‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ Propels Franchise Past $1B As Sequel Opens To $45M+ – Sunday AM Update

SUNDAY AM: No snowstorm or sour reviews stood in Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire‘s path this weekend, as the Gil Kenan-directed, Jason Reitman-produced sequel minted a $45.2M opening after a nice spike on Saturday from families.

Yesterday came in at $16.8M, 5% ahead of Friday/previews’ $16M. If the numbers hold up, that’s the second-best start ever for a Ghostbusters’ movie after the 2016 female ensemble of Kirsten Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon.

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The domestic opening of the fifth movie takes the entire Ghostbusters franchise, per Sony, past $1 billion. I understand studio reports had the franchise through four films at $985M, a result that’s higher than Box Office Mojo. Mojo’s numbers on overseas are off on the first 1984 film.

Foreign for Frozen Empire was $16.4M from 7,500+ screens in 25 markets, bringing the global start here to $61.6M on the $100M production.

The opening is solid news, as some exhibitors feared that the movie was going to collapse into the high $30M range based on their presales, which were significantly off from Kung Fu Panda 4. However, Sony’s marketing team got the sequel past the finish line as the brand is a cherished and a vital one for the studio.

'Ghostbusters' Starts At Box Office on Thursday
'Ghostbusters' Starts At Box Office on Thursday

Still, not to pour cold water on Sony’s success this weekend, but that B+ CinemaScore and 84% Rotten Tomatoes audience score plus bad reviews at 43% should not be ignored by the studio if they’re thinking about making another movie. This goody goody family vibe for the franchise was adorable in Afterlife, but it’s clear die-hard fans and critics want a return to form with wall-to-wall humor, not just lore and great VFX. This was attempted with 2016’s all-femme Ghostbusters with Paul Feig. However, the filmmaker’s Bridesmaids and Spy are comedy Godfathers by comparison to his go-round with the Ivan Reitman franchise.

I understand that Feig and McCarthy had a push-and-pull on that movie: He wanted more laughs, she wanted more action, and a feathered fish was what came out in the wash. In its conceit, the comedy formula for Ghostbusters isn’t that impossible to crack: It’s Marx Brothers in a VFX event film. If you think about what is the Ghostbusters of today, why, it’s Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool. Bringing back the sarcastic magic and balls-to-the-wall of the original comedy with big comedy stars doesn’t take a nuclear ecto-plasma scientist.

EntTelligence says that Frozen Empire drew 3.3M admissions and drove 42% of the weekend’s foot traffic, followed by Dune Part Two at 17% and Kung Fu Panda 4 at 15%.

Evidence of the family turnout is also shown in EntTelligence stats, which reports that 54% of Frozen Empire‘s ticket buyers came before 5PM on Saturday. In addition, 56% of the audience was under 35, born well after the original 1984 movie.

iSpot showed a thrifty campaign spend by Sony on Frozen Empire, a little higher than what Lionsgate shelled out on Arthur the King, with a total reach of 650M impressions, led by TV spots on ABC, ESPN, CBS, NBC and Bravo (Sony went after moms there).

There was also an $80M global promotional partner campaign that included Liberty Mutual Insurance bringing marshmallow mischief, Mercedes-Benz creating a brand new ECTO-Z, Chester Cheetah putting on the Ghostbuster uniform for a limited edition “Flamin’ Hot Smoky Ghost Pepper Puff” Cheetos flavor, as well as Ghostbuster Ray Stantz giving custom voice navigation in Waze. And we’re not even counting the consumer product line here, which includes Ghostbusters goodies from Hasbro, Timberland, Wuxly, Dark Horse Comics, Funko, and Hot Topic.

TV spots for Frozen Empire aired on male-demo programming, i.e. NBA games, Sports Center, Men’s College Basketball, and Late Show With Stephen Colbert. Sony also went after moms watching Good Morning America. A huge plug was the NFC Championship opener, which featured Bill Murray and drew 58 million viewers, the highest-rated NFC broadcast in 10 years.

Other big sports blasts included a custom piece on NBCUniversal where the Ghostbusters are faced with their most formidable villain yet, and they need all the help they can get. When it comes to the mysterious cold front taking over NYC, they find help in Al Roker.

There was also an NHL custom AR spot that ran on TNT on March 17 and 20, showcasing the Zamboni and the sewer dragon ghost.

Also, there was a Peyton Manning “Quarter Zips” spot that ran across NBA, ESPN SC, NCAA College Basketball, March Madness, ESPN digital, NBA TV, YouTube, and social.

Frozen Empire billboards included embellishments like mock ice growing off boards with frozen installer and glow-in-the-dark Slimer. Buses also featured a glow-in-the-dark Slimer.

Imax screens for Frozen Empire counted $1.8M in a share with Dune: Part Two, which added $4.8M to the sequel’s total, or 27% of its fourth stateside weekend. Imax and PLFs for Frozen Empire accounted for 36% of the gross. Highest theater so far this weekend for Frozen Empire is AMC NYC Lincoln Square at $84K.

All in, Imax screens for Dune: Part Two count $58.3M, for 25% of the pic’s domestic total. Imax is also driving a quarter of Dune 2‘s global gross, with the large format exhibitor alone counting $124M for the feature take of the Frank Herbert novel, the 8th highest-grossing Imax title ever.

NEON’s Immaculate came in at $5.36M after a Saturday of $2M, which was even with Friday/previews $2M. The pic was booked at 2,354 sites. True, we took Lionsgate to task last weekend for not spending enough on an A CinemaScore movie in Arthur the King, which could have found a bigger family audience as well as contribute more bucks to the continued strike-stricken theaters. However, that’s not to say that these indies aren’t making money. They are on a different business model spend than the studios. For NEON, $5M is a solid result. They are only a 55-person staff company, so overhead isn’t enormous. This was a P&A deal, and I understand marketing was in the mid-single digit spend. At the end of the day, boosted by all of Sweeney’s press, NEON will be fine on this Black Bear microbudget-financed film (under $10M).

Late Night With The Devil
‘Late Night With the Devil’

Also, a big deal here this weekend is IFC’s The Late Night With the Devil: the movie broke records for IFC as their largest opening weekend ever at $2.833M at 1,034 locations and the largest per-theater average among the horror films opening this weekend at $2,740 PTA. Previous to that, Watcher held the biggest opening in IFC history at $862K followed by Skinamarink with $818K and then Blackberry at $801K. The David Dastmalchian starring pic also posted the biggest Thursday previews ever for IFC at $316,9K and the biggest Friday ever at $1.1M besting prior record set by Skinamarink ($376K).

Overall Saturday night was bountiful for exhibition thanks to the better-than-expected surge from Frozen Empire and stellar holds by Dune: Part Two and Kung Fu Panda 4. All in, the weekend is looking at $105.7M, +21% from last weekend, and only -9% off from the John Wick: Chapter 4 large weekend from a year ago.

1.) Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (Sony) 4,345 theaters, Fri $16M Sat $16.8M Sun $12.3M 3-day $45.2M/Wk 1

2.) Dune: Part Two (Leg/WB) 3,437 theaters (-410), Fri $4.5M (-44%) Sat $7.7M Sun $5.4M, 3-day $17.6M (-38%)/Total $233.3M/Wk 4

3.) Kung Fu Panda 4 (Uni/DWA) 3,805 (-262) theaters, Fri $4M (-54%) Sat $7.6M Sun $5.1M, 3-day $16.8M (-44%), Total $133.2M/Wk 3

4.) Immaculate (NEON) 2,354 theaters, Fri $2M, Sat $2M Sun $1.3M 3-day $5.36M/Wk 1

5.)Arthur the King (LG) 3,003 theaters, Fri $1.1M (-61%) Sat $1.9M Sun $1.2M 3-day $4.36M (-43%), Total $14.6M/Wk 2

6.) Late Night With the Devil (IFC),1034 theaters Fri $1.1M Sat $1M Sun $733K 3-day $2.833M/Wk 1

7.) Imaginary (LG) 2,513 theaters (-605), Fri $760K Sat $1.27M Sun $765K 3-day $2.8M (-49%), Total $23.6M /Wk 3

8.) Love Lies Bleeding (A24) 1,828 theaters (+466) Fri $484K Sat $630K Sun $472K, 3-day $1.58M (-37%), Total $5.68M/Wk 3

9.) Cabrini (Angel) 1,765 (-1,085) theaters, Fri $410K Sat $576K $432K 3-day $1.4M (-50%) Total $16.1M/Wk 3

10.) Bob Marley: One Love (Par) 1,266 theaters (-1066) Fri $295K (-57%), Sat $490K, Sun $315K 3-day $1.03M (-40%), Total $95.3M/Wk 6

One Life
(BST) 1,009 (+26) theaters, Fri $289K Sat $439 Sun $285K , 3-day $1.03M (-40%)/Total $3.4M/Wk 2

The American Society of Magical Negroes (Foc) 1,153 (+6) theaters, Fri $130K Sat $190K Sun $120K, 3-day $440K (-66%)/Total $2.2M/Wk 2

SATURDAY AM: Despite “Marchmellow” weather in the Northeast and a B+ CinemaScore, Sony’s Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is expected to still reach an opening between $42M-$44M this weekend after a $16M Friday. PLFs and some of the Imax are accounting for 36% of box right now. Frozen Empire, which cost more than Ghostbusters: Afterlife, $100M to $75M before P&A, is co-financed by TSG.

By the way, that B+ CinemaScore is the same grade as the all female 2016 Ghostbusters. This should be a wakeup call for Sony on the goody goody family nature tone of this franchise and its longevity moving forward. More on that later.

There are heavy rains along the Atlantic Coast from Washington D.C. up through Vermont with flood watches in effect, however, no significant cinema closures are expected.

Mckenna Grace makes a face at baby Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man.
Mckenna Grace makes a face at baby Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man.

Overall the box office with $97.6M is expected to be off -17% from the same weekend a year ago as that’s when Lionsgate’s roared with John Wick: Chapter 4, which posted the highest opening in the franchise with $73.8M and led the marketplace to $116.6M.

Updated PostTrak exits from ComScore and Screen Engine are 80% positive on the Gil Kenan directed sequel with a 64% definite recommend. Grades are lower among kids versus Afterlife at 89% postive and a 57% must see right away.

Male leaning of course at 55% with 46% of the crowd between 25-44 years old with another 30% of the audience 13-24 years old and the largest quad a tie between 18-24 and 25-34 years old at 23%. Diversity demos are 48% Caucasian, 27% Latino and Hispanic, 12% Black, 8% Asian and 5% Native American. Ghostbusters: Afterlife is playing best in the South, South Central and Midwest. Top grossing cinema in the nation so far is AMC Disney Springs in Orlando FL with over $50K.

NEON’s Sydney Sweeney nun horror movie, Immaculate, did $2M yesterday for what’s shaping up to be a $5M opening in fourth place. CinemaScore is a C which is par for a horror movie (they get B and C CinemaScores). PostTrak is significantly lower at 52% positive and a 30% definite recommend. Euphoria crowd is coming out at 52% female with 75% of the audience between 18-34. Largest demo is 25-34 at 39%. Diversity demos were 44% Caucasian, 30% Latino and Hispanic, 11% Black, 10% Asian, and 5% Native American/other. Best markets are the East, South Central and West with the AMC Burbank the pic’s top grossing cinema stateside at $15,3K. Elevation has Canada. The movie, which was fully financed by Black Bear, and a passion project of Sweeney’s, cost under $10M. It’s a P&A deal for NEON. The release model for this horror movie is very similar to what Blumhouse use to execute with its microbudget BH Tilt movies.

IFC’s has the other specialty horror film on the marquee, Late Night With the Devil at 1,034 locations which posted a $1.1M Friday, 3-day heading to $2.9M. Solid numbers in NYC, Toronto, Salt Lake City, Edmonton, Dallas, San Antonio and LA.

Disney has Pixar’s Luca, which was previously relegated to Disney+, in theaters, but similar to the other Pixar re-releases this year (Turning Red, Soul), there was no muscle behind these in marketing. The Italian-set animated movie did $150K yesterday at 1,390 for what will be a very underwhelming $510K or $367 per theater.

The chart:

1.) Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (Sony) 4,345 theaters, Fri $16M, 3-day $42M-$44M/Wk 1

2.) Dune: Part Two (Leg/WB) 3,437 theaters (-410), Fri $4.5M (-44%), 3-day $16M (-44%)/Total $231.7M/Wk 4

3.) Kung Fu Panda 4 (Uni/DWA) 3,805 (-262) theaters, Fri $4M (-54%), 3-day $14.5M (-52%), Total $130.9M/Wk 3

4.) Immaculate (NEON) 2,354 theaters, Fri $2M, 3-day $5M/Wk 1

5.)Arthur the King (LG) 3,003 theaters, Fri $1.1M (-61%), 3-day $4M (-48%), Total $14.2M/Wk 2

6.) Late Night With the Devil (IFC),1034 theaters Fri $1.1M, 3-day $2.9M/Wk 1

7.) Imaginary (LG) 2,513 theaters (-605), Fri $755K (-55%) 3-day $2.5M (-55%), Total $23.3M /Wk 3

8.) Love Lies Bleeding (A24) 1,828 theaters (+466) Fri $484K (-56%), 3-day $1.5M (-40%), Total $5.5M/Wk 3

9.) Cabrini (Angel) 1,765 (-1,085) theaters, Fri $410K (-51%) 3-day $1.37M (-51%) Total $16.1M/Wk 3

10.) Bob Marley: One Love (Par) 1,266 theaters (-1066) Fri $295K (-57%), 3-day $1.02M (-55%), Total $95.2M/Wk 6

One Life
(BST) 1,009 (+26) theaters, Fri $290K (-63%), 3-day $960K (-44%)/Total $3.4M/Wk 2

The American Society of Magical Negroes (Foc) 1,153 (+6) theaters, Fri $120K (-76%), 3-day $400K (-69%)/Total $2.1M/Wk 2

FRIDAY PM: As of right now, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is looking all right with a $16M Friday and $42M-$43M opening at 4,345 theaters. That Friday is on par with Ghostbusters: Afterlife‘s first day (plus previews) of $16.6M, and should that 3-day keep up, it will only be a $1M shy of the 2021 Jason Reitman directed title.

REBECCA FERGUSON as Lady Jessica in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “DUNE: PART TWO,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
REBECCA FERGUSON as Lady Jessica in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “DUNE: PART TWO,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

In second is the fourth weekend of Legendary/Warner Bros’ Dune: Part Two at 3,437 theaters with an estimated $4.6M, -43% for a 3-day of $16.9M and a running total of $232.6M.

Third belongs to Universal/DreamWorks Animation’s third frame of Kung Fu Panda 4 at 3,805 theaters with a Friday of $4.3M, -51%, and 3-day of $15.3M, -49%, and running total by EOD Sunday of $131.7M.

Sydney Sweeney in Immaculate
Sydney Sweeney in ‘Immaculate’

The NEON, Sydney Sweeney nun horror movie, Immaculate, is seeing an estimated $1.8M-$2.2M Friday, and $5M opening at 2,354 sites. Black Bear financed and produced the movie for under $10M. Black Bear is handling the UK release of the film with Elevation releasing the pic in Canada.

Lionsgate’s second frame of Arthur the King at 3,003 theaters is looking at fifth after a second Friday of $1.2M, -60%, and a 3-day of $4.1M, -46%, and a ten-day gross of $14.3M.

IFC has the David Dastmalchian 1977-set horror movie, Late Night With the Devil, which world premiered a year ago at SXSW, which is seeing $1.3M today for $3.3M opening at 1,034 locations. The Cameron and Colin Cairness-directed horror pic follows a live television broadcast in 1977 which goes horribly wrong, unleashing evil into the nation’s living rooms. Critics love it on Rotten Tomatoes at 96% certified fresh and an 86% audience score.

FRIDAY AM: Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, Sony’s sequel to Jason Reitman’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife, took in $4.7M from Thursday night previews that began at 2 p.m. at 3,561 theaters.

That total is close to the $4.5M previews of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which opened heading into the pre-Thanksgiving 2021 frame when audiences were still shaking off Covid fears. Thursday night’s cash also is higher than the previews of Paul Feig’s 2016 all-female Ghostbusters, which did $3.4M (and opened to $46M). Those showtimes began at 4 p.m. and resulted in a $16.6M Friday and $44M opening weekend. I’m told from sources that Frozen Empire will require a lot of walk-up business to get to that level as presales for some exhibitors were low.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire received four stars from the Thursday night audience, which always is filled with die-hard fans, with a 80% positive and a 66% definite recommend. Mostly men showed up at 55%, and they were the pic’s harshest critics at 76% positive, with women at 45% with a better 85% grade. Breaking that down, men over 25 — Thursday night’s biggest quad at 43% — gave the movie a 79% grade, while men under 25, who repped 12% of ticketbuyers, loathed the movie at 68%.

On Afterlife, families and the middle of the country propped grosses. Close to a third of that audience was families with parents, who awarded Afterlife five stars with kids under 12 at 4½. Rotten Tomatoes critics gave Afterlife, which was directed by Jason Reitman, 64% positive while audiences graded it 94%. Frozen Empire out of the gate is lower with 45% Rotten in reviews, and 86% with RT audiences.

Directed by Gil Kenan, the writer of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, the sequel cost $100M. This Ghostbusters easily will put the five-movie franchise over $1 billion. That might or might not be this weekend, as Frozen Empire could underperform.

Sydney Sweeney in ‘Immaculate’

We’re waiting on preview figures for Neon’s Sydney Sweeney movie Immaculate, but in the meantime, PostTrak audiences didn’t like it last night at 2½ stars and 60% positive. Critics didn’t mind it at 78% positive. We’re seeing projections now for the nun horror movie, which world premiered out of SXSW, in the mid-single digits.

RELATED: ‘Immaculate’ Review: Sydney Sweeney-Led Religious Horror Movie Overshadowed By Overplayed Tropes – SXSW

Legendary/Warner Bros’ Dune: Part Two won the night among regular releases with $2.2M at 3,847, -23% from Wednesday and a third week of $39.5M and running total of $215.7M. The pic will keep its Imax screens into weekend 4, sharing them with Frozen Empire.

RELATED: ‘Dune: Part Two’ Review: Denis Villeneuve’s Spectacular Sequel Goes Heavy On The Mythos

Universal/DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 4 at 4,067 sites made $1.7M, -10% from Wednesday, for a $38.7M second week and running total of $116.4M.

RELATED: ‘Kung Fu Panda 4’ Review: Jack Black Is Back As Lovable Dragon Warrior On A New Mission In This Winning DreamWorks Sequel

Fathom busted its way into the chart midweek with two releases. Faith-based documentary The Ark and the Darkness did $750K on Wednesday and another $955K yesterday for a running total of $1.7M at 1,010 theaters. The Ralph Stearn-directed docu centers on Noah’s Ark and scientific evidence supporting the biblical tale. Fathom also had the remastered Hal Needham-directed 1986 BMX movie Rad booked at 707 locations, and it did $508K yesterday.

RELATED: ‘Arthur The King’ Review: Mark Wahlberg And A Scrappy New Dog Star Make This Remarkable True Story Come To Cinematic Life

Lionsgate/eOne’s Mark Wahlberg canine sports film, Arthur the King, playing at 3,003 theaters, did an estimated $477K yesterday, -13% from Wednesday, ending its first week with $10.2M.

Check back later today for updates.

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