Panda 3 Tops Box Office; Finest Hours Not Seaworthy
By John Hamann
January 31, 2016
Tip for Hollywood: If your movie is set on a boat, do not greenlight it. Only pain awaits.
Welcome to the post-Jonas weekend at the box office, where the box office is still behaving somewhat strangely after last weekend's brutal snowstorm in the east. Last weekend's crop of openers are playing like they are new for some, avoiding the ridiculous drops that they all deserve. Adding to that, we have one opener finding success, one that is sinking, and two that flopped outright. Overall, though, we stay ahead of last year, as we have 10 films this weekend earning more than $5 million, and the main attraction at the box office opens decently.
Openers this weekend include Kung Fu Panda 3, from a franchise I can't say I understand. The first two of the Panda films have been excellent, but neither truly broke out at the domestic box office. The third film was really made for the Chinese, which is a good financial model for these films, as they don't seem to find the support they should at home. Also debuting was The Finest Hours, which may not be similar story-wise to In the Heart of the Sea, but the opening weekends both look like a dingy that is taking on water fast. Also opening is Fifty Shades of Black, another Marlon Wayans parody flick, and Jane Got a Gun, the often pushed around former release from the struggling Relativity, sent out to die this weekend by The Weinstein Company on 1,200 screens or so.
Number one at the box office is Kung Fu Panda 3, which should not be a surprise to anyone after last weekend. Following previous release dates in summer for the last two movies (Kung Fu Panda 2 was released on Memorial Day), and formerly being released by Paramount and DreamWorks, everything has changed for this franchise. After having two summer launches, a late January release date is an odd choice, and now the production companies are DreamWorks and Oriental DreamWorks, making this the only the China/North American co-production of this kind. This time around, Fox handled distribution duties.
The January date was not chosen to entice North American filmgoers - it was chosen to ensure a high impact in China, which has Chinese New Year on the horizon. The choice of this date is akin to an American film being released the weekend before Thanksgiving - it has a big opening prior to the holiday and then holds dramatically in the follow-up weekend.
How did Kung Fu Panda 3 do in North America? Only okay. It got started on Friday (there were no Thursday previews), earning $10.5 million, which is about half what the original opened to on June 6, 2008, but only about $3 million less than Panda 2, a film that opened on a Thursday prior to Memorial Day weekend. For a cold, dark, January Friday, $10.5 million is not a bad score, as it more than doubles Paddington's first Friday from last year ($4.7 million), but it can't come close to a February release like The LEGO Movie ($17 million opening day). January is a strange time to be opening a film like this, so the result is hard to compare. Set side by side with the Memorial Day take of the second film ($47.7 million over three days), new distributor 20th Century Fox should be pleased with this result.