The news was even more grim for mashup "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies." The movie earned $5.2 million from 2,931 theaters, putting it behind Nicholas Sparks' film adaptation "The Choice," which took in $6.1 million from 2,631 locations. (That's the lowest opening for Sparks.)
"Hail, Caesar!" — which received a withering C- CinemaScore from audiences — came in No. 2 behind "Kung Fu Panda 3," which easily topped the North American box-office chart in its second outing. The animated film grossed $21 million for a domestic cume of $69.5 million. And in China, the DreamWorks Animation sequel crossed the $100 million mark after coming in No. 1 in its second weekend with $15.4 million for a China total of $101.7 million.
"Kung Fu Panda" 3 has earned $198.1 million to date globally, including $16.6 million in South Korea and $9.2 million in Russia. It has yet to roll out in most foreign markets.
The winner of the weekend internationally, however, wasn't Po the panda but Alejandro G. Inarritu's awards frontrunner "The Revenant," which took in $24 million from 67 markets as it cleared $300 million worldwide. (And on Saturday, Inarritu became the first filmmaker in history to win the DGA Award for best director two years in a row.) Domestically, The Revenant placed No. 3 with $7.1 million for a cume of $149.7 million. Overseas, it has now grossed $176.4 million for a global tally of $325.1 million through Sunday.
"Hail, Caesar!" is waiting to begin its international rollout until after it plays at the Berlin Film Festival later this week. An ode to Hollywood of the 1950s, the movie stars George Clooney as an actor who is kidnapped from the set and held for ransom. A Hollywood fixer (Josh Brolin) sets out to right the situation while also dealing with plenty of other fires at the studio. Channing Tatum, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes and Jonah Hill also star in the Universal and Working Title film, which cost $22 million to make after rebates and incentives.
More often than not, movies from the Coen brothers are treated like specialty titles and given platform releases. In terms of those that have debuted in more than 1,500 theaters, the lowest previous opening belonged to 2003's Intolerable Cruelty with $12.5 million. (The "Big Lebowski" earned $5.5 million in its first weekend in 1998, but only played in 1,207 locations, so it wasn't considered a wide saturated release.)
"I'm encouraged by the result," said Universal domestic distribution chief Nick Carpou, who believes "Hail, Caesar!" will have a strong multiple despite its C- CinemaScore.
"Hail, Caesar!" skewed male (56 percent) and notably older, with 82 percent of ticket buyers over the age of 25, including nearly 20 percent over the age of 55, according to comScore's PostTrak service.
"Pride and Prejudice and Zombies," which earned a B- CinemaScore, is based on Seth Grahame-Smith's book interjecting zombies into Jane Austen's classic tale. The story follows heroine Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James), a master of martial arts and weaponry, and Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley), a fierce zombie killer who must rethink his upper-class prejudices when the two join forces to conquer the undead.
The $28 million movie was fully financed by Cross Creek Pictures with Sony's Screen Gems distributing. Burr Steers directed "Zombies," which also stars Jack Huston, Bella Heathcote, Douglas Booth, Matt Smith, Charles Dance and Lena Headey. It played the youngest of the three new films, with 30 percent of ticket buyers between the ages of 18 and 24. Females made up 57 percent.
"We had great word-of-mouth screening," said Sony distribution chief Rory Bruer. "It's a fun movie that everybody worked hard on. We just wanted to do more."
Lionsgate's "The Choice" nabbed a B+ CinemaScore. Directed by Ross Katz, the romancer stars Benjamin Walker and Teresa Palmer as two neighbors who fall in love upon first meeting. "The Choice" also stars Maggie Grace, Alexandria Daddario, Tom Welling and Tom Wilkinson. Lionsgate acquired the project for less than $10 million.
The most recently released Sparks adaptation, last year's "The Longest Ride," took in $13 million in its debut. The film skewed heavily female (73 percent), with more than half the audience between the ages of 18 and 34.
"The Choice" came in No. 5 behind "Kung Fu Panda 3," "Hail, Caesar!," "The Revenant" and "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."
"The Force Awakens" celebrated Super Bowl weekend by becoming the first movie ever to clear $900 million at the North American box office. And on Saturday, the Disney and Lucasfilm title crossed the $2 billion worldwide mark, a feat previously belonging only to Avatar and Titanic, not accounting for inflation.
Universal's "Ride Along 2" revved past $100 million globally in its third weekend, including a domestic total of $77.2 million. Elsewhere on the comedy circuit, Paramount and Red Granite's "Daddy's Home" has become Will Ferrell's top-grossing film internationally with $76.1 million. Globally, "Daddy's Home" has grossed $221.4 million.