Box Office: ‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ Thaws Out $16 Million Opening Day

“Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” kicked off with $16 million in North American ticket sales across Friday and preview screenings in 4,345 theaters. That nearly matches the $16.6 million that its predecessor “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” earned on its opening day in November 2021. Sony’s sci-fi comedy sequel will easily top domestic charts, though its work isn’t done yet considering its $100 million production budget.

That’s an uptick in the price tag from “Afterlife,” which cost $75 million before marketing and distribution. That franchise revival nearly tripled its $44 million domestic opening weekend, playing well through the Thanksgiving holiday to finish with $129 million and $204 million worldwide. Similarly, “Frozen Empire” could boost its fortunes with Easter at the end of the month.

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Reviews have been leaning more lukewarm compared to the so-so received “Afterlife.” Early moviegoers are also a little cooler on the franchise now, with audience survey firm Cinema Score turning in a B+ grade. (“Afterlife” scored an A-.) “Frozen Empire” will face some competition next week with the arrival of another “Empire,” in this case a “new” one: Warner Bros. and Legendary’s “Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire.”

Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard and McKenna Grace all return for “Frozen Empire,” with the group heading to a mysteriously frostbit Big Apple, where the profession of busting ghosts was famously invented. Original ’80s stars Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts and William Atherton also reprise their “Ghostbusters” roles. Gil Kenan directs.

Also opening this weekend, indie banner Neon is putting out the horror film “Immaculate” in 2,354 locations. Headlined by Sydney Sweeney and helmed by her “The Voyeurs” director Michael Mohan, the genre play was financed and produced by Black Bear. Industry competitors are projecting a fourth place opening for “Immaculate” with about $5 million through the three-day frame. It’s not a dazzling debut, but the feature was produced on a modest budget. Reviews are positive, while immediate audience sentiment is not (a C grade on Cinema Score) — as is typical for horror.

“Dune: Part Two” looks to hold onto second place. Legendary Entertainment and Warner Bros.’ feature earned $4.45 million on Friday, down just 45% from the $8 million it earned a week ago. Denis Villeneuve’s sequel will put up another strong hold in its fourth weekend of release, now looking to push its domestic gross north of $230 million. “Frozen Empire” (and soon, “Godzilla X Kong”) are knocking “Dune: Part Two” out of premium large-format auditoriums, but the sci-fi epic has really cleaned up with those increased ticket prices through the month of March.

Universal’s “Kung Fu Panda 4” will land in bronze, projecting $14.5 million for the weekend to fall only 52%. That’s a pretty impressive hold considering “Frozen Empire” is now the fresh new draw for family audiences. The DreamWorks Animation sequel will get to $130 million domestically through its first 17 days of release. It will soon pass the total North American gross of its predecessor, “Kung Fu Panda 3,” which finished with $143 million back in 2016.

Lionsgate’s “Arthur the King” will round out the top five, earning $1.1 million on Friday. The Mark Wahlberg vehicle underwhelmed in its opening and is now looking to inch past $14 million through its first 10 days. Considering its modest $19 million production budget, it won’t be too bad in the long run, but the dog story isn’t making an unlikely comeback after its soft debut.

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