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Weekend Box Office: Kung Fu Panda 3 Nets January Record as Other Newcomers Struggle

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By Chris Kavan - 01/31/16 at 11:41 PM CT

It was a knock-out punch from Kung Fu Panda 3 as the animated January opening (by a large margin) was enough to give the box office a 25% jump over last weekend and a massive 46% improvement over the same weekend last year. Otherwise, it was the holdover films that stole all the thunder as the rest of the new films all failed to put up any kind of impressive numbers. It was especially dour for the long-delayed Jane Got a Gun. Star Wars continues to impress, nearly topping $900 million as it approaches the $2 billion worldwide mark - both which should be achieved by next weekend.

1) KUNG FU PANDA 3

Turns out the family-friendly karate master panda Po still has some pull. The third film in the Kung Fu Panda series opened in record fashion with $41 million - obliterating the old animated record set by The Nut Job ($19.4 million). It is also the third best January opening of all time, and could rise to second as it is only slightly behind Ride Along ($41.5 million) so we'll see if there is even more good news come Monday when final results are tallied. In any case, it's a great start for Jack Black and the all-star voice cast, even if the film came in under the first two Kung Fu Panda films (which opened to $60.2 million and $47.6 million respectively). The good news is audiences liked it a lot - giving it an "A" Cinemascore and with no competition on the animated from until Zootopia hits in March, Kung Fu Panda 3 essentially has the entire month of February all to itself. That should translate to at least a $150 million total - but it could easily go higher than that. All told, I think this bodes well for a Kung Fu Panda 4.

2) THE REVENANT

Every film in the top 10 dipped less than 34% - and The Revenant was the best of best - dropping only 22.5% over last weekend (maybe all that snow was a factor) and that translated to a $12.4 million weekend and new total of $138.1 million. That also meant the film officially crossed its $135 million budget threshold and now looks poised to ride the February Oscar wave to a nearly $175 million total. For Leonardo DiCaprio, it continues to rise among his best films - passing The Departed ($132 million) and looking to catch up to The Great Gatsby ($144 million) and Django Unchained ($162 million) before too long. The film continues to play well as the awards roll around, even if The Big Short has been making up ground with its own awards. I still say this riveting drama deserves every accolade it has been receiving and hope it gets some Oscar love as well.

3) STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

Likewise having an excellent hold for the weekend was Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Dropping just 23.4%, the massive sci-fi hit took in $10.7 million and came in just shy of $900 million with a new $895.4 million total. It will cross that threshold before next weekend and is also rapidly approaching the $2 billion worldwide mark (it's currently at $1.98 billion) and it should also be able to cross that mark this weekend as well. All told, even with a somewhat softer response in China, this film is going to be one of the largest of all time as it shows little sign of slowing down too much as I expect it to ride out February in the top 10 and we'll see how much more it can take in before it runs out of theaters.

4) THE FINEST HOURS

The only other new wide release to break into the top five was The Finest Hours. The dramatic high-seas rescue/romance has been compared to The Perfect Storm, but in terms of box office draw, it couldn't weather the storm. Even through it managed to snag a decent "A-" Cinemascore, it could only muster a $10.3 million opening. That was in line with expectations, but doesn't bode well for a film budgeted in the $70-$80 million range. Throw in marketing and Disney better hope that foreign markets will help make up the loss. Considering how many 3D and IMAX screens Star Wars lost to this film, I think the studio would have been better off letting this one sit awhile longer, but, then again, who knew just how big that film was going to get. The film opened essentially in line with In the Heart of the Sea ($11 million) and will likely share a similar fate. The movie probably deserved better, but I don't think Disney is going to sweat too much over this one.

5) RIDE ALONG 2

Even though it took a pretty decent hit to its theater count (dropping out of 780) Ride Along 2 managed to hold on to a good chunk of its audience and dipped just 33% in its third weekend. The film rounds out the top five with $8.3 million and a new total of $70.77 million. While the sequel is still trailing the original by a large margin, Ride Along 2 should still be able to cruise to a $90 million total. Whether that result is good enough to greenlight Ride Along 3... well, we will just have to wait and see but usually more than doubling ones production is good enough for most studios.

Outside the top five: Marlon Wayans spoof Fifty Shades of Black only managed a 9th-place $6.18 million opening - but coming off a mere $4 million budget, that result isn't too bad. Still, it's a ways off from A Haunted House ($18 million) and lower than the sequel ($8.8 million) though I still chalk that up to trying to parody an already cringe-worthy film. Anyway, even if the spoof quickly exits theaters, it's already a money-making proposition, so, in the end, it will turn out just fine.

Not so fine was the debut of Jane Got a Gun. The long-delayed production, which went through numerous casting changes, lost the original director and had its original distributor go bankrupt, was going to go limited, but wound up in over 1200 theaters. That was a bold choice, but ultimately not a good one for the Weinstein Company as the film opened to just $803,000 (17th place) and a dismal $664-per-theater average. Even for a modestly-budgeted $25 million, it's not looking good. It is by far the lowest opening for Natalie Portman, though she can't shoulder the blame for this one. I expect this to exit quickly and hope for decent streaming sales.

Next week sees the release of the Coen Brothers period Hollywood comedy Hail, Caesar!, the period horror Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and the latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation, The Choice. I, for one, am interested more in comedy than zombies (for once) and hope the Coen Brothers are in top form (and having Scarlett Johansson on hand certainly doesn't hurt things).

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