Box Office: ‘Kung Fu Panda 4’ Chopping Up $55 Million Opening Weekend, ‘Dune 2’ Rising Above $150 Million Domestic

It’s been nearly three months since an animated wide release hit theaters, the last being Illumination’s “Migration” over the holidays. That’s a little bit frightening, but with some expert timing “Kung Fu Panda 4” has arrived, benefitting from a lack of competition for family audiences to score some strong numbers in its debut.

Universal’s animated action comedy film kicked off to $19.4 million from 4,035 theaters across its opening day and preview screenings. That’s the strongest opening day for the series since the 2008 original nabbed $20 million on its first day, on its way to a $60.2 million total across the three-day frame. This new fourth entry won’t reach those heights, projecting an opening of $55 million, but it’ll come in ahead of the figures earned by the 2010 sequel ($47.6 million) and 2016 threequel ($41.2 million).

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It’s a successful kick-off for the DreamWorks Animation feature, especially considering it only carries an $85 million production budget — a little over half of previous entries’ price tags. Reviews are generally positive and the “A-” grade from audience survey firm Cinema Score indicates that the fourquel is landing well with viewers. The film will face some competition for families when Sony’s “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” hits in two weeks, but it should be able to clean up until then.

Jack Black returns as the voice of the mighty Po in “Kung Fu Panda 4,” which sees him passing on the title of Dragon Warrior and taking on a sinister chameleon sorceress. Franchise veterans Dustin Hoffman, James Hong, Bryan Cranston and Ian McShane return for this entry, while Awkwafina, Viola Davis and Ke Huy Quan join the ensemble.

“Dune: Part Two” is falling to second, but it won’t be too far behind “Kung Fu Panda 4.” The sci-fi epic earned $12.3 million on Friday, down 62% from its opening day last week. Legendary Entertainment and Warner Bros.’ feature looks likely to fall less than 50% across the entire weekend, reaping the benefits of spectacular reviews and a consumer prioritization of premium large-format auditoriums like Imax.

Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” sequel has now already surpassed the $108 million final domestic gross of the 2021 original. That film simultaneously bowed on streaming and was released in a marketplace still actively rebuilding from the COVID pandemic, but it’s still pretty remarkable that “Dune: Part Two” has outdone its predecessor in just over a week of release. With great buzz and the lion’s share of premium large-format showtimes, the Warner Bros. release stands to continue a very strong run throughout the month. It should notch a $150 million domestic total by the end of the weekend.

Lionsgate’s horror play “Imaginary” finds itself in third place after earning $3.6 million on opening day from 3,118 locations. It’s not the most dazzling figure, but the projected three-day total of around $10 million would be a great place to start for the Blumhouse thriller, which carries a typically economical $12 million production budget. Reviews haven’t been warm and the Cinema Score grade is at a less than positive “C+” — both par for the course for a standard horror release though. Jeff Wadlow directed the film.

Angel Studios returns to theaters this weekend with “Cabrini,” reuniting the banner with director Alejandro Gómez Monteverde after scoring the biggest box office surprise of last year together with “Sound of Freedom” (a whopping $184 million domestic). Another phenomenon like that seems unlikely for this follow-up, which draws from the true story of Francesca Cabrini, a Catholic missionary and Italian immigrant devoted to charity efforts in 19th-century New York. Industry rivals are projecting $7 million to $8 million for the film’s opening — good for fourth place on domestic charts. But the glowing “A” grade on Cinema Score may foretell some strong word-of-mouth.

Paramount’s “Bob Marley: One Love” will round out the top five, projected to add $4.2 million over the three-day frame. The musician biopic has held strong since scoring a healthy Valentine’s Day debut and should soon surpass a $90 million total domestic haul. Comparing against genre peers, “One Love” should inch past “Rocketman” before its theatrical run concludes; that Elton John film finished with $96 million domestic back in 2019.

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