Box office: ‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ captures third $45 million plus March opening

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Obviously, blasting March with franchise sequels was the way to turn things around after a number of slower months at the box office. Read on for the weekend box office report.

The big new release for the weekend was Sony’s sequel, “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire,” which opened in 4,345 theaters, with much of the returning cast from 2021’s “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” including Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, and McKenna Grace, as well as many of the original Ghostbusters from Ivan Reitman‘s ’80s comedies. It also introduced new characters played by comics Kumail Nanjiani, Patton Oswalt, and James Acaster.

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By Thursday, the movie had only racked up 45% on Rotten Tomatoes, showing less critical support than “Afterlife,” but it still was able to open with $16 million on Friday, including $4.7 million in Thursday previews. Sony has estimated an opening weekend of $45.2 million for the action-comedy, averaging just over $10,000 per location, just slightly ahead of “Afterlife’s” $44 million opening, based on estimates.

SEE Grab the popcorn and sound off in our movie forums

Overseas, “Frozen Empire” made another $16.4 million in 25 international markets, opening #1 in the UK with $5.3 million, followed by $2.7 million in Mexico and $2 million in Australia. The movie will open in Japan on March 29 and in other markets throughout April.

Two earlier blockbusters from the month, “Dune:  Part Two” and “Kung Fu Panda 4,” continued to run neck-and-neck this past weekend, as “Dune” did $4.5 million on Friday to “Kung Fu Panda’s” $4 million. The Denis Villeneuve sci-fi epic was able to hold up its business to bring in an estimated $17.6 million (down 38%) to take second place, followed by “Kung Fu Panda 4” with $16.8 million in third, down 44% from last weekend. “Dune” has grossed $233.3 million through Sunday, surpassing the domestic gross of Timothée Chalamet‘s previous movie, “Wonka.” “Dune: Part Two” added another $30.7 million overseas this weekend to bring its international total to $341 million and global total to $574.4 million.

Meanwhile, “Kung Fu Panda 4” has grossed $133.2 million total domestically, which is putting it close to achieving the $143 million domestic gross of the third movie. It added another $55.3 million internationally this weekend to bring its global total to $268.2 million after three weeks.

SEE 2023 box office hits: Every movie that made more than $100 million

NEON opened Sydney Sweeney‘s grizzly religious horror film, “Immaculate,” into 2,150 theaters on Friday, after it received decent reviews following its SXSW Film and TV Fest premiere. After making $2 million on Friday, including previews, it brought in an estimated $5.4 million to take fourth place, the biggest opening weekend showing for NEON since it launched in 2017.

IFC Films released its own horror film, “Late Night with the Devil,” starring David Dastmalchian, into 1,034 theaters nationwide where it brought in $1.2 million on Friday, including earlier previews. It ultimately made more than $2.8 million over the weekend to take sixth place, and while this might be hard to believe, based on IFC’s long  history, but that is also indeed the company’s biggest opening for a movie ever.

Lionsgate took fifth and seventh place with Mark Wahlberg‘s “Arthur the  King” and the horror film “Imaginary” making $4.4 million (down 43%) and $2.8 million (down 50%) respectively. “Arthur” has grossed $14.6 million so far domestically, while “Imaginary” is at $23.6 million.

A24’s crime-thriller “Love Lies Bleeding” dropped to eighth place with $1.6 million, down 36%, with $5.7 million grossed domestically. A24’s other movie, “Problemista,” was scheduled to go wide this weekend but instead expanded into just 237 theaters where it made $454k with $1.3 million grossed domestically.

Most players had “Ghostbusters” winning the weekend with between $25 and $50 million in our weekly box office prediction game, although things were much closer for second and third place, and only 54 players (about a third) had “Immaculate” opening in fourth place.

Thirty players went 6-for-6 in the March 15 game with “dean317” gaining almost 10,000 points with a couple well-placed Super Bets.

This coming weekend is Easter, and “Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire” is looking to trample any competition with Godzilla’s growing popularity as Japan’s greatest export since sushi. Check back on Wednesday to see how I think the movie might do at the box office.

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