Box Office: ‘Kung Fu Panda 4’ Powers to $58 Million Debut, ‘Dune 2’ Surpasses $150 Million

Universal and DreamWork’s animated adventure “Kung Fu Panda 4” topped the domestic box office, earning a solid $58.3 million from 4,035 theaters in its opening weekend.

It marks the biggest debut of the franchise since the original, 2008’s “Kung Fu Panda” ($60 million), overtaking the start of the two prior entries, 2016’s “Kung Fu Panda 3” ($41 million) and 2011’s “Kung Fu Panda 2” ($47.6 million), not adjusted for inflation.

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“Family audiences were primed to come out and have fun with a much-beloved franchise,” says Jim Orr, Universal’s president of domestic distribution. “Animated movies tend to leg out. We anticipate a tremendous corridor.”

Internationally, the fourth film in the martial arts-inspired animated comedy collected $22 million from 41 markets for a global tally of $80 million. This installment cost $85 million to produce, a lower price tag than the first three movies, each of which cost about $150 million. Jack Black returned to voice the main character in “Kung Fu Panda 4,” the franchise’s first new installment in eight years. The story, which follows Po as he searches for his successor while fighting a new shapeshifting foe called the Chameleon, seems to have resonated more with audiences (it holds an “A-” CinemaScore) compared to critics (it has a 69% on Rotten Tomatoes).

“This is an excellent opening for an animation sequel that’s this far into its series,” says David A. Gross of movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “‘Kung Fu Panda’ is showing terrific strength now, with good momentum for another sequel.”

Although “Dune: Part Two” relinquished its box office crown to “Panda,” the sci-fi sequel had another strong outing with $46 million from 4,074 venues. It marks a 44% decline in ticket sales from its debut (an impressive hold for a blockbuster of this scale) and brings the film’s North American total to $157 million. Globally, the big-budget follow-up has generated $367.5 million.

After 10 days on the big screen, “Dune 2” surpassed the entire domestic tally of the first film ($108 million), although that milestone comes with a major caveat. The original 2021 film was released simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max, so its ticket sales were stifled by the hybrid release on streaming.

“Dune: Part Two” and “Kung Fu Panda 4” are helping to revive a barren box office, which is approximately 10% behind the same point in 2023, according to Comscore. In the coming weeks,  Sony’s follow-up “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” (March 22), and Warner Bros. and Legendary’s monster mashup “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” (March 29) hope to keep bringing in audiences and shrink that gap.

“Two big movies have made a huge difference in the year-to-date deficit,” says senior Comscore analyst Paul Dergarabedian, who notes that revenues were 20% behind last year before the return to Arrakis. “The ongoing ‘Dune: Part Two’ success and the strong debut of ‘Kung Fu Panda 4’ are moving the needle in the right direction.”

Another newcomer, Lionsgate’s Blumhouse thriller “Imaginary,” arrived on par with expectations of $10 million from 3,118 locations. The movie cost just over $10 million so it’s well-positioned in its theatrical run. That’s good because “Imaginary,” a horror film about a woman who is tormented by her old teddy bear named Chauncey, was panned by audiences and critics. It holds a “C+” CinemaScore and a 31% Rotten Tomatoes average.

The weekend’s third new release, Angel Studio’s faith-based drama “Cabrini,” landed in fourth place behind “Imaginary” on domestic charts. It collected a so-so $7.7 million from 2,840 cinemas despite being embraced by moviegoers, who granted the film an “A” CinemaScore.

Alejandro Gómez Monteverde directed “Cabrini,” a biographical story about Catholic missionary Francesca Cabrini, who encounters resistance to her charity and business efforts in New York City. “Cabrini” is the second theatrical release from indie distribution Angel Studios following last summer’s “Sound of Freedom.” That film, a suspense thriller also directed by Monteverde, became an unlikely box office hit with $242 million globally.

“[‘Cabrini’s] start is not on the level [of ‘Sound of Freedom], but these are different movies,” says Gross. “A period biography is not going to do the same kind of business a suspense crime story does.”

Paramount’s musical biopic “Bob Marley: One Love” dropped to the No. 5 spot with $4 million from 2,764 locations. The $70 million-budgeted film, starring Kingsley Ben-Adir as the reggae music legend, has become a surprise box office success with $89 million in North America and $160 million globally.

Elsewhere, A24’s romantic thriller “Love Lies Bleeding” opened to $167,463 from five screens (averaging $33,493 per location). Rose Glass directed the film, which stars Kristen Stewart as a reclusive gym manager who falls for a bodybuilder. Their love leads to violence as they get pulled into the web of Lou’s criminal family. The film, which was positively received during its Sundance premiere, will continue to expand to 1,200 screens next week.

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