What Sequel Problem? ‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ Is the Third to Open Over $45 Million in March

Funny, this sure doesn’t look like a sequel problem: “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” (Sony) took #1 with an on-target $45 million weekend. Although that number was below recent openings for “Dune: Part Two” (Warner Bros.) and “Kung Fu Panda 4” (Universal), all exceeded the openings of their immediate franchise predecessors.

“Frozen Empire” achieved this without the advantages of “Dune” (strong acclaim, elevated interest) and “Kung Fu Panda” (hunger for a fresh family title) — and with potential pitfalls like weak reviews and a so-so B+ Cinemascore (down from A- for “Afterlife” in 2021).

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It suggests a positive result for the $100 million-budgeted fantasy comedy, a good sign in a year when most of the biggest new films will be similarly unoriginal. The three sequels grossed $80 million of the $105 million weekend.

Though this weekend was off by about 11 percent from last year (dominated by “John Wick: Chapter Four,” which opened to $74 million), three out of four weeks month totaled over of $100 million. Expect the same next weekend with the debut of “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” (Warner Bros.). March will likely cross $700 million, easily besting the same month last year. That will be the first time for 2024.

The year’s figures still lag by nine percent, yet this month’s results indicate that audiences continue to gravitate toward the types of films studios find most comfortable to produce. Mixed blessings to follow? It could encourage greenlighting what might seem like marginal sequels.

“Dune” returned to #2, with another modest drop of 38 percent. It now approaches $600 million worldwide with the potential of $300 million domestic, made more impressive since “Frozen Empire” took away some premium screens.

Currently at #3 on its third weekend, “Kung Fu Panda” has grossed $133 million to date. With the upcoming school spring break and lack of major competition, it’s plausible that it could reach $200 million.

‘Immaculate’Courtesy Everett Collection

Two independent horror titles debuted in the Top 10. “Immaculate” (Neon), a nun horror movie placed ahead of Holy Week for maximum impact, took fourth place with about $5.4 million in 2,354 theaters. It stars Sydney Sweeney (“Anyone but You”) as a sister at an Italian covent who uncovers diabolical terror.

“Late Night with the Devil” (IFC) at #6 is a record breaker for the distributor: It’s IFC’s widest initial release with 1,034 theaters and its $2.8 million debut is its best weekend gross ever. Above-average reviews (72 Metacritic) boosted the low-budget, found-footage horror film about a 1970s late-night talk show gone bad.

“Arthur the King” (Lionsgate) fell 43 percent for fifth place in its second week. With a lower-than-expected opening, the Mark Walhberg dog race film has grossed $14.6 million. At #8, “Love Lies Bleeding” (A24) with Kristen Stewart expanded in its third weekend to 1,828 theaters for $1.6 million and a $5.7 million total.

Two titles stood out among reported new specialized releases. Documentary “Carol Doda Topless at the Condor” (Picturehouse) grossed $43,000 in four theaters. “Femme” (Utopia) opened to $15,000 in one New York theater.

EXHUMA, KIM Go-eun (foreground), 2024. © Well Go USA Entertainment / Courtesy Everett Collection
‘Exhuma’Courtesy Everett Collection

The Korean thriller “Exhuma” opened strong in three theaters last week and expanded to 67 for $472,000, a per-theater average of over $7,000. It’s especially impressive against the performance of Disney’s “Luca,” which opened in over 1,300 theaters, nearly three years after its streaming debut, and grossed $550,000. Oscar-winner “The Boy and the Heron” (GKids) returned to theaters with little impact: $261,000 in 440 theaters.

The Top 10

1. Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 46; Est. budget: $100 million

$45,200,000 in 4,345 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $10,403; Cumulative: $45,200,000

2 Dune: Part Two (Warner Bros.) Week 4; Last weekend #2

$17,600,000 (-38%) in 3,437 (-410) theaters; PTA: $5,121; Cumulative: $233,359,000

3. Kung Fu Panda 4 (Universal) Week 3; Last weekend #1

$16,800,000 (-44%) in 3,805 (-262) theaters; PTA: $4,415; Cumulative: $133,230,000

4. Immaculate (Neon) NEW – Cinemascore: C; Metacritic: 56; Est. budget: $9 million

$5,360,000 in 2,354 theaters; PTA: $2,277; Cumulative: $5,360,000

5. Arthur the King (Lionsgate) Week 2; Last weekend #3

$4,360,000 (-43%) in 3,003 (no change) theaters; PTA: $1,452; Cumulative: $14,630,000

6. Late Night with the Devil (IFC) NEW – Metacritic: 72

$2,833,000 in 1,034 theaters; PTA: $2,740; Cumulative: $2,833,000

7. Imaginary (Lionsgate) Week 3; Last weekend #4

$2,800,000 (-50%) in 2,513 (-605) theaters; PTA: $1,114; Cumulative: $23,625,000

8. Love Lies Bleeding (A24) Week 3; Last weekend #6

$1,586,000 (-37%) in 1,828 (+466) theaters; PTA: $868; Cumulative: $5,680,000

9. Cabrini (Angel) Week 3; Last weekend #5

$1,428,000 (-49%) in 1,765 (-1,085) theaters; PTA: $809; Cumulative: $16,163,000

10. Bob Marley: One Love (Paramount) Week 6; Last weekend #7; also on PVOD

$1,100,000 (-52%) in 1,266 (-1,006) theaters; PTA: $; Cumulative: $95,317,000

Other specialized and award-contending titles

Films (limited, expansions of limited, as well as awards-oriented releases) are listed by week in release, starting with those opened this week; after the first three weeks, only films with grosses over $5,000 are listed. Metacritic scores and initial film festivals recorded.

Carol Doda Topless at the Condor (Picturehouse) NEW

$43,023 in 4 theaters; PTA: $10,756

Femme (Utopia) NEW – Metacritic: 66; Festivals include: Berlin 2023

$15,075 in 1 theaters; PTA: $15,075

Free Time (Cartilage) NEW – Metacritic: 74; Festivals include: Indy Film 2023

$6,000 in 1 theater; PTA: $6,000

Riddle of Fire (Painted Veil/Vinegar Syndrome) NEW – Metacritic: 52; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto 2023

$24,250 in 28 theaters; PTA: $

Limbo (Music Box) NEW – Metacritic: 76; Festivals include: Berlin, Toronto 2023

$5,790 in 2 theaters; PTA: $2,895

Exhuma (WellGo USA) Week 2

$472,206 in 67 (+64) theaters; PTA: $7,048; Cumulative: $532,718

One Life (Bleecker Street) Week 2

$1,014,000 in 1,009 (+26) theaters; PTA: $1,004; Cumulative: $3,460,000

The American Society of Magical Negroes (Focus) Week 2

$440,000 in 1,153 (+6) theaters; PTA: $382; Cumulative: $2,205,000

Snack Shack (Republic) Week 2

$30,000 in 145 (-292) theaters; PTA: $207; Cumulative: $435,672

Remembering Gene Wilder (Kino Lorber) Week 2

$17,646 in 7 (+6) theaters; PTA: $2,521; Cumulative: $22,221

YOLO (Sony) Week 3

$114,000 in 71 (-129) theaters; Cumulative: $1,755,000

Problemista (A24) Week 4

$453,568 in 237 (+174) theaters; Cumulative: $1,296,000

Perfect Days (Neon) Week 5; also on VOD

$96,600 in 77 (+33) theaters; Cumulative: $3,217,000

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba – To the Hashira Training (Sony) Week 5

$46,000 in 73 (-184) theaters; Cumulative: $17,999,000

The Taste of Things (IFC) Week 7

$35,419 in 70 (-13) theaters; Cumulative: $2,580,000

The Peasants (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 9

$13,182 in 251 (+241) theaters; Cumulative: $139,454

The Zone of Interest (A24) Week 15; also on PVOD

$62,160 in 84 (-128) theaters; Cumulative: $8,542,000

Poor Things (Searchlight) Week 15 also on PVOD and Hulu

$33,000 in 55(-785) theaters; Cumulative: $34,524,000

The Boy and the Heron (GKids) Week 16

$261,181 in 440 (+359) theaters; Cumulative: $46,466,000

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