Monday Morning Quarterback Part I

By BOP Staff

June 9, 2008

He's changing into the Incredible Hulk before our very eyes.

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It's a panda! And he's doing kung fu!

Kim Hollis: Kung Fu Panda karate chopped its way to $60.2 million this weekend, making it the fifth best opening for a non-sequel animated property ever. This is the best such opening ever for DreamWorks, so do you agree that they should be thrilled with this opening? How do you explain such a positive opening?

Max Braden: When you animate animals acting silly, you pretty much guarantee box office from kid audiences. And who doesn't love pandas? Their cuddle factor completely lures the viewer into believing they aren't killer whales on land. The trailer got a favorable response from adults in front of other theatrical releases, mostly due to Jack Black's name. I think the only surprise is that it pulled in over 25% more money than Madagascar's $47 million on the same number of screens three years ago.

Joel Corcoran: How can DreamWorks be anything but thrilled with this result? Shrek opened to $42.5 million in 2001, and in inflation-adjusted dollars, that would be equivalent to $51 million today. So, Kung Fu Panda had an 18% higher opening at a time when gas prices are going through the roof and we're in a recession. I think it's a spectacular opening, bordering on utterly remarkable. I think the impressive opening resulted from Jack Black's name on the project and DreamWorks' growing public appeal in animated films. Assuming a Kung Fu Panda sequel is in development (and I don't know why it wouldn't be), DreamWorks now has a pretty impressive stable of animation franchises and an available replacement for when Shrek ends its run of movies. These films don't have the critical acclaim and reputation as Disney or Pixar films, but it's clear that Dreamworks has the pulse of the nation when it comes to animated films that tap into pop culture - kind of in the same way as the Bob Hope/Bing Crosby "Road" movies of the 1940s and '50s.

Tim Briody: It's all in the title, really. Kung fu + pandas = box office. Move over penguins, it's all about pandas now.

Reagen Sulewski: That's just the thing, Joel, this doesn't tap into pop culture. It's a surprisingly stand-alone film from a studio that's foisted the likes of Shark Tale on us. What I think made the difference was the sheer joy that came through the screen. You just can't fake that.


Kim Hollis: That's right, Reagen. Kung Fu Panda has absolutely zero to do with pop culture, which is a pleasant surprise. It's timeless and is probably going to be the only DreamWorks film that holds up long-term (Over the Hedge is a little bit "of its time" even if I think it's a wonderful little movie).

Calvin Trager: Would this be a good time to mention that Madagascar did this exact opening three years ago? I think there are three questions worth considering and one of them has yet to be answered. So, is Kung Fu Panda any good and will first responders take the chance to find out? Those two questions received an emphatic "yes!" this weekend. The remaining question is whether in terms of total potential box office we're looking at another Madagascar (3.2 times opening weekend) or are we looking instead at Monsters, Inc. (4 times opening weekend)? The answer is worth about $50 million.

David Mumpower: Madagascar's opening wasn't the same since it was a four-day, holiday-inflated total of $61.0 million. In three days, that title earned $47.2 million and even if we update that to 2008 ticket prices of $7.11 from 2005's $6.41, it "only" gets to $52.3 million. Explaining the success of Kung Fu Panda is pretty easy for me. Ever since I first heard about the title's nature, I realized that they could re-do Shrek but hide it with a different skin. The title still offers the same fat jokes, the same ugly duck themes and the same hero within character arc. It also offers the happy bonus of having a kung fu tie-in, which is something kids love that has never been explored for them and it does so in a fashion that makes the product tolerable for adults. This entire project has been a win right from the start. I'm guessing DreamWorks knew they had a huuuuge winner two minutes into the pitch meeting.

Calvin Trager: Crud. Back to the shallow end of the pool for me - Prince Caspian sucks!

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