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‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ Scares Up Okay $45M Box Office Opening After All

Sony’s Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire had no trouble winning a relatively quiet weekend at the box office: Stronger-than-expected Saturday turnout rescued the movie from opening behind the franchise’s last installment.

Sunday estimates show Frozen Empire launching with $45.2 million in North America thanks to multi-generational turnout and families. In 2021, the pandemic-challenged Ghostbusters: Afterlife debuted to $44 million. The new movie will need to have decent legs, considering it cost more to make — $100 million, versus $75 million for Afterlife. And there’s still concern that the film hasn’t broadened out to any notable degree in terms of new fans.

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Overseas, the Sony tentpole started off with $16.4 million from 25 markets — it has a staggered rollout for competitive reasons — for a global start of $61.6 million. In like-for-like markets, Sony says it is pacing 15 percent ahead of Afterlife. The U.K. leads with $5.3 million, followed quickly by Mexico with $5.2 million.

On Saturday, rival studios showed Frozen Empire launching in the $41 million range domestically after getting dinged by critics and slapped with a B+ CinemaScore, compared to an A for Afterlife. Sony remained bullish that it would indeed gross $42 million to $44 million after earning $16 million on Friday, including $4.7 million in Thursday previews. The studio turned out to be right, although numbers could shift again when Monday actuals come in.

Nearly 40 percent of the weekend gross came from premium format screens, including select Imax locations. (Dune: Part Two still has a large Imax footprint.)

Frozen Empire is a direct sequel to Afterlife, which succeeded in restoring some of the luster to the classic franchise created by the late Ivan Reitman. His son, Jason Reitman, directed Afterlife, but this time turned over helming duties to series co-scribe Gil Kenan. The movie features returning castmembers Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Celeste O’Connor and Logan Kim, alongside Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts and William Atherton, who starred in the original 1980s films. Series newcomers include Kumail Nanjiani and Patton Oswalt.

Written by Kenan and Reitman, the story follows the Spengler family as they return to the New York City firehouse to team up with the original Ghostbusters, who have developed a top-secret research lab to take busting ghosts to the next level. But when the discovery of an ancient artifact unleashes an army of ghosts that casts a death chill upon the city, demon fighters new and old must join forces to protect their home and save the world from a second Ice Age.

The weekend’s other new nationwide opener is Neon’s specialty horror pic Immaculate, starring Sydney Sweeney, who is fresh off her hit rom-com Anyone But You.

Immaculate, fueled by younger women, placed No. 4 with an estimated $5 million, in line with expectations for the indie film. The pic, fully financed by Black Bear, earned a C CinemaScore, which isn’t unusual for a horror film.

In Immaculate, Sweeney plays a devout nun traveling to a remote convent in the picturesque Italian countryside, but her journey soon devolves into a nightmare as it becomes clear her new home harbors a sinister secret and unspeakable horror. It is tracking to open in the low single digits.

Legendary and Warner Bros.’ Dune sequel held at No. 2 with an estimated weekend haul of $17.6 million in its fourth outing, a mere 39 percent drop . The movie will finish Sunday with a sensational domestic cume of $233 million, or thereabouts. It is doing even more business overseas, earning another $30.7 million from 73 markets — including a running total of $44.3 million in China — for a foreign tally of $341 million and $574 million globally. (Legendary East is handling the movie in China).

Universal and DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 4 is also making news in China, where it opened No. 1 this weekend with a pleasing $26.7 million.

In North America, Kung Fu Panda 4 is holding in nicely as more kids are sprung from school for spring break. The movie, now in its third outing, earned an estimated $16.5 million for a domestic tally of $133.2 million through Sunday and $268.2 million globally.

Rounding out the top five was Lionsgate’s Arthur the King, starring Mark Wahlberg. The movie, about the inspirational bond formed between a dog and a group of professional adventurers, is pacing to earn $4.5 million in its second outing for a subdued domestic total of $14.3 million.

At the specialty box office, A24 used this weekend to expand Kristen Stewart’s lesbian body building romance-drama Love Lies Bleeding into 1,828 cinemas. The movie, a 2024 Sundance Film Festival entry, earned $1.6 million for a cume of $5.7 million.

Veteran distributor Bob Berney’s new outfit released the doc Carol Doda Topless at the Condor in four theaters in New York, Los Angeles and New York. The pic posted a promising per-screen average of $10,756, and held what Berney calls “Doda-Esque Burlesque” shows at the Roxie in San Francisco and the Nuart in LA.

Domestically, year-to-date revenue is running 9 percent behind 2023, which was hardly a banner year. However, that’s down from a 12 percent gap a week ago, according to Comscore. Hollywood and theater owners remain hopeful that moviegoing will pick thanks to a slew of upcoming tenptoles, including next weekend’s Godzilla v. Kong: The New Empire.

March 24, 9 a.m. Updated with foreign grosses and additional domestic grosses.
March 24, 3 a.m. Updated with year-to-date domestic grosses.

This story was originally published at 8:15 a.m. on March 23.

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