Strong second session expected for 'Sex'

Comedy will take many different forms at the weekend box office as two new players — toon “Kung Fu Panda” and Adam Sandler laffer “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan” — open domestically and go after different auds.

Paramount and DreamWorks Animation open “Panda” in 4,114 runs; Sony bows “Zohan” in 3,462.

It’s anybody’s guess as to which film will win the weekend considering that each of the two new pics has its own distinct advantages.

New Line and Warner Bros. holdover “Sex and the City” will add to the intrigue if it has a strong hold in its second sesh. Comedy grossed a whammo $57 million last weekend–by far, the best debut ever for a chick flick — and has enjoyed strong weekday grosses. Through Wednesday, the domestic cume was $73.2 million.

“Panda,” starring the voice of Jack Black, is the first toon and youngest-skewing family pic since Fox’s Easter tentpole “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who,” which has grossed $152.7 million domestically.

If pent-up demand for a family film is strong, “Panda” could pull ahead. Movie also features the voices of Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan, Ian McShane and Lucy Liu. Mark Osborne and John Stevenson directed from a script by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger.

“Panda” has three weeks free and clear before Disney and Pixar open “Wall-E” on June 27.

“Zohan,” rated PG-13, has a proven box office star in its corner, as Sandler has become a permanent fixture of the summer box office.

Last year, “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” opened to $34.2 million. A year before that, “Click” debuted to $40 million, while 2005’s “The Longest Yard” grossed $47.6 million in its bow.

Laffer reteams Sandler with “Chuck and Larry” director Dennis Dugan, who helmed “Zohan” from a script by Sandler, Robert Smigel and Judd Apatow. Movie also stars John Turturro and Emmanuelle Chriqui; Sandler and Jack Giarraputo produced.

The specialty side sees several releases, including Sony Pictures Classics’ Jim Broadbent-Colin Firth drama “When Did You Last See Your Father?” Brit pic was directed by Anand Tucker and adapted from Blake Morrison’s tome.

Bob Berney’s Picturehouse debuts young Genghis Khan epic “Mongol” in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles. Kazakh film, directed by Sergei Bodrov, received an Oscar nom for foreign-language film in 2007.

Myriad opens Italian fantasy-thriller “Mother of Tears” in seven locations.

On the foreign front, Paramount’s “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” looks likely to notch its third straight victory after grossing $285 million internationally in its first two weeks, including $20 million during the Monday-Wednesday period. Domestically, “Crystal Skull” has grossed $226.7 million through Wednesday.

Offshore, overall moviegoing will be held down due to the start of the Euro Cup soccer tournament this weekend in Switzerland and Austria. As a result, distribs have held back on pushing new titles for the next several frames in key European markets while the tourney plays out.

For example, Sony’s launching “Zohan” in two markets — Mexico and Iceland — since the pic’s key demo of young males will be focused on soccer. “Zohan” won’t go in most key territories until August.

“Sex and the City” will remain a major player as a counterprogrammer after notching $51 million through Wednesday, led by $23 million in the U.K., $9.9 million in Germany, $7.3 million in France and $4.8 million in Italy. “Sex” expands into Australia, Brazil, Hong Kong and South Korea this weekend.

Par’s going day-and-date with “Panda” in only nine markets, including Russia, Singapore and South Korea, as it opts for a gradual launch tied to holidays and the start of summer vacations in most territories — with the goal of taking advantage of the strong foreign appetite for CG family fare. Par’s most recent animated entry, “Bee Movie,” turned in a decent overseas perf with $160 million.

Disney’s “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” continues its slow expansion with openings in Australia, China and Hong Kong. “Caspian” has cumed over $80 million from 19 markets and won’t move into most of Europe until late June.

Other launches include Sony’s “21” in France, Poland and Switzerland and U’s “Leatherheads” in Germany and Spain.

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