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‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ Leads Box Office With $45 Million Debut

“Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” ruled over the domestic box office and arrived on the higher end of expectations.

The latest installment in Sony’s supernatural comedy series has collected $45.2 million in its debut in 4,345 North American theaters. Earlier in the weekend, “Frozen Empire” looked like it would top out with $42 million but estimates were revised up after a bigger-than-expected Sunday. At the international box office, the film ignited to a tepid $16.4 million from 25 markets for a global start of $61 million.

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Still, those domestic ticket sales are just barely ahead of its 2021 predecessor, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” which earned $44 million to start while the box office was deep in pandemic recovery mode. It’s a sign that the 30-year-old franchise hasn’t expanded its constituency beyond the original (and aging) core fans of the business of busting ghosts.

Plus, “Frozen Empire” carries a bigger budget than the last one, costing $100 million to produce and many millions more to market. It’ll need to far outgross “Afterlife” ($204 million globally against a $75 million budget) to justify its price tag since cinema operators get to keep roughly 50% of revenues. Sony expects the movie to benefit from spring break, but “Frozen Empire” will face steep competition next weekend from “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire.”

Critics and audiences were mixed on the sequel, which landed a 43% on Rotten Tomatoes and a “B+” CinemaScore. “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” follows the events of “Afterlife,” itself a sequel to the 1980s sci-fi comedy classic. (The ill-fated 2016 reboot doesn’t exist in this universe.) Franchise veterans Gil Kenan and Jason Reitman (whose father Ivan Reitman helmed 1984’s “Ghostbusters”) wrote “Frozen Empire,” which sees new recruits in the legendary ghost-catching business (Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, Mckenna Grace and Finn Wolfhard) team up with veterans (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson and Annie Potts) to prevent an apocalyptic deity from igniting a second Ice Age.

This weekend’s other new release, Sydney Sweeney’s religious horror film “Immaculate,” opened in fourth place with a middling $5.3 million from 2,354 theaters. Neon backed the movie, which follows Sweeney as an American nun who joins a remote convent in the Italian countryside. But her warm welcome is interrupted after she discovers her new home harbors some dark secrets. Reviews have been so-so, while moviegoers saddled the film with a “C+” CinemaScore (which is not unusual for the horror genre).

“The movie features the popular Sydney Sweeney, but horror movies are not cast-driven,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research, who categorized the opening weekend result as “fair.” “They’re driven by the hook: the evil doll, the wicked smile, the invisible or silent presence, the found footage, the possessed child. That’s what terrifies the horror crowd. The hook is not completely clear here.”

Elsewhere, “Dune: Part Two” impressively remained in the No. 2 spot with $17.6 million from 3,437 venues, dropping just 37% from its last outing. After three weeks of release, the sci-fi epic has grossed $233 million in North America and $574 million globally.

After two weeks at No. 1, Universal and DreamWorks Animation’s “Kung Fu Panda 4” dropped to third place. Ticket sales for the family film were still strong with $16.8 million, a 44% decline from the prior weekend. So far, it has amassed $133 million at the domestic box office and $268 million globally.

Mark Wahlberg’s canine drama “Arthur the King” rounded out the top five with $4.4 million from 3,003 locations. It has generated $14.6 million to date, which isn’t all that impressive. However, Lionsgate only spent $19 million on the film, so its modest price tag could soften its box office shortcomings.

On the independent scene, “Late Night With the Devil” took sixth place and summoned $2.8 million from 1,034 venues, including (and you can’t make this up) $666,666 on Sunday. This marks the biggest opening weekend for its distributor IFC Films, overtaking 2022’s “Watcher” with $826,775. The low-budget thriller stars David Dastmalchian as a late-night talk show host who keeps the cameras rolling during a live Satanic incident.

“This weekend’s release of ‘Late Night With the Devil’ set fire to our old opening record,” says Scott Shooman, head of AMC Networks Films, which encompasses IFC. “[It] continues to showcase that there is still potential for highly reviewed, intelligent auteur films in movie theaters across all genres.”

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