'Kung Fu Panda' beats projections

Adam Sandler's 'Zohan' debuts in second

"Kung Fu Panda" kicked Adam Sandler's butt at the boxoffice this weekend, as the DreamWorks Animation comedy opened even bigger than expected with an estimated $60 million domestically.

Sony's comedy "You Don't Mess With the Zohan" -- starring Sandler as an Israeli commando turned New York hairdresser -- bowed about as anticipated, with $40 million, in second place.

Industrywide, the weekend marked a welcome 29% uptick from the same frame a year ago with $175 million in collective boxoffice, according to Nielsen EDI.

The seasonal boxoffice still trails summer 2007 by 1%. Year-to-date, 2008 is off 2% from the same portion of last year, at $3.7 billion.

Topping the latest session's holdovers, Paramount's "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" amassed $22.8 million to finish third over its third weekend. That brought the cume for the iconic Steven Spielberg sequel to $253 million.

Warner Bros.' "Sex and the City" -- the previous frame's boxoffice champ -- fell 63% from its opening grosses to $21.3 million in fourth place with a $99.3 million cume. Warners execs said the big drop was anticipated and suggested that the romantic comedy, drawing predominantly female crowds, would find sturdier legs over future sessions.

Universal's horror film "The Strangers" dropped 56% from its opening receipts to ring up $9.3 million in fifth place and produce a 10-day cume of $37.6 million. Paramount's "Iron Man" was sixth, as the Marvel-produced action film used another $7.5 million this weekend to forge a cume of $288.9 through six sessions.

"Panda" -- distributed by Paramount, which handled three of the weekend's top six films -- drew mostly positive reviews. Its audiences were comprised 55% of females, with 51% of its patrons 25 and older. "Panda," which marked DWA's biggest three-day opening for a non-sequel, seemed to draw more non-family business than anticipated, execs said.

"It probably resonated better than expected with the adults," Paramount marketing maven Anne Globe said. "We really tried to show that the movie had comedy, action and lots of heart, and you can really see that audiences and critics alike embraced the movie."

"Panda" voice actors include Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman and Angelina Jolie. Black in particular was credited with helping to bring older demos in the mix of first-weekend patrons.

Outpaced by a pair of sequels in the animation studio's "Shrek" franchise and a four-day bow for 2005's "Madagascar," "Panda" had pre-release expectations more comparable to DWA's family comedy "Over the Hedge." "Hedge" opened in May 2006 with $38.5 million.

The "Panda" debut included $2.3 million rung up from 89 of Imax's giant-screen venues.

Meanwhile, many film critics messed with "Zohan" big-time, but that was hardly unexpected for a Sandler comedy. But the one-time "Saturday Night Live" star's core fan base -- which may be aging a bit -- pays little mind to such things. "Zohan," co-starring Rob Schneider, drew audiences comprised 51% of females, with 51% of its patrons 25 and older.

Sony execs were overjoyed with the bow, Sandler's fifth opening of $40 million or more and ninth north of $30 million. Sandler's 2006 comedy "Click" opened with $40 million and rang up $137.4 million domestically.

"Certainly the Adam Sandler business is a good business to be in," Sony distribution president Rory Bruer said.

Looking ahead, Friday will see Universal unspool Marvel's superhero action film "The Incredible Hulk," while Fox will open M. Night Shyamalan's sci-fi thriller "The Happening."
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