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Kung Fu Panda 3 retains US top spot as Hail Caesar! underwhelms and Austen's zombies flop

Kung Fu Panda 3

Story by Jack Foley

KUNG Fu Panda 3 easily retained the top spot at the US box office as a trio of new releases endured something of a forgettable time.

The animated family favourite grossed $21 million in its second weekend, comfortably beating its closest rival, the Coen brothers’ Hail Caesar!, which opened to an underwhelming $11.4 million despite the presence of an all-star cast featuring George Clooney, Josh Brolin and Channing Tatum.

The news was even more grim for mash-up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which earned $5.2 million to represent a lifeless start.

The latest Nicholas Sparks’ film adaptation The Choice fared little better, taking $6.1 million to at least place above Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Of the trio of new releases, the highest hopes were reserved for Hail Caesar!, the Coens’ ode to Hollywood of the 1950s. The film stars Clooney as an actor who is kidnapped from the set and held for ransom, thereby allowing a Hollywood fixer (Brolin) to right the situation while also dealing with plenty of other fires at the studio.

However, Coen brothers’ films do sometimes get off to slow starts and Nick Carpou, Universal’s domestic distribution chief, believes the film will go on to enjoy a strong box office run, stating: “I’m encouraged by the result.”

Hopes won’t be so high for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, however. Based on Seth Grahame-Smith’s book, which interjects zombies into Jane Austen’s classic tale, the film follows heroine Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James), a master of martial arts and weaponry, and Mr Darcy (Sam Riley), a fierce zombie killer, as they are forced to re-think their upper-class prejudices to conquer the undead.

The film’s $5.2 million debut fell some way short of the $28 million it cost to make.

The Choice, meanwhile, stars Benjamin Walker and Teresa Palmer as two neighbours who fall in love upon first meeting. Its $6.1 million fell some way short of the $13 million the last Sparks adaptation took (The Longest Ride) and suggests audiences’ appetite for these romances is now falling away.

Nevertheless, the figure was just enough to ensure that The Choice entered the US top five, behind Kung Fu Panda 3, Hail, Caesar!, Leonardo DiCaprio’s The Revenant and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

The Force Awakens celebrated Super Bowl weekend by becoming the first movie to ever clear $900 million at the US box office. It also crossed the $2 billion mark globally, a feat previously belonging only to Avatar and Titanic, not accounting for inflation.

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