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Early B.O. Weekend Tracking: 'Kung Fu Panda' and 'Zohan' Looking Strong

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Jun 02, 2008 | 12:09pm EDT

The summer blockbuster season moves into full swing this weekend with two sure-fire hits. Dreamworks/Paramount unleashes Kung Fu Panda, and Adam Sandler returns in another of his PG-13-rated, broad comedies You Don't Mess with the Zohan (Sony). Early industry tracking indicates that both of these titles are on very solid ground.

With the genius concept of panda bears performing martial arts and high profile actors like Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina JolieSeth Rogen and Jackie Chan lending their voices, Panda is an easy sell. My sources tell me that Panda is on par with the tracking performance of last year’s Ratatouille (Disney) at the same point in its marketing cycle.

This Dreamworks animated flick is at 9 percent Un-Aided Awareness, matching Ratatouille’s score, but Kung Fu Panda has better Total Awareness at 88 percent compared to 80 percent for Remy the rat. Panda trails in overall Definite Interest 37 percent-29 percent, but the movies have identical Definite Interest among 12-16’s at 31 percent. In the all-important First Choice column, survey participants prefer Panda to cookery seven percent-six percent, and this summer’s first big animated release is scoring far better with the younger set. 10 percent of 12-16’s name Panda as their First Choice compared to just four percent for Ratatouille.

Pixar’s Ratatouille opened with immaculate reviews and a $47M opening weekend, and Kung Fu Panda is sure to top that mark. The latest from Jeffrey Katzenberg’s animation house will not match the gigantic $121.6M opening of last May’s Shrek the Third or even the stellar $74M for July’s The Simpsons Movie, but Kung Fu Panda can still make history. All of this movie’s kid-appeal, could make it the All-Time No. 1 Opening for an Original Non-Sequel Animated Film. The number to beat is $70.46M posted by The Incredibles with the legendary Finding Nemo No. 2 at $70.25M.

ALL-TIME TOP 10 OPENINGS FOR AN ORIGINAL NON-SEQUEL ANIMATED FILM

1. The Incredibles - $70.46M

2. Finding Nemo - $70.25M

3. Monsters, Inc. - $62.57M

4. Cars - $60.11M

5. Ratatouille - $47.02M

6. Shrek - $42.34M

7. Happy Feet - $41.53M

8. Madagascar - $47.22M

9. Ice Age - $46.31M

10. Toy Story - $29.14M

At the moment, I am calling for $60M+, but Dreamworks/Paramount will ramp up its aggressive marketing this week, and tracking will improve dramatically. After the success of Iron Man and Indiana Jones, it is not a good idea to bet against Paramount this summer. The Incredibles and Finding Nemo are in sight. 

Adam Sandler succeeded last summer with I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry (Universal), which opened with $34.2M on its way to $120M domestic. You Don’t Mess with the You Don't Mess with the Zohan  looks even stronger than Chuck & Larry at the same point in its marketing cycle. The film about an Israeli special ops guy who moves to America to pursue his dream of being a hairdresser has excellent traction with Males Under 25, which is the big money demo. 18 percent of 12-16 Males name You Don't Mess with the Zohan  as their First Choice compared to 11 percent for Sandler’s 2007 summer comedy, and among all Males Under 25, this broad comedy out-paces Chuck & Larry 19 percent-11 percent.

That all seems to indicate a possible $40M opening, which would mark Sandler’s fourth $40M+ opening At the least You Don't Mess with the Zohan  will be his ninth $30M+ first weekend.

I will update tracking on Thursday with my final weekend predictions.

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