After exhibitors from Charlotte to New York were snowed in due to storm Jonas last weekend, here comes DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 3 to plow them out with an opening in the $40M range at 3,955 theaters. Distributors are largely expecting a weekend where the weather will cooperate and given the degree of cabin fever among moviegoers, Kung Fu Panda 3 couldn’t come at a better time given their pent-up demand to escape to the cinema. There was a huge void at the B.O. created in the wake of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This will work in Kung Fu Panda 3‘s favor, not to mention it’s been a while since there’s been a four-quad movie in the marketplace. Per their distribution deal with DreamWorks, 20th Century Fox is releasing Kung Fu Panda 3. DWA only released one title last year, Home, in the wake of a financial crisis and that film opened to $52.1M and legged out to a 3.4 multiple of $177.4M stateside.

kung fu panda 3 twoKung Fu Panda 2 opened during the 2011 Memorial Day frame making $47.7M over three-days and a final domestic cume of $165.2M. The first chapter debuted to $60.2M in June 2008 and ended its domestic run at $215.4M, so an opening in the $40M range, given the multiples for DWA fare is a good start for this third go-round. Currently, Kung Fu Panda 3 has an 85% positive Rotten Tomatoes score. Fandango is reporting today that Kung Fu Panda 3 is the top advance ticket seller for the weekend, outstripping previous DWA titles Home and Kung Fu Panda 2 at the same point in their sale cycles.

Kung Fu Panda 3 will play in PLF and 3D. AMC Theatres has partnered with Fox and DWA to play the movie in Mandarin at seven sites and in Spanish at 14 locations. There will be a mix of subtitled and dubbed formats of Kung Fu Panda 3. It’s the first time that AMC is playing a major theatrical release in dubbed/subtitled Mandarin.

The Finest HoursAfter Kung Fu Panda 3, it will be a cluster of holdovers and new entries in the $10M-$11M sphere. Walt Disney’s The Finest Hours based on Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman’s novel about a 1952 Coast Guard rescue mission off the New England coast is tracking for a $10M-$11M opening at 3,143 theaters. The film will receive extra ticket surcharges from 2,700-plus 3D locations, 190 IMAX screens, 50+ PLF screens and roughly 80 D-Box locations. Previews kick off Thursday night at 7 PM. Older guys are the prime crowd here.

fifty shades of blackOpen Road has the third satire collaboration between director Michael Tiddes and screenwriters Marlon Wayans and Rick Alvarez, Fifty Shades Of Blacka knock on Fifty Shades Of Grey. Tiddes’ A Haunted House opened to $18M and finaled at $40M, while its sequel premiered to $8.8M and ended at $17.3M. Fifty Shades Of Black is expected to draw mostly younger females with a FSS of $10M-$11M at 2,075 with 1,600 to 1,800 theaters previewing tomorrow night at 7 PM. IM Global financed Fifty Shades Of Black for an estimated $5M.

janes-got-a-gun-natalie-portman-2Finally seeing the light of day amid a multitude of production controversies as well as being a casualty of the Relativity bankruptcy proceedings, is the Natalie Portman western Jane Got A Gun at 550 locations. Recently the film was slotted to open over Labor Day weekend, that is before Relativity filed for bankruptcy. Weinstein Co. took over distribution on a rent-a-system basis with the producers fronting the P&A. Jane Got a Gun was directed by Gavin O’Connor, who stepped in for Lynne Ramsay after she exited the production. The film will be lucky if it hits $1M this weekend.

Among holdovers, 20th Century Fox/New Regency’s The Revenant is looking at a sixth weekend that’s down in the 30%-tile, around $11M. The Leonardo DiCaprio film’s domestic cume through yesterday stands at $122.7M.

force awakens 19Star Wars: The Force Awakenswhich currently has close to $882M, won’t cross $900M this weekend, rather later next week per non-Disney analysts. The J.J. Abrams movie should do about $10M in its seventh weekend.

Among the mess of last weekend’s openers, Lionsgate/Bill Block Media’s Dirty Grandpa is the one title that’s expected to hold the best with a -40% second weekend decline, bringing in $6M-$7M. Despite the B CinemaScore, the buzz among theater owners is that audiences like this raunchy R-rated comedy. Through five days, the Robert De Niro-Zac Efron vehicle has made $13.3M.