Box office preview: Kung Fu Panda 3, The Finest Hours, Fifty Shades of Black | EW.com

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Box office preview: Kung Fu Panda 3 eyes $40+ million opening

(DreamWorks Animation)

With an expected debut of $40 million (or more), Kung Fu Panda 3 could soon be earning 2016’s biggest opening yet.

The third installment in the adventures of Po the Panda sees Jack Black reprising his titular role. It’s been weeks since we’ve had a family-friendly animated hit — Norm of the North failed to make an impression in early January — and Kung Fu Panda 3, which is rolling out in 3,955 theaters, has debuted to solid critical reviews, with a 78 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

If Panda does crack $40 million, it’ll earn the biggest opening of the year so far. Ride Along 2 is the current champ with $35.2 million over three days, although The Revenant scored $39.8 million when it expanded to wide release in early January.

Kung Fu Panda 3 may be a lock to claim first place, but the rest of the top five is a bit of a mixed bag. Holdovers like Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Revenant are set to battle it out with new releases Fifty Shades of Black and The Finest Hours, and all four are eyeing a weekend in the low double digits.

Here’s how this weekend’s top five might shape up:

1. Kung Fu Panda 3 — $40 million
Back in June 2008, the original Kung Fu Panda reached summer blockbuster status by opening to $60.2 million, going on to gross $215.4 million domestically. Three years later, the second movie opened over Memorial Day weekend, taking in $47.7 million over three days and $60.9 million over four. (Its domestic total tapped out at $165.2 million.) This time around, most predictions have Kung Fu Panda 3 opening around $40 million, but others are saying it could actually surpass the second installment to hit $50 million.   

2. The Revenant — $12 million
Even with a blizzard shutting down most of the East Coast last weekend, The Revenant emerged victorious with $16 million, beating out competition like Ride Along 2 and Star Wars to reach No. 1 for the first time in its five-week run. Still, winter storm Jonas took a bite out of its box office receipts, and Alejandro González Iñárritu’s revenge drama is expected to fare better this weekend, dipping about 25 percent to $12 million.

3. The Finest Hours — $11 million
Craig Gillespie’s action drama — which sees Chris Pine starring as 1950s coast guard captain who braves a massive storm to rescue a stranded ship — is headed for a debut somewhere around $10 or $11 million. With mixed reviews (and a 56 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes), The Finest Hours is opening in 3,143 theaters, including more than 2,700 3D locations and 190 IMAX screens.

4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens — $10.5 million
After six weekends in theaters, the all-time domestic box office champion boasts a total of $883.3 million, but it’s showing signs of slowing down. Unlike other box office toppers like Avatar and Titanic, The Force Awakens is shedding theaters at a much faster rate, losing about 800 domestic locations this week, and as a result, it won’t cross $900 million this weekend. Still, like The Revenant, it should make up ground after last weekend’s blizzard, and it’s expected to fall about 25 percent for a seventh weekend around $10.5 million.

5. Fifty Shades of Black — $10 million
A little less than a year after Fifty Shades of Grey opened to $85.1 million, Marlon Wayans is spoofing the erotic drama with his own raunchy comedy. There are no critical reviews yet, and it probably won’t do as well A Haunted House, a similar Michael Tiddes-directed, Wayans-starring parody that opened to $18.1 million in 2013, but Fifty Shades, which is bowing in 2,075 theaters, is expected to open around $10 million for the weekend.

Outside of the top five, Gavin O’Connor’s western Jane Got a Gun is opening after a long and troubled journey to the big screen. Starring Natalie Portman as the titular gunslinger, Jane has faced departing directors and cast members, and after its distributor, Relativity, filed for bankruptcy, The Weinstein Company stepped up to release it alone. Opening in 1,210 theaters, Jane is expected to debut in the low single digits.