Box Office Guru Wrapup: Panda and Zohan Rock June B.O.

Black and white power rules the weekend.

by Gitesh Pandya | Sunday, Jun. 08 2008

Air-conditioned multiplexes were the place to be as the new comedies Kung Fu Panda and You Don't Mess With The Zohan generated sparkling debuts attracting a combined $100M in opening weekend ticket sales powering the marketplace to the second biggest June weekend in box office history. Add in popular holdovers and four different movies managed weekend grosses of more than $20M. It was the first time since last July that this has occurred. Overall it was the strongest weekend at the box office in ten months and gave June a sensational start.

Gobbling up the most business and winning the weekend by a wide margin, Kung Fu Panda topped the charts with an estimated $60M in its opening weekend. Produced by DreamWorks Animation and distributed by Paramount, the PG-rated comedy averaged a scorching $14,584 from 4,114 theaters. It was the third best opening ever for a DreamWorks toon after only Shrek the Third and Shrek 2 which bowed to $121.6M and $108M, respectively. If the estimate holds, Panda will rank as the fourth largest opening in June after Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban ($93.7M), The Hulk ($62.1M), and Cars ($60.1M).

Panda is anchored by the comedic stylings of Jack Black and features supporting voice roles by Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, Ian McShane, and Jackie Chan. The animated film took advantage of a perfect competitive environment as there was built-up hunger from the family audience since parents have had no exciting films to take their younger children to for two months now. The road ahead also looks bright as Panda will not face any major competition for kids for three weeks when rival Pixar hits the big screen with Wall-E on June 27. Plus with school children about to go on their summer breaks from class, demand was there for a funny and entertaining film.

The debut was the sixth biggest for a non-sequel animated film after The Simpsons Movie ($74M), The Incredibles ($70.5M), Finding Nemo ($70.3M), Monsters, Inc. ($62.6M), and Cars. Reviews were strong and early word-of-mouth has been solid. Plus with more schools closing each coming week, midweek numbers will become sturdy helping to fatten up Panda's belly. It could very well become Paramount's third consecutive release to top the $200M mark following Iron Man and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. For 2008, Panda also ranks as the third biggest opener of the year after those two studio siblings. A combined domestic haul of $800-900M may result from the trio with the global tally hitting a jaw-dropping $2 billion.

Paramount reported an opening day tally of $20.3M on Friday followed by a modest 11% bump on Saturday to $22.5M, and an estimated 24% decline on Sunday to $17.2M. Kung Fu Panda successfully brought out the non-family audience too which helped it score a potent Friday. Studio exit polls showed that 55% of the crowd was female and 51% was 25 or older.

Coming in second for the weekend was Adam Sandler with his new comedy You Don't Mess With The Zohan which proved that fans will line up to see him in just about anything. The Sony release bowed to an estimated $40M from 3,462 locations for a potent $11,554 average. If the estimate stands, it will be the comedian's fifth opening at or above the $40M mark joining The Longest Yard ($47.6M), Anger Management ($42.2M), Big Daddy ($41.5M), and Click ($40M). It is also his eighth debut above the $35M mark. The PG-13 vehicle finds Sandler playing a decorated Israeli soldier who escapes to New York to become a hairdresser. Reviews were about as negative as those for his other broad comedies.

According to studio research, the audience for Zohan was evenly split with females making up 51% and those over 25 also representing 51%. For Sony it was the studio's biggest opening in more than a year. Not since it smashed the all-time record in May 2007 with Spider-Man 3's $151.1M bow has it reached the $40M level on any film's opening weekend.

Sandler has been the most consistent comedy draw at the box office this decade and his latest venture stands an excellent chance of giving the A-lister his seventh consecutive year of having a $100M+ grosser. Will Smith hopes to extend his streak to seven as well next month with Sony stablemate Hancock opening on July 2. The only other star to match this feat in recent times was Tom Cruise who starred in $100M+ blockbusters each year from 2000-2006.

Down one notch from last weekend was the adventure sequel Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull which brought in an estimated $22.8M in treasure. Off a reasonable 49%, the Paramount release upped its 18-day cume to a stunning $253M and climbed up to number 43 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters after Monsters, Inc. which grossed $255.9M in 2001. Crystal Skull knocked 1981's Raiders of the Lost Ark off the all-time Top 50 list, however ticket prices were much lower back then and the new Indy is not likely to sell as many tickets as Raiders did.

The new Harrison Ford saga looks to find its way to roughly $310M domestically at its current trajectory as it continues to chart the same course as last year's Memorial Day weekend opener Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. In its third frame, the Johnny Depp sequel dropped 52% to $21.1M pushing the 17.5-day cume to a remarkably similar $253.4M on its way to a $309.4M conclusion.

Stumbling 63% in its second frame was last weekend's surprise chart-topper Sex and the City with an estimated $21.3M. Despite the heavy fall, the R-rated film still posted a remarkable gross and boosted its ten-day cume to an amazing $99.3M. The huge drop was expected given the size of last weekend's launch which was led by a massive rush on opening day. Saturday sales last week took a 34% nosedive from Friday indicating that the sophomore session would also see a sharp decline.

Originally developed at New Line, Sex is now the highest grossing movie of the year for Warner Bros. which recently took over releasing duties for the dismantled mini-studio. Warners does have two promising titles coming up this summer with this month's Get Smart and next month's heavily-anticipated The Dark Knight. Produced for $60M, Sex could finish up in the neighborhood of $140M. Overseas this weekend, Carrie and company grabbed another $38.1M in sales to lift the international total to $91.3M and the global gross to an impressive $190.6M.

The four powerful players led the top ten to a towering $171.4M making it the second biggest June weekend ever after the June 4-6 frame in 2004 which saw the launch of Prisoner of Azkaban plus holdovers Shrek 2 and The Day After Tomorrow doing $37.9M and $27.9M, respectively. The top ten soaked up a stunning $182M that weekend.

Universal's horror hit The Strangers fell an understandable 56% in its second weekend and placed fifth with an estimated $9.3M. The R-rated thriller has taken in $37.6M in ten days and could be headed for a $55M finish. That's an incredible performance for a film budgeted at just $9M.

Iron Man dropped 45% in its sixth frame and took in an estimated $7.5M boosting the North American total to $288.9M. That put the Marvel super hero at number 32 on the all-time list right behind 2005's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with $290M.

Disney's The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian suffered another hefty decline dropping 57% to an estimated $5.5M boosting the cume to $125.8M. The Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher pic What Happens in Vegas fell 49% and ranked eighth with an estimated $3.4M giving Fox a solid $72.2M to date.

Two more female-skewing comedies rounded out the top ten with nearly identical figures. Universal's Baby Mama grossed an estimated $779,000, off 65%, for a $57.9M total thus far. The Sony title Made of Honor dropped 60% to an estimated $775,000 and has reached $44.7M.

Two films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. Universal's hit R-rated comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall fell 55% to an estimated $475,000 and has grossed a solid $61.5M to date. A $63M final seems likely.

Warner Bros. saw its big-budget summer entry Speed Racer collapse by 84% in its fifth lap to an estimated $370,000 putting the overall cume at a miserable $42M. With a reported cost of $120M, the PG-rated racing pic failed to spark interest with the targeted family audience or even with fans of the classic anime series. A final gross of $43M seems likely from North America making it one of the year's biggest duds. Internationally the news was equally brutal as Speed Racer has banked only $36M to date with Australia, France, and Japan still to open.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $171.4M which was up a robust 32% from last year when Ocean's Thirteen opened in the top spot with $36.1M; and up 19% from 2006 when Cars debuted at number one with $60.1M.

Author: Gitesh "Kung Fu" Pandya,