In the box-office battle of the bears, 20th Century Fox's "Kung Fu Panda 3" kicked the Oscar-nominated "The Revenant" from the top spot this weekend. Other new releases, including Open Road's "Fifty Shades of Black," Buena Vista's "The Finest Hours" and the Weinstein Co.'s "Jane Got a Gun," failed to find significant audiences.
"Kung Fu Panda 3," DreamWorks Animation's latest film in the cartoon panda franchise, grossed an estimated $41 million in the U.S. and Canada. The action film/comedy exceeded studio expectations of $35 million, but came in $4 million shy of analyst projections.
"It's a terrific opening weekend," said Chris Aronson, 20th Century Fox's president of domestic distribution. "'Kung Fu Panda' is a very popular property and Po is such a beloved character. I think Dreamworks has done a terrific job of keeping this franchise vibrant."
The film features a number of celebrity voices including Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu and Jackie Chan.
Audiences embraced the picture, giving it an A grade, according to polling firm CinemaScore. Eighty percent of movie critics on the website Rotten Tomatoes also gave it a thumbs-up.
"We're 70% family, but that's also a huge percentage of non-families," Aronson said. "We've got a terrific window [to find an even greater audience] because we're going to own this space for about a month."
The film's performance in international territories, particularly China, was also outstanding. It grossed $57 million in the country over the weekend. Animated in two versions to match the speech in English and Mandarin, it cost $140 million to make. AMC Theatres, owned by China's Dalian Wanda Group, is offering Mandarin-language screenings of the film.
The weekend debut, however, was the lowest for the franchise. "Kung Fu Panda," which opened in 2008, grossed over $60.2 million with its opening, while 2011's "Kung Fu Panda 2" pulled in $47.7 million.
Nonetheless, the third installment is a welcome success for DreamWorks Animation after the Glendale company's recent struggles at the box office. It had a hit last year with "Home" but has otherwise had trouble producing commercial winners.
In second place this weekend was "The Revenant" with Leonardo DiCaprio, who won top acting honors at Saturday's SAG Awards. Pulling in $12.4 million in its sixth week, it continues to show box-office endurance thanks to its 12 Oscar nominations, including nods for best picture, best lead actor (DiCaprio) and best director (Alejandro G. Iñárritu).
The picture, which cost $135 million to produce, has amassed $138.2 million in domestic ticket sales to date.
Faring the best of the newcomers, after "Panda," was "The Finest Hours." The Chris Pine-starring picture came in above expectations, with an estimated $10.3 million in ticket sales, for a fourth-place finish behind "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" ($10.8 million in its seventh weekend). Analysts only projected $10 million.
In the Disney movie, produced for about $70 million, Pine is a Coast Guard skipper involved in a daring maritime rescue during a 1952 blizzard. Critics found themselves split on the film with a 59% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences, however, gave it an A-minus CinemaScore grade.
The raunchy low-budget "Fifty Shades of Black" came in well below projections, with only $6.2 million, for ninth place. Analysts believed that the Marlon Wayans-led "Fifty Shades of Grey" spoof would bring in anywhere between $10 million and $15 million.
But audiences haven't responded too kindly. According to CinemaScore, moviegoers graded the film a C. Rotten Tomatoes critics also didn't find the comedy funny, with only 13% rating it favorably.
Last among the new releases, "Jane Got a Gun" pulled in $803,000 from 1,210 locations, well below its $5-million expectations. It stars Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton and Ewan McGregor.
Critics haven't taken to the western. Only 33% on Rotten Tomatoes liked the film.
Joining the slate of films available to audiences next weekend will be Lionsgate's "The Choice," Universal's "Hail, Caesar!" and Sony's and Screen Gems' "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies."