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Kung Fu Panda 3 hits $41 million in US and sets Chinese record

Kung Fu Panda 3

Story by Jack Foley

ANIMATED sequel Kung Fu Panda 3 has shot to the top of the US box office with an estimated $41 million debut.

The figure was actually at the lower of expectations for DreamWorks Animation and fell behind the $47.7 million launch of Kung Fu Panda 2 five years ago. But it still represents a shot in the arm for the US box office at the start of the year and vindicates the decision to revisit the Jack Black voiced character.

What’s more, the film took a spectacular $57 million over the weekend in China, the biggest launch of all time for an animated film in that country.

Internationally, the film took a whopping $75 million for a global haul of $116 million – another success for a film that marks the first major US-China co-production, as well as the first major Hollywood release to open simultaneously in North America and in the Middle Kingdom.

Fox distribution chief Chris Aronson commented: “Family movies can work at anytime of the year now, evidenced by the fact that 70 percent of our audience was family. And this is a great date, because we have a five-week runway before another animated film opens so Kung Fu Panda will have a very healthy multiple.”

The voice cast of Kung Fu Panda 3 reunites leading man Black with franchise co-stars Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan and Seth Rogen, while Jennifer Yuh Nelson (Kung Fu Panda 2) shares directing duties with Alessandro Carloni.

New additions to the voice cast include Bryan Cranston, Kate Hudson and J.K. Simmons.

The story this time around finds Po (Black) reuniting with his biological father (Cranston) and travelling with him to join other pandas at a secret sanctuary, where he’s arranged to be married to Mei Mei (Hudson).

But Po doesn’t fit in and soon finds himself battling an evil spirit terrorizing all of China with his regular cohorts.

Elsewhere at the US box office, the news wasn’t so good for a trio of other new releases: Disney’s Coast Guard adventure-disaster film The Finest Hours, starring Chris Pine and Casey Affleck, Marlon Wayans’ parody Fifty Shades of Black and Natalie Portman’s long-delayed Western Jane Got a Gun all had a torrid time.

The Finest Hours opened to an estimated $10.1 million, a disappointing start for a film that cost $70 million to produce. It placed third after Kung Fu Panda 3 and Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar-tipped The Revenant, which remains a potent player in its sixth weekend by taking $12.4 million for a US total of $138.2 million.

The Finest Hours tells the true story of the Coast Guard’s heroic efforts in 1952 to save the crew of two oil tankers sheared in two during a fierce storm off Cape Cod.

Of the other two new releases, Fifty Shades of Black, a spoof of Fifty Shades of Grey, could only manage ninth spot with an estimated $6.2 million. However, the parody only cost $5 million to make.

But Gavin O’Connor’s Jane Got a Gun, starring Portman opposite Joel Edgerton and Ewan McGregor, suffered the worst, landing a dismal $830,000 to mark by far the worst showing of Portman’s career. The film did only cost $25 million to produce but still marks a sorry end for a project that has looked doomed ever since original director Lynne Ramsey failed to show up for the first day of filming.

Of the current releases still performing well, Disney’s box office juggernaut Star Wars: The Force Awakens came in fourth with an estimated $10.8 million. It is now approaching the $900 million mark in the US and $2 billion globally.

The movie’s US total through Sunday is $895.4 million, while world-wide it stands at $1.983 billion.

And another Oscar contender, the financial comedy-drama The Big Short crossed the $100 million mark at the global box office, finishing Sunday with $60.9 million in the US and $41.8 million overseas.

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