Zombies set in Jane Austen's England couldn't claw their way to the top of the box office on Super Bowl weekend as 20th Century Fox's "Kung Fu Panda 3," Universal's "Hail, Caesar!" and a host of other holdovers attracted more moviegoers.
The latest "Kung Fu Panda" installment grossed an estimated $21 million in the U.S. and Canada. After opening last week with a solid $41 million domestically — and even better numbers overseas — it came in just below its second week expectations of $22 million. The U.S.-China co-production, which was animated in both English and Mandarin, opened to a stellar $58.5 million in China, including early preview screenings. In China, it now exceeds $100 million.
The new release "Hail, Caesar!" took second place with $11.4 million, performing better than analyst projections of $10 million. The latest comedy from the sibling writer-director team of Joel and Ethan Coen is a star-studded romp through classic Hollywood with a well-known cast that includes Josh Brolin, George Clooney and Scarlett Johansson.
But audiences and critics appear split on the film. Moviegoers — who were primarily white (86%), male (52%) and older than 35 (69%) — gave the Universal picture a C-minus, according to polling firm CinemaScore. Critics on the site Rotten Tomatoes rated it 79% positively.
The Coen brothers, who have a loyal fan base, are known for such hits as "True Grit" and "No Country for Old Men," but also for less commercial fare such as "Inside Llewyn Davis." Their latest film's debut is roughly in line with their previous comedies, "Intolerable Cruelty" and "The Ladykillers."
The movie, produced by the Coens and Working Title Films, cost $22 million to make.
Holdovers "The Revenant" and "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" landed the third and fourth spots, respectively. The Oscar-nominated "Revenant," starring Leonardo DiCaprio, grossed an addtional $7.1 million in its seventh week while the latest installment of the space saga added $6.9 million to cross the $900-million mark at the domestic box office — in its 50th day of release.
Lionsgate's "The Choice" rounded out the top five with an estimated $6.1 million debut. Coming in almost $2 million below projections, the Ross Katz-directed PG-13 romance about two young lovers in a small coastal town is expected to get a boost with next weekend's Valentine's Day audience.
For now, however, critics and moviegoers are split once more. Only 8% of reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes rated the picture favorably. Audiences gave it a B-plus CinemaScore.
Coming in sixth place was "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies," which was projected to be the biggest new release this weekend. The 19th century horror-comedy from Sony, under its Screen Gems label, pulled in just $5.2 million, well below both analysts' $12 million and the studio's $8 million expectations.
The movie, based on author Seth Grahame-Smith's twist on the Austen classic, spent a long time in development and endured a series of starts and stops before shooting began. At one point, the movie genre mash-up had been expected to star Natalie Portman, who is now credited as one of the film's many producers. It stars Lily James of "Cinderella" and "Downton Abbey" and was financed ($28 million) by West Hollywood film company Cross Creek Pictures.
Next weekend, three new major releases will battle for the hearts of Valentine's Day audiences. Warner Bros. comedy "How to be Single" with Dakota Johnson and Rebel Wilson will face off against Fox's "Deadpool" and Paramount's "Zoolander" sequel.