 million domestic and $2 billion global.

The news wasn’t as rosy for Disney’s other film in the marketplace: the drama The Finest Hours, which ran aground in fourth place with a weak $10.3 million from 3,143 theaters. The $80 million production is a dramatization of the true-life Coast Guard rescue of over 30 men off the coast of Cape Cod in 1952 and stars Chris Pine, Casey Affleck and Eric Bana.

The film was met with mixed notices from the press but decent feedback from ticket buyers polled on CinemaScore. Critics gave the film a 59% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes while ticket buyers rated it an “A-“. The latter might help the film stick around for a week or two, but it certainly won’t be enough for The Mouse House to recoup its substantial investment.

Rounding out the top five was Universal’s Ride Along 2 with an estimated $8.3 million from 2,412 theaters. Off 33%, the sequel has earned $71 million so far and should wind down its run near the $85 million mark.

Outside the top five:

  1. The Boy (STX) $8 million (-27%); $21.5 million
  1. Dirty Grandpa (Lionsgate) $7.5 million (-32%); $23 million
  1. The 5th Wave (Sony) $7 million (-32%); $20 million
  1. Fifty Shades of Black (Open Road)

The critically eviscerated spoof of Fifty Shades of Black from Marlon Wayans was expected to open around $10 million. Instead, it seduced a limp $6.2 million worth of business from 2,075 screens. On the plus side for the studio, it only cost around $6 million to produce.

  1. 13 Hours (Paramount) $6 million (-34%); $42.5 million

Then there’s Jane Got a Gun. The $25 million western starring Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor and Joel Edgerton has had the working definition of “a troubled production.” Original director Lynne Ramsay left after one day of shooting and was replaced by Gavin O’Connor. Stars Michael Fassbender, Bradley Cooper and Jude Law came and went, the script went through numerous rewrites and its original distributor went bankrupt, the latter helping the film remain in release date limbo for well over a year.

In the end, was it worth it? Apparently not. Critics dismissed it –they gave the film a 33% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes- and few if any paid to see it. The Weinstein Company –the film’s new distributor- dumped the film this past Friday onto 1,210 screens, where it eked out a horrible $803,000 to land all the way down in 17th place.

Next weekend, Hollywood offers up Hail Caesar!, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and The Choice as cinematic alternatives to the Super Bowl.

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