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Top 10 Takeaways: ‘Kung Fu Panda 3’ Boosts Box Office

Top 10 Takeaways: 'Kung Fu Panda 3' Boosts Box Office

The Top Ten total was up nearly 40% from the same weekend last year, led by strong DreamWorks animated sequel “Kung Fu Panda 3.” The box office was also up a healthy 24% from last weekend. But this does not make a major rebound. The Super Bowl was a week earlier last year, so expect a big drop next weekend. And the jump from last week is less impressive, as both the East Coast blizzard and strong Sunday NFL playoff games took their toll. Still, the $117,500,000 total was mid-range for a weekend this time of year.

The bright spots came from holdovers. Among new films, so far this year sequels do best, but not as well as their predecessors, as other new releases struggle to gain traction.

The Top Ten

1. Kung Fu Panda 3 (20th Century Fox) NEW – CInemascore: A; Metacritic: 65; est. budget: $140 million
$41,000,000 in 3,955 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $10,367; Cumulative: $41,000,000
2. The Revenant (20th Century Fox) Week 6 – Last weekend #1
$12,400,000 (-22%) in 3,380 theaters (-381); PTA: $3,724; Cumulative: $138,171,000
3. Star Wars – The Force Awakens (Buena Vista)  Week 7 – Last weekend #2
$10,782,000 (-23%) in 2,556 theaters (-809); PTA: $4,218; Cumulative: $895,426,000
4. The Finest Hours (Buena Vista) NEW – CInemascore: A-;  Metacritic: 58; est. budget: $70 million
$10,327,000 in 3,143 theaters; PTA: $3,286; Cumulative: $10,327,000
5. Ride Along 2 (Universal) Week 3 – Last weekend #3
$8,346,000 (-%) in 2,412 theaters (-780); PTA: $3,460; Cumulative: $70,775,000
6. The Boy (STX) Week 2 – Last weekend #5
$7,894,000 (-27%) in 2,671 theaters (no change); PTA: $2,955; Cumulative: $21,528,000
7. Dirty Grandpa (Lionsgate) Week 2 – Last weekend #4
$7,575,000 (-32%) in 2,912 theaters (no change); PTA: $2,601; Cumulative: $22,821,000
8. The 5th Wave (Sony) Week 2 – Last weekend #6
$7,000,000 (-32%) in 2,908 theaters (no change); PTA: $2,407; Cumulative: $20,188,000
9. Fifty Shades of Black (Open Road) NEW – CInemascore: C;  Metacritic: 26; est. budget: $5 million
$6,187,000 in 2,075 theaters; PTA: $2,982; Cumulative: $6,187,000
10. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (Paramount)  Week 3 – Last weekend #7
$6,000,000 (-34%) in 2,803 theaters (-114); PTA: $2,141; Cumulative: $42,574,000

The Takeaways

‘Kung Fu Panda 3’ to the Rescue
For a Dreamworks Animation entry, this is a mid-range opening number. Adjusting the gross, it comes out to 19th best of their 32 since their first (“The Prince of Egypt”) in 1998. But its somewhat off-season January release date plays a part. The previous series entry opened to a little under $47 million for its three-day Memorial Day weekend, but had an additional $6 million first Thursday full-day gross. For a third time around, this drop from its predecessor is about the same as the “Madagascar 3.” Its adjusted gross makes it the eighth best January opening ever, as well as the best for the nascent year (the first two weekends had “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” with better numbers). 

Per usual for DreamWorks franchises, this is an expensive production at a reported $140 million. But past films in this and similar series tend to do up to three fourths of their business in international markets, with China particularly strong for a locally-set film. Its initial incomplete tally looks to be at about or above the domestic number, more impressive as it opened a day later.

This does have room to grow. Fox reports that initial audiences were 31% Asian, rare for a big opener, with an additional 28% Latino/African-American—that’s nearly 60% minority. 

And the early release date could work in its favor. There is no immediately forthcoming family film, animated or otherwise, providing strong momentum going into President’s Day weekend ahead.

This is the 12th weekend out of the past 13 in which a franchise film has taken the top spot (previous entries include James Bond, “Hunger Games,” “Star Wars” and “Ride Along” installments). Since “The Martian” in October, only “The Revenant” has managed to eke out a weekend win among stand-alone stories.

And Fox’s hot streak continues. This is their fourth #1 film in more than five months, starting with “The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials.” Even more impressive is that two other releases were the second best for the weeks “Spectre” and “Star Wars” opened (the “Peanuts” reboot and “Alvin and the Chipmunks” franchise). Only “Joy” among their top profile films has been a modest miss of late. It’s a strong, steady performance, even though many of these films cost over $100 million.

‘The Finest Hour’ – Disney’s Expensive Risk Falls Short

Disney keeps producing general audience films starring mid-level actors as heroic everyman Americans. They boast a mixed track record: “Bridge of Spies,” “McFarland USA,” “Million Dollar Arm,” even “Secretariat.” “The Finest Hour,” with a reported $70 million budget, based on a real life 1952 boating disaster off the coast of New England, marks a bigger risk (“Spies” carried a $40 million front-end cost).

The higher budget comes from a special effects enhanced production with mid-ocean storm scenes. Like nautical “In the Heart of the Sea,” Disney is seeking better results overseas. “Heart” cost even more ($100 million) and flopped at home with a slightly better opening, but recovered with a foreign haul more than three times better than domestic. “The Finest Hour” scored a better Saturday (up 30% compared to 12%) and a decent Cinemascore (A-). With some adult appeal, it might have a chance to hold its own with mostly older awards films appealing to similar audiences in a slow period. But Disney has to dig out of a deep hole to just break even.

‘Fifty Shades of Black’ Far Below Other Wayans Bros. Parodies

The Wayans brothers have a cottage industry of low-budget movie parodies going back to blaxploitation comedy “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka” in 1988. At their best, the two “Scary” movies grossed $71 and 157 million respectively. 

But the Wayans have seen diminishing returns of late, and writer-producer-star Marlon Wayons’ takeoff on sexy romance “Fifty Shades of Gray” is the nadir. Coming in substantially below pre-opening expectations, this “Shades” is the worst opener (adjusted) of any initially wide release film in the Wayans’ career. And closer to the present, it falls short of Marlon and director Michael Tiddes’ two most recent films, “A Haunted House” and “A Haunted House 2,” both also handled by Open Road, though produced independently. 

The saving grace is the low budget (estimated around $5 million). But whoever fronted the marketing costs, even if below average levels, could be looking at red ink.

With STX and others looking to duplicate Open Road’s success in acquiring independently-produced general audience films, this is another sub-par effort. In Open Road’s four year history with a number of success stories, “Spotlight” is their only 2015 entry among their 12 best grossers. Its Oscar chances were boosted by its critical Screen Actors Guild Ensemble Cast win Saturday night, but at some point Open Road needs to return to their successful bread and butter genre films.


Nothing fell by more than a third among the seven holdovers. Normally a reason to cheer, three reasons mute this a bit. Last weekend, two factors hurt the grosses, the severe snowstorm in the East plus high-end Sunday football. And the lack of new strong openers beyond one aimed at kids meant those inclined to moviegoing were more likely to check out older films.

This week’s top holds were “The Revenant” (-22%) and “The Force Awakens” (-23%). “Force,” losing another 809 theaters in its seventh weekend, actual saw its PTA go up from last week. That’s a solid achievement for any film at this point in its run. It seems strange to be looking deep into the stats to find positive news for such a massive hit. “Force” actually already has lost nearly 40% of its initial theater count, way above average for most films. That is in line with other blockbusters like “Jurassic World.” “Avatar” by comparison had only shed 11% of its theaters at the same point, while “Titanic” in early 1998 had actually added 179 from its initial wide release count. The latter actually didn’t fall below its initial number of theaters until its 20th week, once again along with its still bigger total adjusted gross proving how it was an even more special event than the massive “Force.” Still, “Star Wars”‘ hold increases the chance that it will enter the rough calculations of the ten biggest films ever, needing roughly $60 million more to get there.

The surprise comparatively among the rest is “The Boy,” down 27% and close to the top hold. Horror films typically nosedive. Though it hasn’t been a top performer, this gross reinforces the notion that new distributor STX is making smart choices in its acquisitions. This will be the best both of last weekend’s openers as well as the other recent horror film “The Forest” and could top $35 million, a rare 3X multiple for a film in the genre.

Last week’s other titles “Dirty Grandpa” and “The Fifth Wave” managed 32% drops, again helped by better conditions. But both will fall short of “The Boy,” with “Wave” being a mid-level budget flop domestically, though foreign (at $45 million so far) will help,

Lagging both in total gross and with the biggest drop (though close behind at 34%), “13 Hours” has been a surprisingly weak film among recent military-action true stories. It could end up around $60 million. But even though this was a much more economical film from Michael Bay at $50 million, it is going to depend on foreign grosses, trickier for an American military centered story, to be profitable.

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