DreamWorks Animation is making the (wise) decision to move Kung Fu Panda 3 - the third installment its its animated martial arts adventure series - far away from its previous date - a mere five days after J.J. Abrams' highly-anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Panda 3, which is directed by Jennifer Yuh and scripted by Jonathan Abel and Glenn Berger (the same trio behind Kung Fu Panda 2), would've surely taken a hit from Force Awakens, when it came to bringing in families.
The 2015 Winter Holiday frame is still going to be plenty competitive even with Panda 3 gone, between the new Star Wars movie, Mission: Impossible 5, and films such as the Amy Poehler/Tina Fey comedy Sisters (formerly, The Nest), looking for attention from moviegoers. Both 2015 and 2016 are crammed full with big movies by this point, admittedly, but the next Panda movie still ought to fare better, taking off from its new launch pad... which, as it were, is technically its original date.
Panda 3, according to THR, will now arrive on March 18th, 2016; there, it will open against YA dystopian sci-fi thriller The Divergent Series: Allegiant - Part 1, before director Zack Snyder's DC comic book movie event, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, hits the scene a week later.
The Kung Fu Panda franchise has walked the same path at the box office as a fellow animated DreamWorks property, How to Train Your Dragon; the second installment in each series was weaker State-side, but stronger overseas, and grossed more than their predecessors, when the sums were totaled. Both the Panda and Dragon films are generally well-liked (the Dragon movies even more than the Panda movies), and each series was mapped out as a trilogy after the first chapter proved to be a success.
Which is to say, it seems less a question of whether Panda 3 will be decent (it should be, given the talent involved), and more whether most filmgoers will be more (or less) interested in seeing Po's (Jack Black) story continue, after a prolonged break between installments. Pixar's Toy Story 3 proved to be a smash hit despite arriving more than a decade after Toy Story 2, but there were other factors that served in that movie's favor.
In other words... we'll just have to wait and see what happens with Panda 3.
In related, but less noteworthy news, Warner Bros. has shifted back the release date for Pan by a week to July 24th, 2015, so that it won't openly directly against Marvel Studios' Ant-Man. The outlook towards the latter is still pretty lukewarm right now (following director Edgar Wright dropping out), but it's still a Marvel movie; and seeing as Ant-Man will no doubt get a boost in consumer interest levels after Avengers: Age of Ultron opens a couple months earlier, it's a smart move on WB's part to scoot Pan away so it has more breathing room.
Pan, for those just tuning in, is a re-imagining of Peter Pan's origin story directed by Joe Wright (Atonement, Hanna). The movie's first trailer dropped a couple weeks back and, thus far, reactions to the early footage have been respectable... even if most people don't necessarily seem that excited for another Peter Pan film. All the same, it seems there will be a decent-sized audience ready to give this newest rendition of J.M. Barrie's childhood fantasy a look when it arrives on the scene.
Pan opens in U.S. theaters on July 24th, 2015, followed by Kung Fu Panda 3 on March 18th, 2016.
Source: THR, Warner Bros.