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'Kung Fu Panda' kicks up a big win

Jack Black’s animated film grossed an impressive $60 mil to beat Adam Sandler’s ”You Don’t Mess With the Zohan” and finish first on a strong weekend at the box office

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Kung Fu Panda

On a robust weekend when the four top movies each earned over $20 million and the cumulative box office take was way up from a year ago, it was Kung Fu Panda that led the way. With an impressive $60 million debut gross, the Jack Black animated film easily finished in first place, beating Adam Sandler’s strong new flick You Don’t Mess With the Zohan and the long-legged holdovers Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Sex and the City.

For Kung Fu Panda, that blockbuster $60 mil opening ranked No. 9 on the all-time list of animated premieres, and it was the best yet for a non-sequel from DreamWorks Animation (only Shrek 2 and Shrek the Third banked more on their first weekends). It was almost exactly in line with the $60.1 mil that Pixar’s Cars bowed with on this weekend two years ago. It was the best opening ever for a movie starring Jack Black’s voice…or body (topping King Kong‘s $50.1 mil). It was the third No. 1 movie to be distributed by Paramount in this six-week-old summer (Iron Man and Indy 4 were the others; none were produced by Paramount, however). And, yep, it was exactly — exactly!what I predicted. Judging by the film’s nice A- CinemaScore review from a crowd that, remarkably, skewed older than many pundits anticipated (45 percent of its audience was over the age of 25), Kung Fu Panda should cruise to big box office returns for several weeks, until Wall-E opens at the end of the month.

Meanwhile, You Don’t Mess With the Zohan gave Adam Sandler another hit premiere, grossing $40 mil at No. 2. That’s better than the $34.2 mil that his I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry debuted with a year ago, but it’s in line with Click‘s $40 mil bow in June 2006. Despite a disappointing B- CinemaScore grade from an audience that was nearly three-fifths male, Sandler is well on track to tallying the ninth $100 mil grosser of his career.

The race for third place was a heated one, with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (No. 3 with another $22.8 mil) edging out Sex and the City (No. 4 with $21.3 mil). The former’s three-week total stands at $253 mil. The latter dropped an expected 63 percent from its winning opening weekend, but strong mid-week numbers have propelled Sex and the City to bring in nearly $100 mil in just 10 days. Sexy indeed!

Hefty horror holdover The Strangers rounded out the top five, scaring up $9.3 mil on a weekend that, as I hinted earlier, was up more than 31 percent from the same frame a year ago (when Ocean’s Thirteen floated high and Surf’s Up sank). In fact, for the second straight week, the overall box office was up more than 20 percent from the same period in 2007. Well done, people! Hey, Hollywood, go ahead, take the rest of the day off!