'Kung Fu Panda 3' to Open in China, U.S. Simultaneously

The first two films in the DreamWorks Animation franchise were huge performers in China, setting box-office records at the time of their releases.

DreamWorks Animation's much-anticipated Kung Fu Panda 3 will open wide in China and the U.S. simultaneously on Jan. 29, the studio revealed at a press event in Beijing this week.

The long-in-the-making third installment of the animation franchise is DreamWorks Animation's first major production via its Chinese joint venture Oriental DreamWorks, launched in Shanghai with an investment of $330 million in 2012.

Two versions of the film, one in English and one in Chinese, were written and animated from the ground up, so that the dialog's humor suits cultural sensibilities on each side, while the characters' speech is in synch with the animation in both languages.

Since Kung Fu Panda 3 is classified as an official co-production with China, DWA will be entitled to an estimated 40-45 percent portion of box-office revenue, rather than the usual 25 percent that imported Hollywood titles are given. China allows just 34 foreign films into its market on a revenue-sharing basis each year.

DWA holds a stake of about 45 percent in Oriental DreamWorks. The venture has staked a lot on the success of Kung Fu Panda 3 — the company's logo features "a panda sitting on a red moon fishing for dreams."

The first two Kung Fu Panda movies were huge performers in China, both setting box-office records for animated features at the time of their releases there.

The combination of DWA storytelling prowess with kung fu and pandas — two of China's most cherished cultural icons — makes the franchise nearly a guaranteed hit in Chinese-speaking territories — not to mention a property that the Chinese desperately wanted a piece of.

Kung Fu Panda grossed $26 million upon its release in the early days of the China movie boom back in 2008; and Kung Fu Panda 2 pulled in $93 million in 2011.

Kung Fu Panda 3 is directed by Jennifer Yuh and Alessandro Carloni, and the English voice cast stars Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, J.K. Simmons, Seth Rogen, David Cross, Jackie Chan and Lucy Liu.

Speaking to Chinese state news service Xinhua after the China release date announcement, Yuh said she visited a panda conservation center in southwest China's Sichuan Province and held a baby panda for inspiration — an anecdote certain to go down well in the world's soon-to-be largest movie market.