How Universal Revived DreamWorks Animation’s ‘Kung Fu Panda 4’ To $58M Opening – Monday Box Office Update

MONDAY AM: Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and that’s the secret or not-so-secret to success for DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 4, which arrived in theaters eight years after its third chapter.

Similar to Puss in Boots: The Last Wish ($481.7M WW in 2022), the new administration of the animated studio continues to prove they can build out Jeffrey Katzenberg-born franchises without the feature toon architect around. Kung Fu Panda 4, released by DWA owner Universal, notched a $58M 3-day opening, $8M more than the $50M that tracking was seeing. Since Uni took over DWA again in recent years, this is the biggest opening for the reteamed partnership post-Fox and post-Paramount, ahead of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($55M in 2019).

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Together with the second weekend of Dune: Part Two ($46.2M, -44%, an awesome hold due to those Imax/PLFs, running total of $157.2M), the entire marketplace at $138.1M saw its first up weekend for 2024 from 2023 at +15%. Will the trend continue? While it appears there’s some momentum at the spring box office with Gil Kenan’s Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire around the corner, by the time we get to the beginning of April, it will be pretty hard to comp to last year’s Super Mario Bros Movie first weekend, which saw $204.7M for all films.

When the original Kung Fu Panda opened to $60.2M in 2008, the 3D of it all was being pushed. The Jack Black-voiced franchise also brought out a big 18-34 quotient and, despite the fourthquel being years later, that fanboy segment, older and younger, continued to be vibrant for the IP with ages 18-34 accounting for 48% of the audience and 18-24 at 27%.

Uni was in it to win it with this property, and it was a no-brainer for them to take through its NBCUni Symphony program, which markets the movie throughout all verticals of the conglom from Xfinity cable boxes to theme parks. It all started on NBC’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, with a Po balloon flying through the streets of NYC, followed by Black inviting Viola Davis and Awkwafina to the franchise on TikTok in mid-December. The first Kung Fu Panda 4 trailer dropped on December 13, followed by a custom trailer of Po in a desert landscape for Dune: Part Two, all building to 400M views for the fourthquel’s trailers.

Other Symphony stuff included Po dominating on streaming service Peacock with a 20-minute Keep Calm & Po guided-meditation piece, a Po-curated rail and a co-promo with The Traitors — Peacock’s highest-performing unscripted series. Xfinity 10G also had Kung Fu Panda 4 in a custom co-promo for the service.

Spots aired during all five Christmas Day NBA games and both AFC and NFC NFL Championship games in January. Kung Fu Panda 4 dominated the Lunar New Year season with a social blitz, YouTube food influencer collaborations and Awkwafina being grand marshal of San Francisco’s Lunar New Year Parade. There also were three spots that aired on Super Bowl Sunday, during pre-game, post-game and the surprise second overtime in Super Bowl history.

Following the Super Bowl, the campaign leaned further into sports with ads across ESPN, NBC Sports, Fire TV and TikTok, as well as a custom vignette with Black, Anthony Davis and Austin Reaves that ran on ESPN socials and during three linear NBA games along with custom soccer ads for the Liga MX and Premier League. On digital, the film had a custom sponsorship for Bad Bunny’s Most Wanted Tour launch and also sponsored Quinta Brunson’s Hot Ones episode. “Keep Calm & Po” pause ads launched across Max, Peacock, DirecTV, Kargo and Paramount+ in February. There also were custom vignettes for the pic that aired during The Daily ShowChoppedPremio Lo Nuestro and Top Chef, and placements on Abbott ElementaryAmerica’s Got TalentPeople’s Choice Awards Pre-Show and the premieres for American Idol and The Masked Singer.

There was a Roblox plug with Po interacting with players in a custom game, which became the No. 1 branded experience on the platform and, for the first time in Roblox history, provided 1M free film-themed “emotes.” On TikTok, there was the first-ever branded mission with the duet feature, which received hundreds of submissions from fans showing off their “Skadoosh” moves; influencers Rayna Vallandingham and The Coleman Family participated. Also more than 600K fans on YouTube and social platforms joined Po in a four-hour video of guided meditations and breathing exercises.

Promo partners counted chili oil brand Fly by Jing and Asian-owned beauty brand Tower 28. Po helped commuters find their path through a custom voice collaboration with Waze, and fans were invited to follow Po’s spiritual journey through a feng shui tree collaboration with Karma and Luck. There also was World Wildlife Fund collaboration encouraging families and students to protect pandas through a PSA, in-classroom materials and an in-classroom Zoom with director Mike Mitchell. There was also a big multi-media campaign with Burger King which included kid’s meals.

While not glamourous openings, more product provides extra bucks to exhibition: Blumhouse/Lionsgate’s Imaginary is coming in at $9.9M in third after a $10M-$14M industry projection (pic was cheap at $10M) and Angel Studios’ Cabrini didn’t perform big miracles with $7.1M in fourth.

SATURDAY AM: Quick update here. Universal/DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 4 is coming in higher with a $19.4M Friday (including previews) and $55M, which is the same amount that How to Train Your Dragon: Hidden World opened to back in 2019. Brand animation always opens big. That’s still the second best stateside start for the Kung Fu Panda franchise. CinemaScore is A-, the same grade as the first movie, but a notch down from the As earned on two and three.

PostTrak audiences gave the fourthquel an 80% positive and 59% definite recommend whilte kids under 12 were 90% positive and a 70% must see. Male skewing at 58% with 67% of the audience between 13-24. 18-24 year olds showed up at a massive 48%. Diversity demos are 44% Latino and Hispanic, 22% Caucasian, 11% Black and 18% Asian. PLFs are accounting for 6% of tickets sales while 3D is driving 17%. West and South are the most vibrant with the highest grossing cinema in the nation for the pic being The Cinemark Tinseltown El Paso TX with a near $40K so far.

Legendary/Warner Bros’ Dune: Part Two earned around $12.3M yesterday for what’s shaping up to be a $44M second weekend, -47%, for a running total of $154.7M. With those two movies leading the pack, it’s shaping up to be a $133.3M weekend, +13% over the same frame a year ago when Scream VI bowed. Wow. It’s been a while since we’ve seen an up weekend.

Lionsgate/Blumhouse’s Imaginary is third with $3.6M yesterday (including previews) at 3,118 theaters for what’s shaping up to be a $9.3M opening. Not shocking to see this movie below its $10M-$14M projection, nor saddled with a C+ CinemaScore and 57% on PostTrak. It is rather slow for a PG-13 horror film and there’s nothing really hip to hook the girls ala M3GAN. But it was cheap to make at $10M. Still more product means depth at the box office.

Demos are 53% women, 62% between 18-34, and 18-24 the biggest quad at 32% and another 20% from 13-17 year olds. Diversity demos are 38% Latino and Hispanic, 35% Caucasian, 17% Black, 6% Asian. The Teddy Bear is stuffed best in East, South and South Central with The CNMK Tinseltown El Paso the biggest grossing venue with $8K. .

Angel Studio’s Cabrini at 2,840 theaters is also coming in under expectations which isn’t a shock with $3M yesterday and around $8M for the weekend. Though made by the same director of Sound of Freedom, Alejandro Monteverde, there’s nothing in saintly nuns for QAnon and the far right to get excited about. Thank God. Those faith-based who showed up gave the movie an A CinemaScore and 94% PostTrak. Sixty nine percent of the audience are women with the largest demo being 55+ at 49%. Diversity demos are 65% Caucasian, 21% Latino and Hispanic, 4% Black, 6% Asian & 5% NatAm/Other.  West is the softest region for Cabrini though the rest of the country is fairly even. The Regal UA King of Prussia in Philly market is the pic’s top grossing theater so far with a near $29K.

FRIDAY AFTERNOON: As expected, Universal/DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 4 is headed to the second-biggest opening for the franchise with $52M after an $18.4M Friday (including previews) at 4.035 theaters. The original Kung Fu Panda opened to $60.2M in 2008, that DWA title distributed by Paramount at the time.

Legendary/Warner Bros’ Dune: Part Two has the strength of an Arakis sandworm, holding in at $41M or -50%. It may even be better. That amount gets the Denis Villeneuve feature take of the Frank Herbert novel to $152M by EOD Sunday at 4,074 theaters. Last year thanks to Scream VI, all films made $118M. We might see that same amount for the marketplace again.

Lionsgate/Blumhouse’s $10M production of teddy bear horror film Imaginary is eyeing exactly that in its 3-day, which is fine at 3,118 theaters. Today is $3.2M-$3.8M.

In fourth is Angel Studios’ Cabrini, which I’m told by the distribs’ reps “is not a Catholic-skewing movie.” Go figure, but my mom would be the first one in line. Booked at 2,840 theaters, it’s looking at an estimated $3.6M today and $9M-$9.4M for the weekend.

Fifth goes to Paramount’s Bob Marley: One Love at 2,764 theaters with $1.1M today and a fourth weekend of $4.45M, -40%, for a running total of $89.7M. The movie hits digital on March 19.

FRIDAY AM: Universal/DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 4 grossed $3.8M in Thursday night previews that began at 2 p.m. Thursday, a figure that KOs the preview number of 2019’s How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($3M), which stands as the best opening for a DWA title since Universal acquired the studio. The third pic in the Kung Fu Panda franchise opened to $55M in 2016 after a $17.3M Friday. The outlook for the fourthquel this weekend is north of $50M for the No. 1 spot. Rotten Tomatoes’ audience score of 82% is ahead of the movie’s critical score of 72% fresh.

Other family previews that Kung Fu Panda 4 stepped on were Disney/Pixar’s Elemental ($2.5M, 3 p.m.) and Wonka ($3.5M, 3 p.m.).

Lionsgate/Blumhouse’s PG-13 horror thriller Imaginary drew $725K from shows that began at 6PM. That’s a figure in line with Imaginary filmmaker Jeff Wadlow’s 2018 title, Truth or Dare, which posted $750K and went on to $18M, and it’s under 20th Century Studios’ Boogeyman which posted $1.1M and posted a 3-day of $12.3M. Imaginary is expected to open to between $10M-$14M. At 29% on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s clear critics don’t like Teddy Bears.

We’re waiting on the official preview figure for Angel Studios’ Cabrini but we’re hearing it’s around $500K. The pic is expected to do between $5M-$10M.

Meanwhile, Legendary/Warner Bros.’ Dune: Part Two posted $6.4M on Thursday night, -4% from Wednesday, for a week’s take of $111M. In one week, the theatrical release of Dune: Part Two beat the entire domestic run of its 2021 predecessor, Dune, which did $108.8M; that movie’s fortune siphoned by a day-and-date release on HBO Max and theaters, as well as Covid.

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