Box office: The Coen brothers and zombies are no match for 'Kung Fu Panda 3'

A new film from the sibling writer-director team of Joel and Ethan Coen as well as a zombie take on a Jane Austen classic are proving to be no box office match for a panda fluent in martial arts, at least according to Friday box office results.

"Kung Fun Panda 3" looks to fend off all newcomers to hold on for a second straight week in the top spot.

The latest installment in the popular DreamWorks Animation franchise, distributed by 20th Century Fox, grossed an estimated $5.2 million in 3,987 theaters Friday. That's putting it on an expected pace of between $22 million and $25 million in the U.S. and Canada during its sophomore weekend in theaters, even though the Super Bowl will probably keep many moviegoers at home Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Coen brothers' "Hail, Caesar!" brought in an estimated $4.3 million in its Friday debut in 2,232 theaters. Earlier studio projections had the film grossing a modest $10 million this weekend, which would be a mid-level opening for the critically acclaimed directing duo, known for hits such as "True Grit" and "No Country for Old Men."

Still, it would place "Hail, Caesar!" roughly in line with previous Coen brothers comedies "Intolerable Cruelty" and "The Ladykillers." Universal Pictures is releasing the star-studded romp through classic Hollywood, featuring Josh Brolin, George Clooney and Scarlett Johansson.

The Times' Kenneth Turan was charmed by the film. Of "Hail, Caesar!," he wrote, "This droll tribute to and spoof of Hollywood past amuses from beginning to end with its site specific re-creation of the studio system and the movies that made it famous. A hipster mash note to the way things used to be, it will put a smile on your face and keep it there for the duration."

Filmgoers, however, do not appear to be responding in kind. The movie has tallied a C- from audience polling firm CinemaScore.

"Pride and Prejudice and Zombies," distributed by Screen Gems, debuted to 2 million on Friday in its 2,931 theaters and is expected to gross about $5.3 million for the weekend. The $28-million production was financed by West Hollywood film company Cross Creek Pictures and stars Lily James of "Cinderella" and "Downton Abbey."

The studio earlier had estimated a conservative opening of between $8 million and $9 million. Critics weren't kind to the film, as review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes gives it a firm "rotten" rating. Audiences are being a little more forgiving, as the film has a B- rating from CinemaScore. 

The Nicholas Sparks adaptation "The Choice," this weekend's other major newcomer, grossed an estimated $2.5 million Friday in 2,631 theaters. The romance, directed by Ross Katz, was pegged to open to about $8 million this weekend, which could set the film up nicely as it heads into Valentine's Day next weekend. 

Audiences have taken to "The Choice," rating it a B+, according to CinemaScore. Critics haven't been so kind. The Times was harsh, blasting the film for being full of "romantic movie tropes."

Look for "The Revenant" to round out the top 5. The film, also distributed by 20th Century Fox, has been showing box office endurance thanks to its 12 Oscar nominations. On Friday, it grossed an estimated $2 million. 

Additional reporting by Ryan Faughnder.

todd.martens@latimes.com

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